Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Do You Know My Heart?

A long time ago, I was thrown into a difficult circumstance. It was a “he-said,” “she-said” kind of thing. It distressed me greatly. In part, because of the circumstance itself, but also because I hate it when people get me wrong.

I remember at the time really needing to hear my parents tell me that they agreed with me. I needed to hear the verbal words. I needed to know they understood my position and that they knew my heart.

Recently, someone dear to me has been going through another hard situation. I see her struggling with the same thing…being misunderstood.  I explained to her that anyone who really knows her heart, knows the truth.

You see, once you truly get to know someone, you know what they are capable of. So misunderstandings, misconstrued stories, and things you are told about someone can easily be filtered out, because you know their heart. You’ve seen inside of them and know what lives in them. You know what someone is or is not capable of.

It is so easy to vouch for someone’s character when you truly know their heart. It is easy to understand, support, and encourage someone when they are feeling beat up on by life, when you know their heart.

If someone took the time to get to know me, TRULY get to know me, they would never even question whether or not I would do or say certain things. They would KNOW.

So many things can turn messy and ugly so fast because of rumors, misunderstandings, and gossip.  If all we did was take a minute to think about what is being said and determine if that matches the heart and character of the person we knew – we could easily avoid a lot of pain on our part and a lot of unnecessary pain inflicted on an innocent person. Half truths, and stories that only tell one side can do so much damage.

We need to be careful.

Whether you are going through a falling out in a friendship, having a parent-child argument, a divorce, or an issue with your boss,  take a “pause” and a “time-out” and think about someone’s true colors. It is very easy to determine truth when you’ve taken the time to get to know someone’s heart.

Sometimes the answer may not be what we want to hear….but sometimes, it quickly brings everything into focus.

For the heart doesn’t lie.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

When Your Kids Are Mad At You

Being a parent takes a lot of heart. You have to be intentional and know where you want to go with your kids. You have to know what end results are important to you or you can feel like you’re in a current at times, being swept out into an open sea. And that never feels fun.

I want my kids to enjoy me. I want them to consider me a friend especially as they get older. But there are times when – let’s face it – they just aren’t very happy with me. Not only that, they are out and out ticked at me.  Maybe I deserve it. After all, I’m new at parenting. Each child has their own distinct personality, character traits and bent in life. With each child, we learn a new way of parenting. We have to parent each child in slightly unique ways from the other.  But sometimes I don’t deserve the anger poured out at me. And it can hurt.

Perspective has been one of the most important things I can fall on when I find myself the focus of one of my children’s anger. I need to step back and look at the situation in several ways. I need to look at it through their eyes, through my eyes, through God’s eyes, and then from an objective point of view. It’s hard to remember all those angles all of the time, but if I can ponder and reflect before addressing the issue; I’ve found it’s easier to truly consider each of these frameworks.

Sometimes it’s very necessary for me to apologize. I am wrong. A lot. Or I’m right – but I handled my “rightness” in a wrong way. So I still need to apologize.

Sometimes I need to wait. For if I’m raising my kids with hearts that are sensitive and empathetic; once they have had time to reflect – they will come and apologize to me.

And sometimes – sometimes I need to address the anger in my child and call them on their behavior; nipping it in the bud before it can fester and grow into bitterness.

It’s tough to know which call to make. But perspective helps. And knowing that if you have a loving relationship with your children, they won’t always be angry with you helps a lot also. They are right to have emotions just as we are. We need to be able to let them feel free to have those emotions even if it’s not fun.

Family life can’t always be happy. We need friction in order to help our children learn how to handle emotions and how to grow in healthy ways. We need to be strong enough to take the brunt of things at times, to help them learn. Children shouldn’t “rule the roost” so to speak – but in respectful ways, they can still work through their mad feelings towards us.

Our job as parents is to always love. Always respect. And always believe in our children. If we can forgive and ask for forgiveness when it’s necessary, we can always repair bridges that got a little charred from a fire of heated anger. 

Hopefully, the relationships we are building are honest and open enough that they can endure many disagreements. For many disagreements shall come.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dust Yourself Off

Rejected again.  Is that you? Do you feel like all your efforts fall on deaf ears…or cold hearts?  Do you wonder why you try?

There are a lot of hurting people walking our streets.  A lot of hearts have been burned, scorned, used, and abused.  I think a lot of people have given up on their dreams and on themselves.

We’ve lost our fight.

Is it because we’re afraid of getting hurt again? Is it because we don’t believe in ourselves anymore?

