Thursday, February 28, 2013

What's All This Angst About?

I’ve noticed that many of my columns and blogs are about life’s deeper moments. They seem to have a theme – a focus on getting through hard things, seeking God through confusion and stress, or what to do when hurts come. And oh how they come!

Some might think my life is one tragedy after another.

And although my life has had its fair share of spiritual warfare, challenges, hurts, and trials – I am not always holding my hand to my chest trying to breathe myself through each day.

Thank goodness.

I actually feel very blessed. God has given me so many blessings in my life. So many undeserved graces and mercies. He has been faithful to me and I’ve celebrated Him and proclaimed joy out loud many times and in many ways.

So – what’s all the angst about in a lot of my posts? Well, the thing is, I think sometimes when we are most passionate about something – that is when our emotions come tumbling out. So it’s natural to write more often when God is showing us things through the tough circumstances in life. It’s kind of like how you remember the criticism more than the praise.  The lessons are often found more when we feel pain. Thus – the words are written in those moments of time.

I do feel angst. I do feel heartache. I cry and I doubt. I get discouraged and depressed. But I also laugh. I smile. I dance in joy (literally) and I close my eyes or get on my knees in thanks.

Life  - my life – has many ups and downs.  But it’s often the downs that God draws so close to me and teaches me things that I normally wouldn’t listen to, except that He has my total attention through the hurting moments.

That’s when I choose to write it down so we can all learn. All grow. And all find our smiles again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

When Your Child Gets Their Heart Broken

I think one of the toughest things about being a parent is when your child gets their heart broken.

When they are little, it’s things more like, “he wouldn’t share,” or “I wasn’t invited to the birthday party.”

When they get older, it’s friendships and boy-girl relationships. It’s biting words from someone you “thought” was your friend, and broken hearts from crushes and first loves.

Every single one hurts. Every single one matters for they chip away at the heart your child so freely offered up.

It’s hard to see your child hurting. It’s heartbreaking to see them cry.  It’s even tougher to know you can’t fix it.

As much as I want to sew up and heal my child’s broken heart at times; I don’t think that’s what God has asked me to do. I don’t think He even wants me to. I think sometimes the most important thing for me to do is to simply be there. To love. To hold. To listen.

I told my daughter once that it hurts to hurt, but it hurts more to hurt all alone. And I believe that.  So my most important job during those times may be to simply help my children know that they are not alone. That they WILL be okay again…in time. And to love them with everything I’ve got.

Parenting is definitely not for the weak at heart. I can’t run in and fix everything – but I can definitely always offer my open arms.  And maybe those open arms will help my children find the courage to love and risk again.  And when they do, I’ll be walking right there through the risk with them.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

When Being Nice Puts You Last

I’m what you would call a “nice” person. I often don’t say what I really think (if it’s negative) out of kindness for a relationship. Or – because I hate conflict.  I like to be polite.

Some people might think that just because you are “nice” that means they can take you for granted. They may not even realize this is their thought process, but they fully grab onto a nice person and use their kindness to their advantage.

For instance, I’ve been taken for granted many times. I’ve been overlooked. Put last. Not prioritized.  I’m not stupid. I’ve fully been aware how others have treated and used me to their own advantage. I understand that other people might use my kind heart to benefit them. They think that I won’t have ruffled feathers or I won’t mind a change in circumstances. That I will forgive easily.  Some of these are true. Others, not so much.

What people need to understand about kind people is that they DO care.  They DO notice. And they DO hurt. They just choose to take the high road in whatever situation they’ve been neglected or used in.  They choose to pray about it instead of causing conflict. They choose to believe in the other person hoping that at some point they WILL be chosen first. They WILL be valued and that they WILL be considered as people with their own time schedules, commitments, and feelings.

I’ve been robbed of things that could have been very special and precious. What’s done is done. I can never go back and have those times and situations restored to me. They are gone because of someone else’s careless or selfish choices.  But I can continue to value being kind, gentle, and loving. I can pray that God will work in their heart to help them become more considerate, generous, and selfless – and to work in mine to help me not grow bitter and resentful. (Because it’s easy to do.)

Kind people are taken for granted all of the time. They are taken advantage of. It does not mean they are passive. It simply means they value having character. And in private, they may hurt deeply over what has been done or not done to them. And as time goes on, they may give you less of their heart because of the damage that has been done.

