POD #1: Altitude training

BEFORE you took this Challenge, when was the last time you trained at altitude—diving into something that stretched you beyond what you’d ever done or felt before, or stepping out toward a dream without the perfect resources or plan in place?
How did it go? Describe the adventure.
What new superpowers did you develop in the process?
What powers—extraordinary traits at the core of who you are—did you realize you’d always had, all along?
And what powers do you intend to grow and unlock here, in this 30 Day Writing Challenge? Declare it!

I can easily be driven by passion.  I love learning and can easily get lost in research for knowledge.  My Enneagram personality type is a five, Investigator/Observer.  Every aspect of the description fits me.  When my friend read the book, she was like “It explains so much.”  Like a window to my soul, it helped her see my perspective a little clearer. It is easier for me to get trapped in training mode instead of really living.  I can easily dive in and never allow myself to get stretched.  So I paused to think about the last time I dove into something that really stretched me and three things came to mind.

First was exercise.  I have never been athletic.  Never.  I am sure I caused my physical education teacher much pain as I never attempted to even pretend to be interested in anything athletic.  A few years ago, I decided that I needed to make a change in my lifestyle.  I would love to say that I have been successful in that endeavor,  but outside my initial goals, I have not been consistent.  However, I set a goal to complete a 5K  and I did.   I was consistent swimming at the gym and working out five days a week following the death of my mother two years ago.  I was successful loosing fifty-pounds.

Both were trainings that I stepped out in alone, and pushed myself towards my goal.    I might not ever enjoy exercise, but I did enjoy the benefits of energy and health.  I learned I could use exercise to help reduce my stress and focus.  I learned I could push myself despite what I felt like doing.  I need to get back into exercising.  I realize that self-motivation is key for me to reach the next altitude.  When I decide I really want it, nothing can stop me until I reach it.

purposeMy second altitude training came when I stepped out from what I was comfortable in to take on running a nonprofit organization that helped me at a turning point in my life.  It was a step to relocate, take a drastic pay cut, change careers, and take on a role that I had no experience.  My passion drove me to take the leap of faith.  I knew the population I was serving, because I had been where they were twenty years prior.  I knew the community resources, because I had been helped by so many.  I knew nothing about running a non-profit or about the day-to-day demands that helping fifteen single parents and thirty-six children would place on me.

I soaked in so much information over the next three years, Attended trainings, watched webinars, read articles, questioned leaders in other nonprofits.  There were many times that I knew I was in over my head.  There were other times that I could see the difference that I was making.  Not only a difference in the lives of the women and children in the program, but also in lending my voice and story to help raise awareness of the needs in the community.

I gained information that I have been able to share with other organizations and leaders.  I gained connections that would help future people I encountered.  I remembered the passion I have for speaking, raising awareness, and getting people to work together towards a common cause.   I realized I do have power to influence; I have to choose where I lend that power. I learned I can’t control everything, but that everything has a purpose.  It was an amazing journey.

The third time, and one that I am currently walking in is the training of complete surrender.  I like to be in control.  I like clearly laid plans.  I like goals that I can complete.  I can be flexible but I like to know the end result I am working towards.  Right now I feel like I am in a stretching process, and I don’t have any idea what I am being stretched towards.  I am diving in, and I have no idea how deep the water is.  I am stepping out and have no idea how many steps I will have to take before I am able to see the next goal.  Each time I think I am getting a clearer picture, I feel like the challenge just grows bigger and deeper.

Thus far in the walk, I realize I have the heart knowledge to walk it out.  All the areas that I thought I had control, I have seen that it was just an illusion.  I have a deeper trust in God  than I did just four years ago.  He was there with His guiding hand, even when I thought I was the one forging the path.  I have people in my life that support my journey, regardless of where it leads.  I can ask for help along the way, and I will need that help.  I have the ability to just lay the honest truth out and I don’t have to be concerned with how others will respond.  This is the journey I am on, they will either support and encourage or continue on in their own path – they may not be the same or even parallel.