What if we give up on our dreams – what if we stop fighting – just before the point when everything changes? What if we’d held on for one more day. One more hour? What if we’d risked our hearts one – more – time???

I’m here to tell you to keep trying. Keep fighting for yourself and your dreams. Don’t give up on yourself. Dust yourself off and get back up on your feet again. Rub the bruises and start walking. Shake it off.

You can do this.

You CAN do this.

You CAN.

Someone out there will see the potential in you. Someone will believe in you. You just have to first believe in yourself.

Someone WILL love you. For you are loveable. You are special. You are unique. You are precious.

Dust yourself off. Believe in the unbelievable. Reach for the unreachable.

You have something to give. You are someone to love.

Please, dust yourself off. Keep trying. Don’t give up on yourself.

There is fight yet in you. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Battle of the Mind

I tend to lean towards “hypochondriac” more times than I’d like to admit.  I can google a symptom on the internet and diagnose myself with at least 3 different life-altering diseases or ailments. Not a good thing!

I can snip my hand with scissors and actually feel lockjaw setting in until I get in to the doctor and get a tetanus shot.

I can take two different vitamins/herbs and then start to wonder if they are a bad mix together…and actually think I’m feeling symptoms until I know some time has passed and I’m okay.

I have grown anxious over other things too. Snowy and icy roads. Someone breaking into our home. Accidents. Things happening to my kids.

It’s a battle of the mind.

Now that I’m more aware of this tendency in me, I am more proactive in fighting it. It doesn’t mean those times don’t come, but when they do, I fight them fiercely. I pray. I read scripture. I sing Sunday school songs in my head. I repeat God’s promises to me. And the battle recedes.

I’m reminded that satan would love nothing more than to win over my mind. He knows he can’t have my heart – so he engages my mind in a very real struggle. But I’m on to him. I know that anxiety and fear are two of his busiest and most successful tactics, not just on me, but on a lot of people.

I want my faith to be larger than life. I want it to be alive and ready for those arrows of anxiety when they come my way. And believe me, they WILL come. I want to cut them off before they even have a chance to take seed and grow in me.

So I ward off those areas that I know are weaknesses for me. I no longer try to google my health symptoms if I feel I could run away with what I read in my mind.

I try to avoid driving when I can in snow and ice because I know the stress and worry that it causes me.

I implement boundaries on my own mind and heart. I KNOW where my weaknesses lie and I don’t want to give satan any more ground!

We have a choice in how we think. Sometimes it’s a real fight and it may feel like we won’t win that battle waging inside of our minds. But we can. We CAN win it and we can be victorious with the Lord’s help.

Won’t you join me as I seek to remove this particular weak ground from my life? We no longer have to be victims of our anxious and fearful thoughts.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NIV)

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)

For 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.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Games of the Past

We all reminisce at times. We salivate over our favorite candy that we enjoyed as a kid or remember shows we watched on television that are no longer.

We wish we could bring them back.

I have had fun from time to time bringing back old games from my childhood so that I can teach them to my girls and they can also enjoy them.  Let’s see if they don’t kick start your own memories a little bit.

Do you remember M.A.S.H.? C’mon. Most of us played it in school. We’d get some paper and fold it until we could number it, put our favorite states (or countries), the names of boys we liked in school, and then MASH (which stood for mansion, apartment, shack, or house.) We would then have our friend pick a number and proceed to open and close our paper game until we’d landed on how many kids they would have, who they would marry, and where they would live. A novel game – but one that amused us to no end.

Snap. Have you ever played snap? It’s a card game that is sort of like war with a regular deck of cards but it had animal faces on it. You’d dole out the cards evenly and each turn yours over at the same time. When you happened to turn over the same card your opponent had, you’d yell “SNAP!” Whoever said it first would get the other person’s cards that had been laid out until one person ends up left with no cards.  I LOVED this game and played it tirelessly.

Paper Football – You’d make a little football out of paper (the shape of a triangle) and tape it up and shoot it with your finger across a table back and forth at each other trying not to make it go off the table all together. I’m sure there were more rules and more of a point to this game, but that’s all I can remember.

Bloody Knuckles. We used to have those thick hair combs with a long handle.  Everyone would have them in their back pocket. (I know – dating myself here!) But we’d pull them out and someone would extend their hand, knuckles outward. We’d lay the comb on their hands and try to flip it over and slap them before they could pull their hand away. Of course, if you didn’t get your hand pulled away quick enough, you would get slapped and after many times your knuckles would be hurting pretty good!