If you are a kind person as I am, I’d like to encourage you today. Don’t give up. Don’t abandon your generous and loving heart. Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep hoping for change. But in the process, set up some boundaries so that your heart doesn’t get crushed quite so easily. Take rebuilding and repairing relationships slowly and wait for that other person or persons to show you they’ve truly changed and that they understand your position and heart.  In the meantime, lavish and love with abandon on those who DO truly value your input into their lives.

Nice people do come in last sometimes. But it’s not because we are doormats. It’s simply because we choose to let God be GOD and address someone else’s behavior instead of us. 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

To See His Word

I believe in the power of God’s Word. I believe in the power it can do in my own heart and life – as well as the power it can do in everything that goes on around me.

I like to have God’s Word written out in spots throughout my home where I can see it. Running into Bible verses constantly puts my heart and mind in focus and it centers me. It helps put me in the right place. But it’s more than that. I believe something supernatural happens when I leave His Word in my home. I believe it protects me. Arms me.  Guides me.

I have verses written on index cards that I leave on my desk, by my computer, and in my bathroom. I’ve written verses on my white board in the kitchen. And even recently, I saw how my daughter had written a verse on the bathroom mirror in eraseable marker. It was brilliant. I was so happy to see her putting something she wanted right in front of her face every morning. Every time she got ready to go somewhere.

Power being released.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so weak in my own strength. I need God’s Word constantly. I need daily (and sometimes hourly) reminders of His promises. His truth.

I need to SEE it.

There is nothing more tangible than physically writing out how He speaks to me and then running into it every time I go into a room.

God’s Word IS alive. It IS active. The thing is, it can’t do anything for us if we don’t first open the Bible up. If we don’t read it. If we don’t use it.

However, there is great strength, healing, and guidance in it if we do.

So many of us claim to follow a God that we don’t know that much about. We don’t know what He is saying to us because we don’t put in the time to read it. To listen and hear what He is trying to tell us.

Open it up. Write it out. Read it out loud. Place it where you can see it. And then SEE it. First with your eyes. Then with your heart.

And let it fuel you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

I feel very strongly about honesty. I don’t have much tolerance for lying or deceit in others.

I try to be extremely honest. Not in a rude way – but just in keeping my heart pure and above board in what I say, how I act, and what I do.

Sometimes though, without realizing it initially – I can become a liar. To myself.

As we all can.

I think we fail to analyze our own motives and heart’s intent when situations become deeply personal or passionate for us. We can easily lead ourselves astray simply because of our own pride.  And we lie to ourselves about our actions and intent.

It’s much easier to objectively see when someone else is lying to themselves than it is to turn that mirror onto ourselves. Sometimes it takes us years and many things in hindsight to realize what we have done and where we have gone wrong.

We can be our own worst enemy. And we can sabotage our own lives without meaning to or even wanting to.  All because of pride.

We are going to be hurt deeply at times in life. It’s a fact. We are going to feel strongly about things in life. We are going to have desires and dreams and not want to go in certain directions even if that is where God may want us.  We need to be ever so careful to not lie to ourselves about why we are heading in a certain direction.  We can label it whatever we want to, but the truth usually hangs out there for others to see even if we ourselves can’t yet see it!

We can do ourselves a huge favor and save ourselves years of unnecessary pain and frustration if we can be able to analyze our own mind and heart on a regular basis to make sure we are remaining humble, honest, and teachable. It’s not easy to admit we may be wrong, but we have to always keep that option open so that we are ready to get back on the right path if we’ve strayed onto the wrong one.

I hate lying. It pains me even more to think that some of my heartaches could have been avoided if I would have simply listened to wise people around me or brought my intentions before the Lord so that He could show me where I needed realignment.

There are enough enemies in life without it being ourselves.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Romans 12:2

Do not change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but be changed within by a way of thinking.  Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to Him and what is perfect.

Jesus can’t leave us unchanged.  He wants the best for us even if those changes are painful at times.  The more we allow God to change us, the more we will be able to see what His plans are because we are being conformed in His image… not ours.

Friday, February 15, 2013

When Your Heart is Pricked

Have you ever felt like at any moment you would cry?  Like the tears are lodged in your throat and eyes, ready to pour out at the slightest harsh word or sensitive commercial thrown before your eyes?

And yet – you’re not sure why.