The power that has to grow is God’s power in my life.  He wants my focus and my obedience.  It is not by chance that I find myself where I am, at this time, learning the things that have been available always but are just starting to sink in now.  I see things much differently that I have in the past.  I know I am at a crossroads in life that will take me down His path for my life, if I just surrender and obey.  I have to keep my focus on what He has placed before me instead of allowing myself to investigate and observe things outside of the path He has placed before me.  I realize it is going to encompass my whole being – that physical health and activity level is needed for where He is taking me.  Those skills He was growing in my elevation training at the nonprofit was purposeful and planned.  The past four years, although they have felt random and scattered to me, have been intentional on His part.  My altitude training will not only take me to my higher purpose, but towards the One that holds my purpose.

This post is prompted by
Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.

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Democratic Kingdom

I have been a believer for the majority of my life. Yet if I am honest with myself, I haven’t really let God be the King in my life. I have preferred to allow Him to be more of a democratic leader where if He agreed with my thinking, I could submit. I have allowed Him to lead, but there were other parties that I also gave influence to my life. I have let my mood and thoughts rule much of my life, despite claiming He is the King of my life.

My pastor has been talking lately about the difference between Democracy vs Kingdom and how the view impacts our perception of how things in the Christian walk should work.  It got me to thinking and researching as I often do with new thoughts.  I live in a democratic government.  Through voting, the majority of the people’s opinions are supposed to govern the land.  It is also a republic as elected officials are who truly make those decisions on our behalf.  Whereas, a kingdom is generally under monarchy rule with a king or queen at the head.kingdom

In a democratic society people feel free to speak whatever is on their mind.  If majority rules those with the loudest voice get heard.  People are able to get their voice to the leaders, if not through direct access through communication.  In a Kingdom, it is not that easy to speak out against the one who rules over you.  You read in the Old Testament how Queen Esther could be killed for approaching the king without his request.

“All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days.”  Esther 4:11

In a democratic government rules can be changed through voting  by the republic or through popular vote.  In a kingdom, you read about the decrees that were made that could not be reversed even by the king.  In the testimony of Daniel being thrown into the lion’s den we see this in play.  Once a rule was put in place, it could not simply be undone, even if the king didn’t want to see the rule enforced.

The king answered and said, “The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter.”
So they answered and said before the king, “That Daniel, who is one of the captives[a] from Judah, does not show due regard for you, O king, or for the decree that you have signed, but makes his petition three times a day.”
And the king, when he heard these words, was greatly displeased with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him; and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him.  Then these men approached the king, and said to the king, “Know, O king, that it is the law of the Medes and Persians that no decree or statute which the king establishes may be changed.”
So the king gave the command, and they brought Daniel and cast him into the den of lions. Daniel 6:12-16

Because this is not the current culture, it is hard  to understand the authority, power, and finality of God’s Word.  Our society has changed so much since Biblical times.  There has been much progress, but there has also been a moral decline. Tolerance and political correctness have given way to lack of enforceable boundaries for those in authority.  Yet God’s Word is clear about how we are to respond to authority:

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. Romans 13:1-7

I was pondering on the information above as my pastor preached today.  I admit, I am still trying to understand Kingdom mentality and that God is really the final authority.  I have always tried to be in control, independent, and a leader. So when my pastor preached on this more today, it really made me ponder the governing of my life. My pastor said something that really got me thinking:

In a kingdom, only one king can have dominion over a territory at a time.  You have two choices in a kingdom – to submit to the authority and expand the kingdom’s territory or rebel against authority and help build another kingdom’s territory.  Kingdoms are all about gaining territory.  In God’s Kingdom you are either advancing His Kingdom, or advancing the kingdom of darkness.

I would love to say that I heard this message, I repented, surrendered, and now I can walk in the full power of the Kingdom of God. I don’t want to advance the darkness. Yet, if I am walking in rebellion, that is exactly what I am doing. I can not have my way and say God rules my life. I immediately felt convicted, not condemned as I know God’s grace is available, about areas in my life where I really struggle. Three quickly came to mind. Overeating – if God is King, I can surrender my appetite to Him. He already has the victory. My family – if God has dominion in my life, His Word prevails in my home. My finances – God is my provider. I am left asking “how do I change this Lord?”

Instead of walking in it, I am just in the processing mode. Processing the true revelation of what Kingdom means. Processing the conviction. Processing the change that is needed in my own life. Processing the power that is really available and how it truly could change not just my life and my family but the region I live in. I’m trying to fathom the reality of all of Kingdom advancement if just a portion of believers started walking in this truth.

