Monday, July 13, 2020

What Sets You Apart?




We all feel the need and desire to be accepted. Everyone wants to feel like who they are is given the stamp of “approval” by others.

I think it’s human nature.

It can be hard for us, to feel different. To have any part of our lives that others don’t understand - or look at, as weird, strange, or even laughable.

And yet - that is what God has called us to. 


Psalm 4:3: Know that the Lord has set apart the faithful for Himself; the Lord will hear when I call to Him.


2 Corinthians 6:17: Therefore, come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord; do not touch any unclean thing, and I will welcome you.


Romans 12:2: Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.


1 John 2:15-16: Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world.


This very issue seems so simple, and yet it is profoundly HARD.

Not conforming or allowing our values, principles, habits, and even standards to bend to what is acceptable in society - is HARD. We have to be very intentional about recognizing what things we have allowed to slip into society’s standards, instead of God’s.

Some things are not outright wrong. They are not sinful. And yet - by partaking in them, we still cause others to think and see that we are no different than the rest of the world. Bad? Harmful? It may not seem like it - but it’s harmful to God’s kingdom, because it is damaging the very thing He has asked of us… “to be different.”

In the quest to make our churches “cool and hip”;  in the quest to still be adored by society, and in the desire to always have a good image… what have we sacrificed in the process? We have pushed aside our quest to be “holy”, our desire to be “accountable only to God”, and our ability to have wisdom and discernment about what is BEST for our lives and our walk with Him.

Things may not be outright sinful - but should they still be allowed in our lives? If we allow them in, are we “set apart” or are we just like everyone else?

There are many controversial subjects about what a Christian should and shouldn’t do. The question when considering something that isn’t clearly defined in Scripture should always be, “Will this hinder anyone from coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ?” Does it “set me apart as a believer?” We should ask that question when it comes to what we eat and drink, what we wear - everything.

The issue may seem small to you. Reading a dirty romance novel, or some other issue isn’t a salvation issue. But it may be an issue to someone else watching you. For we never know what others think or feel, or what may be a trigger issue for them, as far as something even as simple as coming to church.

There is no disputing that MORE is expected out of us. And if we take our Lord, our faith, and our salvation seriously - then we need to be intentional about what we allow in our lives.

If we don’t take it seriously, if we are not intentional about it - then we are just like everyone else. And we are not “set apart.” We are not separate, like God commands, and asks us to be.

It might be time to purge and “spring clean” our habits, our homes, and our lives. It just might be time to look for those things we don’t really need to partake or participate in. Things that pull us away from the Lord and only draw us deeper into the things of the world.

May others see HIM in us. Not because we are like them, but because we are “set apart” drawing them into our presence, and HIS.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Not Every Family





Not every family plays games together.


Not every family has traditions, legacies, or heirlooms to pass down.

Not every kid grows up in a home where they see mom and dad laugh together, kiss, cuddle, or hug. Some only see fights.


Not every family talks. Some actually, don’t talk at all. 


Not every family says “I love you,” “I believe in you,” you’re a wonderful person,” or even hugs.


Not every child knows the benefit of having rules and boundaries. Most children may not like rules, but at least they know they usually come with love and wisdom from mom and dad. Some children CRAVE having a parent care enough, to lay down some rules!


There is a world full of families. It can be easy to assume that families and children are all the same. That they all have good homes. 


We can overlook the fact that not every child is safe when they are at home. Whether that is physically, or emotionally.


We all grew up in different kinds of families. Some of us shared often, while others of us were lucky to get an “I love you” tossed our way every few years. And how we grew up, impacts how we see the world, and how we feel about ourselves.


Whether or not we grew up in a healthy, solid family - we can still grow one of our own. 


We can play games with our kids. Love, encourage, and cheer them on in their activities. 


We can take lots of pictures. Listen. And do things together.


Not every family has dinner together. And not every family knows kindness. But YOURS can.


YOUR family can be generous. 


YOUR kids can be respectful.


YOUR home can welcome in other hurting hearts.


It’s your choice.


If you wish you’d come from a family that loved on each other WELL… if you wish you HAD a family NOW that loves on each other well… then start moving in that direction.


Start today. And your whole family dynamic can shift and impact generations to follow.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

You Can't Love the Holes Out of Someone's Life





We all have people in our lives who disappoint us.  It may be our siblings, our spouse, our parents, coworkers, or friends.


Usually, it’s someone we deal with closely. USUALLY, it’s a family member. 


Because we care so much about them, it hurts all the more, when they let us down.


I don’t know what it is, but it feels like for most of us, we feel like we can just “love them better.”  It’s as if we are trying to overcompensate for the holes they have personally in their own character, attitude, and life. We feel like if we just showed them love more often, were more vocal or interactive or… whatever… that the relationship would improve.