String Games. There were so many. But cats in the cradle is the one I recall the most.

Marbles. I never got into marbles much, but my dad played marbles as a kid and had a big marble collection. I know children in third world countries are more familiar with marbles too.

Jacks. A great time killer to see how fast you are at trying to scoop up jacks before the ball lands on the ground!

Those are just a few I remember. How about you? What are some of your favorite childhood games? Have you played them with your kids?  Many things will be lost if we don’t pass them on to the next generation. Not only that, it’s a lot of fun to relive what gave us happy moments as a kid – and our children get a big kick out of it as well.

So have some fun, dig deep into your memories, pull out the paper, string, or marbles – and go for it.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Nobody Really Wants To Hear About It

I’ve learned something. I’ve learned that people don’t really want to hear negative things. Not the things that come from the heart.

People don’t want to hear that we’re not doing fine. They don’t want to hear how we don’t feel valued, how we feel like no one understands us, or we’re just having a crummy day because we don’t feel special.

Trust me. Most people just don’t know how to deal with stuff like that. They look at you like you are from Mars. They just want you to get over your little “pity party” and be happy again. They can deal with happy. They KNOW happy.

Most people aren’t going to be there for you when you need it. They want to be. But they won’t be. It takes extra special people to know when to step in just when you need it the most.  Those rare people whom no life is ever the same once you meet them. It’s as if God placed them on earth just for you. To understand. To love. To listen.

But for most of us – when we struggle with internal feelings and emotions? Nobody really wants to hear about it.

And I’m sorry. I’m sorry on behalf of every person reading this who needs somebody to WANT to hear about it. I’m sorry if you don’t feel valued. If you feel like you are being swallowed whole by those around you and don’t know where YOU begin anymore.  I’m sorry if you want just one person to do something for you not because they HAVE to, but because they CHOSE to. I’m so sorry.

I know what it’s like. In fact, we all do. We’ve all had those moments and those days. We’ve all cried because we felt taken for granted or underappreciated. We feel invisible and used.

I want you to know you’re not alone. And your bad day WILL pass. It hurts right now, but you will have a time and a moment when you won’t hurt like that. You won’t feel what you are now feeling. 

There will be a day where you will feel loved. You will feel valued and appreciated. You will feel special. And on that day, remember this one. Remember how you hung in there. How you stayed the course and stayed true to your heart even when it felt like the world was against you.

Then take those feelings and look for someone around you. Look for someone who isn’t quite smiling. Isn’t quite fitting in. And offer them a hug. Go past the “how are you” to “how can I pray for you?” Look for the glistening eyes and the trembling lips to know that someone is having that same attack that you had – the attack of doubts.

You don’t have to have all the answers for them. Just love them. Be there for them at least until they feel stronger again. And remind them they are valued.

For you know how it feels. And you know what it’s like to feel like nobody wants to listen. Nobody wants to deal with the negative emotions and the bad feelings. 

Know and step in. Know and love.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

We Can't Always Be Ready

I knew my grandpa was getting older, but I still wasn’t ready to hear that he had cancer and I would lose him in just 3 weeks time.

I wasn’t ready to wake up one morning and have to make the decision to put my cat to sleep due to a blood clot.

I could never be ready to watch something like the 9/11 attacks. But watch them I did.

I wasn’t ready for my child to get their heart broken. It hurt for me too.

I wasn’t ready to teach Bible Study for the very first time.

I wasn’t ready for so many things. Hurts. Joys. Times that God stretched me outside of my comfort zone.

But ready or not, life comes at us headstrong.  And we have to plunge in – even if we don’t feel we can tackle the task in front of us.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11

When we look back, somehow we see that we had the strength to get through whatever it was that crippled us, scared us, shook us, and made us tremble.

We will never be ready for some things in life. Never. But God can help us through them. Even through the tears, the fears, and the heartache – He is with us every step of the way; walking with us and holding us, molding us.

We look back and find we made it through. It might have been tough, might have been rough, we might have thought we’d be swallowed whole – but we made it through. Victorious.

That’s what God’s love does.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What May Be Missing Is a Bit of Gentleness

I love gentleness. I am drawn to gentle people. I try to have a gentle heart.  But in a world that seems so cold and entitled….at times I long to find more gentleness.

I see and hear instruction, advice, and wisdom being passed on. But there seems to be a missing ingredient in the actual applying of so much of it. Gentleness.