I find myself wanting to dig deeper in to the Kingdom.  What I do know it is that it is time for me to learn to live in a Kingdom.  That I want to walk in the Kingdom of God instead of professing He is the King and walking in a Democratic mindset.  Change is available.  How willing am I to allow God to really do that work in my life?

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It’s not what it looks like

My struggle is real. If we are all honest, it is real for each and every one of us. I tend to keep my struggle quiet. Usually, it is silent. That is, until it erupts like a volcano spewing out molten ash burning everything in its path.  Over the years, the eruptions have grown farther apart. By God’s grace, the struggle has lessened in its intensity. God has also taught me the subtle art of keeping my mouth shut. Asking for forgiveness is harder to do when you have already been told not to engage. Now I often find the battle plays in my head until I release it to the only One who can intervene on both our behalf.

Marriage is a struggle for most people, even if you are not in one. If you don’t have a marriage, you struggle with the unknown. Do I really want one? Does anyone want me? Am I too young? Am I too old? What if I find the wrong one? What if I let go of the right one? Is it wrong for me to not want one?

If you have divorced, you struggle with the what ifs. Was it my fault? Should I have fought harder? Was I not enough? Why didn’t I listen to people when they told me not to? Why didn’t I see it coming? What if it happens again? Is it worth the heartache to try dating again? And the struggle only grows bigger if there are children involved.

If your widowed the struggles usually start with the cans and shoulds. Should I remain faithful to the vows despite death? Can I open myself up to love again? Can I move on? Should I move on? Can someone new understand the love is still there and will never go away? Can family and friends accept me with someone else?  The struggle can grow if there were any type of issues that were also in play at the time of death.

But when you are in married life there is a struggle for both spouses   Generally speaking it can be at the same time but often it is at different times for each spouse. Two imperfect people, with different backgrounds, perspectives, expectations and wills coming together in unity. The struggle is there, even if you don’t see it.  Marriage, it’s not what it looks like on the surface.

Marriage is messy.  Marriage is a place where you learn to be vulnerable. Where you learn to communicate openly even about the tough things.  A place where you learn to heal and be healed.  Marriage is where you learn how selfish you really are and how to put someone else’s wants and desires above your own.  Marriage is where you learn to compromise and learn when you need to stand your ground.  Marriage is about honor, trust, love, and respect.  Marriage is about intimacy on a level that can never be shared with others.  Marriage is complex. complicated, and often contradicting.

That is how marriage really is.  We like to think that somewhere there is this perfect marriage where “They lived happily every after.” but there is a reason fairy tales end.  Real life is messy.  Marriage though is more than just a wedding day, vows, and two people trying to live life together.  It is a commitment.  It is a covenant.  It is our opportunity to learn, especially as Christians, how to love unconditionally.  It is our human attempt to learn how to live the life we will walk out with Christ in heaven.

jogging-1722552_1920I love my husband, don’t get me wrong.  I can with confidence say that he loves me too.  We have been married for nineteen years, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.  I can say that, because we have been divorced from each other, and still found our way back to this covenant called marriage with each other.  We tried to trade each other in, but we bought the same model again!  He has been by my side, consistently longer than anyone outside my birth family.  I don’t doubt that we are meant to be together.

Yet marriage is still a struggle.  We are two very different people.  We both are on different paths, that will hopefully arrive at the same destination eventually.  There are days that I look at him and think “I am the luckiest girl on the plant.” He truly can be that great of a guy.  And yet there are other days that I wonder why I continue the struggle.  Like most people we have the same mountains we go around over and over.  Some times it looks like we are on the right path, only to revert back to old patterns of behaviors.  Some days I am beyond frustrated with him, and I know there are days that he gets frustrated with me.

The difference is where I choose to put my focus. Yes, there are days, like the day I started writing this blog where my focus is on my own wants and needs and I look only at the struggle.  It is all too easy to go down that path, and I admit that there are times in my marriage that I lived there.  It is a miserable place to be.  And it makes for a miserable marriage.

Yet with a quick change of perspective, I can turn my focus onto the things I appreciate about my husband.  Some days it may take work; if I don’t want to be miserable and make his life miserable too, it is worth it.  I can turn my attention on how he encourages me to pursue my dreams, regardless of the fact that he doesn’t always like the time commitment that my dreams take.  Or how great of a grandpa he is with our grandbabies.  Or how he is a great provider, hard worker, terrific cook, and when he wants to be has a romantic side that I love to see come out.  I see how he tries in his own way to care for me, even if it doesn’t look like I think it should.