If…. “WE” did something better… then “THEY” would no longer disappoint us, fail us, neglect us, or hurt us.


Loving is the greatest gift we can give ANYONE. Grace, mercy, forgiveness.. invaluable. They can heal so many wounds and hurts. But if someone CONTINUALLY hurts and disappoints - nothing WE do, will make up for that.


In fact, if we vow to only try harder, do more, and ignore the fact that some healthy boundaries need to be put up (yes - even in close family relationships) we are only fueling the fact that we will continue to be disappointed, let down, and hurt.


People have to decide for themselves that someone is a priority to them.


We can love to the best of our abilities, but some people will just take advantage of that.


We CANNOT love enough to change someone. Oh, how I wish we could! And I’m not saying to stop loving someone. I am, however, saying there are times where love needs to show different action in the face of habitual behavior.


Sometimes, instead of doing MORE, we need to do LESS. And that is the most loving thing we can do for a relationship.


Sometimes, instead of ignoring an action, or behavior, (and calling it love), we need to call someone on it.


Sometimes, instead of giving, and giving, and giving, and giving - we need to let go. And let God address what needs to be addressed. This can be SO HARD, when you are in close proximity with the person who disappoints you. It can be painful.  But no one can move a heart like God can. No one can get someone to WANT to improve or be a better man or woman, than God can.


We cannot love the inadequacies out of someone else.  We can only simply love. And sometimes that means protecting others in our lives from those very hurtful inadequacies. It means distancing yourself, so that that other individual might gain the space and time to realize they miss you. They want you in their life. And that they’ve taken you for granted.


We allow ourselves to be used. To be taken for granted. All in the name of love.  But love is not weak. It is strong. Yes, it’s patient. Yes, it’s kind. But it’s also long-suffering and it has self-control. Those two qualities might have to come in the form of saying, “enough, I will not enable you anymore in your unhealthy habits.”


Love is so powerful. It is so beautiful. But it also has great strength. True love for someone else, might mean removing yourself from the equation of filling those unhealthy holes in THEIR life, and letting them continue.


We will continue to be disappointed by people. But we don’t have to continue to place ourselves as a target.


Love. Love well. But know when to love well by saying, “I won’t be your excuse for not changing anymore.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Love Is Everything



Love.

Think about it. It’s everywhere.

It’s in the tears that fall from someone’s eyes when we have hurt them, or when they are so burdened for another; that they bring them to the Lord in prayer - over and over and over again. It’s in the tears that fall when that someone dies, or gets hurt.

Love is in the unspoken things that are done for each other. Things like buying our spouse’s favorite brand of cereal or chips.

Ironing their shirt. 

Love is in the music that grips our heart because it reminds us of a certain time and place - shared with someone close to our heart. And it exists in every beat.

It’s in the smells that remind us of a meal lovingly made for us, when we were growing up. It’s in the scent of the cologne or perfume, that lingered long after we were hugged.  

Love is in so many things. The clean sheets and blankets our mama tucked us into, at bed at night. The handwritten note we kept in our closet for years. The dried flower left over from that special occasion. The awkward knick-knack our child gave us when they were a toddler.

It’s all around us. It’s in us. Beside us. In front of us and behind us.
It’s the greatest gift God has ever given us, and we are capable of heaping it into the hearts and souls of those around us. We can give it again and again. We can grow it. We can BE it.

Love.

Love can fuel us, if we let it. I know for me…. it’s what I wake up each morning wanting to feel. What I want to give.

I live for it. I long for it.

To me, love is feeling connected to someone else through a hug, a gift, or a few words of appreciation. It’s seeing the expressions of laughter, adoration, camaraderie, and joy in being together - when you look at a photograph.

I don’t know how people live without knowing the feeling of love in their hearts, and in their life.

A resonating example of love that has always stuck with me - is a video clip I saw of Princess Diana once.  She had been away from her boys, and they were coming to see her after she had just returned. They were running to her, and she stretched open her arms as far as she could. And just waited for them to run into them.

That visual has always stayed with me.

That is how I try to live my life. With arms outstretched. I want those I love to be able to run into them. To feel my love. To know my love. 

And - because my Lord and Savior is love…I feel HIM when I’m either giving or receiving it. And it’s the greatest feeling in the world. 

I never want to live outside of that feeling.

I want to be known for my love. Not just for my family (but OH YES, I want my GREAT love to be known for my family.) But, I also want to be known for my great love for my Lord. 

For my country. 

For the hurting, the lost, the forgotten, and the ill.

You see…love IS. 

Love WAS. 