When we confront someone about a sin – do we forget to do it in gentleness and love?

When we discipline our children or set boundaries, are they done in gentleness?

When someone asks us for wisdom and advice – do we come across as condemning them, or do we exhibit humility and gentleness?

Where is gentleness when we have to be patient and wait in a long line?

Where is gentleness when someone tells us their feelings are hurt?

Biblical knowledge is nothing without gentleness. For I feel gentleness was an integral part of the very nature and being of God.

How right we are in doing good, and being good, means nothing if we don’t do it with a heart of gentleness.

You see; gentleness shows the true condition of our heart. It shows whether or not we are willing to understand, forgive, and respect.

No one should be a pet owner unless they can be gentle with that pet.

No one should be a parent if they can’t be gentle as they correct, mold, and teach their child.

If people have a difference of opinion – it should be expressed with gentleness – not contempt.

Gentleness is a part of humanity. At least the humanity I was raised to know. And it’s one that I don’t want to lose.

There is no weakness in gentleness. No indifference. It’s strength, love, and humility at its finest.

Where is gentleness in your life? In your home? In your heart?

Is it a missing ingredient?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Inside I Still Feel Like I'm 18

Aging is a funny thing.  You notice things changing with yourself and you wonder how it happened.  You find yourself unable to swiftly do what you used to do. Your eyesight isn’t as strong. Muscles not as strong.  You simply look at food and gain a few pounds because your metabolism has changed.

It’s part of life.

But the thing I’ve found is – that inside? Inside, I still feel like I’m 18. 

My mind still feels clear.  I still dream. I still get excited like a schoolgirl over certain things. I still want romance. I still notice attractiveness. I still have ideas. I still hurt.

No – I’m not dead.  I’m just…..older.

An older me who finds it shocking that only older men find me attractive anymore. Oh yah – wait. I AM older!

An older me who enjoys hanging out with her kids friends – only to realize they may not want the “parental figure” always around. I AM the parental figure.

An older me who still wants to dress trendy but is stuck somewhere between super short junior shorts and flowery oversized missy tops.

Somewhere in between.

That’s where I am.

Even though inside – I still feel 18.  I still wonder if I have what it takes. I still don’t always know the right thing to do even though my age and experience should tell me I do. I still make plenty of mistakes.  I still want someone to hold me tight and tell me everything will be all right.

And I think. I think of all the “beloveds” in nursing and retirement homes. Their bodies may feel old. But inside, inside, do they still feel 18 too? Are they still wishing they could take on the world? Do they still long to be accepted?

I’m guessing that never changes.

Age. Age is just a number.  But the heart and mind? Those are timeless.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Decision Time

There are things in life that we just spend a lot of mental time and energy on. Things that we feel are BIG. We are afraid to make the wrong choice, the wrong decision.

But it can get to the point where you grow tired of thinking about it. Tired of pondering, dwelling, analyzing, and looking at it from all angles. For whatever you do, the answer just isn’t clear.  Just when you think you know the right direction to go in, doubt creeps in and you are unclear again.

Life is often like that.

I think God can use our decisions – either way. Whether we go left or right, He is still in control. In charge. He can still turn us back around if we head down the wrong road or He can use it. God is so great at using Plan B to veer us right back around to Plan A! It just takes us longer to get there sometimes!

When you are uncertain about the right thing to do and you’ve prayed and researched and consulted others…what do you do?

You step out in faith.

You can’t live your life in limbo. Halfway here, halfway there. Your heart part in the future, part in the present. You just can’t. For then you are not completely whole. Completely present in where God has you. You are always one foot out the door.

I think sometimes He holds back on us. He doesn’t reveal the complete picture – the perfect plan. He wants us to trust Him a little bit. (Or a lot.)  If we knew the whole picture, there would be no need to lean on Him. 

Faith is a very big part of the picture.

We’ve forgotten how to risk. How to let out our breath, do our best, and trust a very real God with all the details.

There is a time where you have to stop talking about it and make a decision with the facts you have at hand. You do the best you can do and you let God fill in all the holes.  It’s scary, yes. But the blessings are His to give.

Faith is greater than fear. You just have to make the choice to apply it.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

What's So Great About Being Normal?

Everybody wants to fit in. Be accepted.

Nobody wants to feel like an outsider.

But I look at the world today and where it was when I was a child, and I have to wonder if we’re wanting the right things.

If everybody who is considered “normal” and acceptable, is tired because they are running from here to there and don’t get enough rest during the day, or sleep at night…do I really want to be normal?