There is no BIG problem set before you to solve. No crisis involving your children.  No hurt feelings that need to be resolved.  Just a “blah” feeling accompanied by tears beneath the surface.

When I have these times if I sit and think long enough, I can usually pinpoint my inner sorrow to some word said carelessly that bothered me on a deeper level. Or an action done by another that wounded my very soul.  We try to shake it off and act like it’s “no big deal” but inside – it IS a big deal. It has pricked us. It has made a dent in our heart.

And I can’t help but think that the inner sorrow comes from wanting more. Wanting better. Wanting different.

And so we go on with our business and the well of tears rises within us – refusing to be forgotten. Begging to be noticed. So it can deal. So it can heal.

I know that sometimes I just can’t think clearly until I let my inner emotion out. And then it feels so good. So freeing.

I no longer sit in bondage.

Do you feel like you want to cry today? Are you struggling to know why? Be honest with yourself. It’s okay to admit and recognize that someone has pricked your heart.

See life for what it is. Allow yourself to see your feelings for what they are. But then pick yourself up, and smile. Love yourself. Declare to stand taller and wiser.  Peel off the thorns and let yourself be gentle and vulnerable again.  For emotions are nothing to be ashamed of. They teach us. Guide us. Free us.

Tears may come, but joy too – will rise again.

“Jesus wept.”  John 11:35

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Overdoing It....A Tad, Or A Lot?

Are we overachievers? I’m just wondering.

When I was a kid, when it came time for Valentines Day, our class got a brown lunch sack and decorated it. That was it.  Today our kids have to go all out decorating boxes in order to win class contests.

When I was a kid and I played softball, at the end of the game we would get a ticket to use at the concessions stand. If we wanted anything in addition to that, we had to buy it. Today, parents are required to supply treats and drinks for a whole team.

When I was a kid and I played volleyball and basketball – if I didn’t do very well – I didn’t play. Period. Today we have to make sure that every kid on the team not only plays but gets equal time playing – no matter how good they are.

When I was a kid, if I did good in class, I got a sticker and a smiley face on my paper. Today, our kids get gum, candy and more as rewards.

I’m just wondering if we aren’t overdoing it a tad – or a LOT. I mean, our kids are getting so indulged. And we wonder why they feel entitled? We feed into it.

Parents are just as guilty as teachers, or coaches, in making sure kids get a “pay off” for hard work when sometimes the hard work should be the pay off. We try so hard to be the best, outdo the rest, and fit in that we forget that we are teaching our kids that “image” is everything. I mean, what are we saying if we stress out over how grandiose their Valentines Box is when a paper bag would suffice? What are we saying when we reward every little effort they make? Where does the inner pride and feeling of doing something just for the reward of doing it well and feeling good about it come in? It’s getting lost, I’m telling you.

Sure, I don’t want my kids to be viewed as dorks or outsiders any more than the next parent does. But sometimes I just have to wonder if we shouldn’t draw a line somewhere and say “this doesn’t really matter in the big scheme of things.” I don’t want to feel pressured to get the most expensive snacks for the team so that I look good.  I don’t want to see my child get a lot of game time if they don’t learn that if they really want something, then they might have to work hard to get it. Because what matters more to me is what they learn internally so that if/when things fall apart in life THEY won’t fall apart too.

I think we’ve all become a little too obsessive-compulsive about things that shouldn’t be such big deals. We want our children to look the best, be the best, and hey – we want that for ourselves too.  But at what cost? I’d rather my child beam with pride over a shoebox decorated with stickers that they had a total ball applying, than a big ornate box that every parent in the room KNOWS that I did instead of my kid.

Yes, I think we need to take a good look at our motivation as parents. Image isn’t everything. It’s an empty lie. What you learn in the process of working and applying yourself… now that’s a different story. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

If We Don't Test Our Faith....

It’s easy to go through life saying we believe in God. But how often do we put our faith to the test? Are we ready to risk our faith in the quest to truly SEE our God? To know that He is faithful, that He is ready to respond to us, or that He longs to be close to us?

It can be scary.

It’s scary to put our faith out there because we fear that it will – gasp – fail us. We fear that there will be silence. That there will be a big NO as an answer.

I think even deeper still; we fear we don’t deserve things.