And love CAN be.

It’s everything.

Reach out for it. Give it. 

Embrace it.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Who Do You Let Shape You?



It occurs to me, how much of who we are - is defined by others.  

Yes, we have our innate personality. Some of us are shy, others were born to talk.  

We have our natural tendencies, of how we wish to go about life. Some of us can’t think clearly without a room being organized and made beautiful. Others of us, don’t see why there is so much fuss given to “things.” If it’s messy - we still know where our things are! 

And yet those things, as real as they are to how we go about and live our lives - aren’t the things I’m thinking of today. No, I’m thinking of those other very REAL things that shape who we are.

Those things that are wound up in emotion. They exist in layers of our heart and soul. Very tender spots that exist so closely to the surface of our thoughts and feelings - yet so very buried to everyone else around us.

The people in our lives may have no clue as to what truly shapes us…. Or who.

There are words said long, long ago - that we still recite in our hearts and minds every morning when we get up.   For some of us, those words are similar to, “you are worthless,” “stupid”, “you idiot”, “you’re not good enough”, or the lack of important words at all.  We craved to hear “I love you”, and so we don’t feel loved, because we weren’t told we were worthy of it.  We crave to hear “I’m so proud of you,” and so we feel incapable, because we don’t know what it feels like to have someone place pride in us for who we are.

If we are blessed, we wake up each morning and recite words like, “you are beautiful,” “you matter,” “you are loved,” “you are a delight,” and “you are worthy.”

Words. Always associated with deep feelings.

And they shape who we are. They shape how we feel about ourselves. They shape our view of the world.

The thing is - whether we are in the “blessed” camp, or the camp where we beat ourselves up with words said from someone in anger, bitterness, or from their own hurt… we forget our own power in our lives. We forget we have the POWER to reject or accept someone else’s words and label of who we are.

None of us wants to waste our life. But some of us DO.  We just can’t seem to overcome the fact that God has a plan for who we are. AS we are. We have let the unkind words so seep into our skin, that we believe them. We believe the nonsense thrown at us from someone who really isn’t in the position to be judge and jury.

YOU - CAN - SHAPE - YOU.

You CAN be beautiful. As you are.

You CAN be worthy. As you are.

You CAN be loved. And you DO have a brain.

Don’t let someone else define and shape who you will be, unless it’s something good. 

You were no accident. And just because there are people in our lives who don’t understand us, don’t love us, or don’t believe in us, doesn’t mean they are right in their assessment of us.

Because EVERYONE is worthy of those things. EVERYONE.

So when you wake up tomorrow morning, and you recite words in your heart and soul as you begin your day… why don’t you dump a few? Replace them with words from people who you know TRULY care about you. And say those things over and over until they become habit.

And you start shaping your future to be the one you are worthy of having.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Putting Some "Fun" Into Mealtime



With everyone home right now, and parents preparing meals more than normal, sometimes a little “out-of-the-ordinary” can be SO welcome.

We can all use more times of laughter and fun, as we face day after day of “routine.” So here are some ideas to help you love on your kids and family, while also helping reinforce GOOD memories for them.

Not every idea will be feasible for YOUR home, (for example - some of you live in apartments, or don’t have chopsticks) but the ideas are aimed to help you think outside of the box. So let these fuel you on to igniting and sparking some great moments with your family at mealtime.

*Have a picnic on the floor.  Push the couch back a little, pull out a blanket, get out the paper plates and add the food!

*Have dinner inside of a fort you all build together! We once had pizza delivered to us INSIDE of our fort. If you feel comfortable ordering delivery - DO IT!

*Eat out on your deck or back porch.  Enjoy the fresh air.

*Put a spin on eating outdoors by setting up a tent and lantern.  Eat after it gets dark inside the tent. 

*Have festive napkins, glasses or fancy straws. Or let your kids write encouraging notes on everyone’s napkin and place at their designated dinner spot.

*Allow your family to use chopsticks only, instead of silverware. If you need laughs, this one is sure to deliver!

*Make a rule that no utensils can be used at all!  Only hands.  Have finger foods, drink soup out of the bowl, etc.

*Have everyone grab a TV tray and pick out a family movie to watch while eating dinner.

*Switch places at the table.  Everyone needs to sit somewhere other than their normal seat.

*Make normal foods fun.  Add green food coloring to water, use cookie cutters to make shapes in your pancakes…..

*Serve dessert FIRST for a change!

*Have the kids make dinner! Even if it’s Ramen, or carrots and cheese slices, enjoy - because you got to sit down, while they prepared.

*EVERYONE helps clean up. One person does dishes, one wipes the counters, and one sweeps the kitchen. Teamwork.

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.