If everyone is feeling anxious and stressed from all of their responsibilities and has stressed and anxious children from the burdens placed on their shoulders to excel in school, relationships, and sports…do I really want to be normal? Do I want my kids to be normal?

If it’s normal to let your children have their own computer in their room where you can’t monitor it, have a cell phone where you don’t monitor it, have a boyfriend or girlfriend where they go who knows where and do who knows what for who knows how long…do I want that for my children?

If it’s normal to have weekly “girls night” outings, guys night out get togethers, and many other social situations and occasions for my life or my spouse’s life – but yet we lose connection with our children…is that really “great?” Is it beneficial for my family’s life?

I could go on and on. And a lot of these things I have desired for myself or my children at one point or another. But when I look at what they are doing to the family unit and to our children as they grow up – my answer to each question would be a resounding “NO.” I don’t want that.

I don’t want to be normal if it means I’m tired, anxious, unhealthy, unhappy, overwhelmed, and pushed to perform to maintain a certain standard or image. And I certainly don’t want that for my husband or children either.

I think “normal” is overrated. By a lot. When people say “normal,” what they really mean is “fit the mold.” Don’t stand out. Don’t be different. Because they don’t know how to handle someone who is different. And sometimes they don’t like the reflection they see when you are different! It makes them feel guilty, or uncomfortable with their own choices.

People are so diverse. So unique and wonderful in their uniqueness. When did we stop letting them be unique and wanting everyone to be the same?

We all sit around in circles and talk about the path society is going down and how we don’t like it. Yet in our own homes and lives, we still do everything we can to fit in and not be left out of what is “in.” We let ourselves be pressured to go to all the events and functions and even help out. And in the process our home life is suffering. WE are suffering. Our children are suffering.

“Normal” isn’t so great. Make a vow to change at least 1 thing in your life today for the betterment of your family and see how it ripples down to affect each one of you in a positive way. Whether that’s to drop a commitment, change a rule, or get more sleep and rest.

Let’s create a new normal. A better normal for our families.

We can want what’s better for the rest of the world, but we can MAKE something better with our own.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Love Is In Our Tears (I'm Guest Posting at Incourage Today!)

I’ve decided that tears are sometimes the best expression of the heart. Sometimes words don’t do the heart justice. But emotion always does the heart justice.

When a child is born and you hold them for the first time, sometimes no words will match what the tears coming down a face can show.  When your child gets married and the tears glisten in the corners of your eyes? Those tears speak volumes of the years of love your heart has devoted to the one who is walking down the aisle.

When your child is hurting and you are holding them in your arms trying to console them; they don’t always see the tears that slowly seep from your own eyes as you resonate in pain with them.

When a dearly loved grandparent passes away and you reach across their casket to give them one last lingering hug…. only tears  ....     (please read the rest of my post over at Incourage today. I'm so honored to be posting there. And join in on the conversation as numerous women are sharing their heart over the fact that they didn't know how to cry or have not felt free to cry. Is that you, as well? ) 

Chime in.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Everyone Has a Story

I have a story. I’ve experienced heartache. I’ve experienced deep joy. I’ve been through things in life. I’ve learned. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried.

So have you.

If it’s one thing I’ve learned, I’ve learned that everyone has a story. No one has gone through life unscathed. Everyone has experienced some sort of heartache. Each person has had trials in their life. Even those people who seem to have it all together. Sometimes they are just better at hiding it than others.

I’ve also learned that my story isn’t finished yet. There are pages of my story that haven’t been lived yet. There might be more heartache in my story. I don’t know. But there might also be more adventures and great joys to be experienced and felt. Whatever the case may be, I know that God is the author of my story. I know He has a plan for my life. I make my own choices, but He still has a destination in mind for me. Hopefully, I listen and get there the easy way instead of the hard.

Each one of us has a story and we need to remember that we are still living it out. It’s not finished yet. Just as in a great movie, our stories can truly do an “about-face” and take us in directions we never dreamed. There are so many more pages that we’ve yet to play out!

I know we all get discouraged and depressed at times but there is hope to be found in our lives and in our stories. Our stories have a purpose to them. God has a purpose for us. No matter if our life is too big or too hard for Him. We don’t know what’s around that next corner or bend in our life because we just haven’t read that part of our story yet.

Have faith. Believe. And hang in there no matter what you’re going through right now. For there may be something special worth waiting for, on that next page of your life. Wait for it. Look for it. Embrace it when it comes.