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.