It’s one thing to say we believe there is a God. It’s another thing altogether to say we BELIEVE God. Do we actually believe that He is enthralled by our beauty? Do we believe that He truly fights for us? Do we know that God will strengthen us during those tough times in life?

When we put our hands around our own life – we keep all the control for ourselves. We leave no room for God to work. To love on us. To delight us. To mystify us enough to get us seeking more of Him.

If we don’t throw our faith out there and say, “Okay God – I will TRUST you on this…” well – we don’t grow. We don’t SEE. We don’t feel His glory work on our behalf. Oh what a loss!

Believing in a God isn’t enough. We need to believe IN our God and we need to exercise our faith. Daily.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Think Positive

We’ve all heard those two words – “Think positive.” Applying them is not always easy to do. Some days we just feel torn up about ourselves, life, etc. It can be hard to motivate yourself when you are so busy being down on yourself all of the time!  But it can be done.

I used to be the “glass is always half full” kind of girl. Life has bounced me around a little and I’ll be honest, some of that optimism rubbed off. It left me for awhile. Why? I was too busy wallowing in my own pity party. Yes, some things stink sometimes. And we just want to kick our feet in the dirt and yell about it. So, I say – kick your feet in the dirt, yell a little bit; then move on.

There are a few things that help motivate me when I’m struggling to be optimistic about things.

1.     Look for something to smile about. It’s amazing how when you look to frown – you will find tons of things to frown about. But the same can be said when you look to smile. I’ve had my mood change at seeing geese fly overhead or a squirrel scamper up a nearby tree. Because I enjoy seeing those rare moments.  Children are also fabulous at getting you to smile as they simply go about their day being themselves. Whatever it is, smile. Smile lots. And enjoy smiling.

2.     Pray. Get on your knees. Better yet, lay face down on the floor. When I do this, it is very humbling and immediately puts my thoughts and “issues” in perspective for me.

3.     Love those around you. Love is an amazing eraser. It can melt your heart in seconds. Hug and love those who are important to you – in those who care about you. Being with them and spending time loving on them will guide your heart and help you calm down about your frustrations elsewhere.

4.     Listen to upbeat music or watch a movie that inspires you. Media is a great resource in influencing our feelings and our attitudes. Use it to your advantage.

5.     Get some rest. Make sure you are getting enough sleep. I know I’m always edgier and more confused or frustrated when I don’t get enough sleep. So do what it takes to get that sleep in. Then, in addition, give yourself some “time outs” during the day to relax and rest. If you work, take your lunch break and go sit quietly in your car somewhere eating a peaceful lunch. If you have little ones, plop them down for a short movie and go do nothing but lay on your bed thinking and looking out your window. These exact scenarios might not work for you – but they may spur some ideas that will.

6.     Do what you enjoy. Make sure you partake of those things that bring joy to your heart! Whether it’s reading, knitting, volunteering at the local school or hospital, playing golf…whatever it is…. make sure you find time to do that thing. I truly believe that people live longer when they are happier.  Happy people find it very easy to be positive and optimistic.

These are just a few examples. They may seem simple in and of themselves, but each one is an important catalyst in helping you make the choice to look for the positive in your life.

Dreams are delayed. Some even die. But I believe there is always a dream to be had. Always a light that is waiting to be lit by someone. You just have to look for it. And sometimes this life of ours can beat us up so much that we don’t want to lift our eyes anymore – lest we be afraid of what we see. 

Let’s not be afraid to lift our eyes anymore. Think positive. Believe positive. Invest yourself in the positive. And positive things will find their way to your heart.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Every Storm Runs Out of Rain

Are you hurting right now? Going through a trial that you feel like will never end?

We've all been there. Some of us are just heading into those moments, some of us are just coming out of them. But we've all been there. Been where we hurt so deeply and are so tired that we just don't know when or if things will ever change - if the pain and longing will ever go away.

This is my new favorite song. It's by Gary Allan and I just love it. It goes right along with the theme for my blog that there is always beauty that can be found in our storms. So often, that beauty doesn't come until much later down the road, but when we look back, there we see it.

If you are currently waiting for something in your life to change or get better, if you're waiting for some hurts to heal - hang in there.  The sun will shine again.  For every storm has to run out of rain eventually.

Monday, February 4, 2013

One Day It Will Be Our Turn

One day it will be our turn. Our turn to have our name called.

We go through most of our lives watching things happen to those around us. Someone is in a car accident. Someone gets cancer. Someone gets Alzheimer’s. Another person perishes unexpectedly from a heart attack. Still another from a stroke or aneurism. Blood cots that happen quickly. Meningitis that came from nowhere.  Murder. Plane crashes. Mulitple Sclerosis. Things you would never dream of.

They happen. And they happen to those we love. Those who are dear to us.

Yet for some reason, every time we have to go in to the doctor for that breast cancer scare or some other reason that puts fear into our hearts – those around us tell us, “Everything will be okay. You’ll probably be just fine.”

But there is always that someone that will not be fine. Today will not be their day.

It will be their turn to hear the news. Their turn to have their name called with scary news.

We are fooling ourselves if we think it will never be us. For we all die. One way or another.

The bigger question is, what will we do when it’s our turn? When we get THAT news? How will we handle it. Do we have the peace that surpasses understanding that lives in our hearts?  Do we have a deeper faith that won’t leave us completely shaken? Or will we fall apart?

Our day WILL come.  Our name WILL be called. Even if it doesn’t end up to be in a doctor’s office or on a highway somewhere, God will call our names at the door of heaven. Will we be ready to account for all we’ve done and said? Or thought? Will we be ready to look Him in the face?

I pray so.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Critical Heart

I think sometimes as believers, we think we shouldn’t make any mistakes. We grow critical and lift our heads up high when we see or hear of someone that should’ve known better – fall flat on their face in a public way. We act as if OUR child would never have done that. WE certainly wouldn’t have caved in to that temptation.

We show our backs instead of opening our arms.

It seems to me that making mistakes is often a very necessary part of growing in Christ. 

My goal as a Christian woman, wife, and mother is to raise my children in the ways of the Lord. I hope with all my heart that they see through a few minor mistakes that I’ve made and learn that God’s way is the easier way; instead of having to make the big, tough mistakes and learning that any other way they try is the hard way! The painful way.

I hope that I, too, don’t mess up. I pray I won’t give into temptation and that I can live an exemplary life for the Lord. Saying that, I know that life happens.  I’ve seen humanness in its raw and natural state. I’ve lived it.

Nobody ever plans to have his or her child get pregnant out of wedlock. We don’t intend for our children to get into drugs or abuse alcohol. We don’t wish for an affair in our marriage or pornography to dismantle everything we have.  We don’t want controversy in our homes and we don’t want it as part of our image or reputation. Yet it comes – like a thief in the darkness. For Satan is out to “steal, kill, and destroy.” (John 10:10) If he can steal away our child’s purity whether by their own choice or the choice of someone who intends to take it away from them…he most certainly will.   If he wants to lure our families with wealth, greed, and power – he will. If he wants to isolate us, tell us lies, feed us falsehoods – he will! He is out to steal our very souls. He is out to kill our very bodies, and he most certainly wants to destroy everything we are and everything we believe in.

We forget that our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Ephesians 6:12). We forget this when we hear the controversial news that someone we know was caught breaking and entering or someone we once esteemed had a hidden life that is now unveiled for all to see. We forget. We whisper and we accuse.

None of our thoughts or actions will ever help those who stumble if we condemn and criticize. It will never draw them back to the Lord or to His people. Instead, we chase them off as someone who is unclean, unwanted. We can act better than them.

Mistakes are mistakes. Some are more noticeable than others. You can’t hide a pregnancy for very long, yet pornography can be hidden for years. Who says one is more wrong than the other?

I don’t think we should blindly ignore the fact that sin is sin and we can’t ignore what damage is often done to relationships or a person’s life when they make mistakes and are sinful. But we can still love them. We can pray for them.

I don’t live under any illusion that Christian people are imperfect. We mess up all of the time. The problem is when we act as if we don’t. We shun those who fall.

I think we forget that God died to give us the very grace and mercy that we deserve. That we will need.  If we were a perfect people, there would be no need for that great sacrifice.

I want to be the kind of person who loves as God loves. I don’t want to pretend that something that is wrong is really right…but I do want to continue to love and accept someone the best I can in their broken state.

In Genesis 50:20, God says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many souls.”

The world is full of messed-up, fallen, broken people. How will they ever come to believe that our God died for them in their full-on sinful state if we can’t first forgive those we call our “brethren?”

All I know is that God didn’t die for the perfect. For that person doesn’t exist.