When I talk about the great parts of me marriage, I am not trying to portray something that isn’t.  I learned some time ago, that  God united us into one.  When I tear down my husband, I am tearing down not only my marriage, but myself.  I choose to build up my husband and our marriage.  He generally knows when he has hurt me or is frustrating, he doesn’t need me to share that with social media.  The struggle is real.  It’s not always what it looks like,  but the good side, that is the side of my marriage I choose to let others see. 

 

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Representations of denial

And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, “You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 

This has escaped me in reading John 18 before regarding Peter’s denial of Christ. It is not just that Peter denied that he knew Christ to a slave girl, but Peter gained access by another disciple who was known to the girl as a disciple of Christ. I  wonder where the other disciple was while Peter was denying Christ to the slave girl.

Why would Peter be intimidated to admit to a slave that he not only knows Christ, but that he is also Christ’s follower?  I look as this scene and wonder this because she would be considered more of a piece of property at that time than a person.  Why deny Christ, especially when she knew Peter was friend’s with the disciple who told her to let Peter in?  Who was she to Peter that he wouldn’t just be honest?  She could assume Peter’s relationship to Christ based on Peter’s relationship with the disciple that she knew.

It is easy for me to pass judgement on Peter for denying Christ.  Peter was right there with Christ, with this other disciple.  But how am I representing Christ to those who already know my relationship to Him? Christ is right here with me, in me.  Maybe I am not verbally denying Christ, but actions speak much louder.

Are there times that my actions don’t reflect my relationship with Christ?  Are there times that it is easier for me to go along with the crowd, than stand up and do the right thing?  Not that I allow others to walk me into “blatant” sin, but if there is something I know I shouldn’t do and I do it anyway, it is a sin.  Choosing sin is denying the power of Christ in my life.  Do I allow myself to engage it gossip, or even just listen passively, when I should speak up?  If I am honest at times, yes.  I dishonor God with my body, gluttony is a sin and one only needs to look at the scale to know that I continue to deny His power in this area of my life. I know God forgives me, but it was a convicting thought as I read this passage passing judgement on Peter.

Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself.  Therefore they said to him, “You are not also one of His disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not!”

Then Peter denied Christ to servants and officers.   He took it from a one on one denial, to a public denial.  Again, these servants had nothing to offer Peter, but Peter had everything to offer them –  Christ.  The officers could have chosen to take Peter in with Jesus and persecuted Peter alongside Jesus.  Peter had said even to the point of death would not leave Jesus, yet even with death not on the table Peter denied Christ.

characterHow do I represent Christ to those who have nothing to offer me and those who could potentially persecute me? I like to think that I offer compassion and hope to those who have nothing to offer.  That I treat them with dignity and respect, but do I offer them Christ?  Do I consistently point them to the One who can truly make all the difference in their life?  Or do I quietly deny that He holds the answer by offering them other resources?  Part of this is listening to the Holy Spirit, as there are times that action is what someone needs first.  However, part of my response at times is pure denial.  I don’t want to take the time to open that door, to be inconvenienced, to have that deep conversation regardless of what the Holy Spirit prompts me to do.

And there are times that I remain quiet instead of engaging in the persecution of another.  Times where a word comes to mind, but I don’t want to isolate myself or the other person, so speaking the truth in love becomes a quiet denial of the Truth.  I am not facing death, or even physical persecution, I just choose not to put the Truth out there because I don’t want to deal with the verbal/written persecution of others.  God’s Word remains Truth, regardless of political correctness and cultural tolerance.  Again, I know God forgives my shortcomings and failures, but the conviction of my denials are brought to reality when I stop to really look at how I handle situations.

One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of him whose ear Peter cut off, said, “Did I not see you in the garden with Him?” Peter then denied again; and immediately a rooster crowed.

Then Peter denied Christ to someone who knew his past behavior in the garden.  This person had a first hand experience with Peter.  The servant not only saw Peter with Jesus, the servant saw Peter cut off the servant’s own family member’s ear in anger.  You don’t generally forget someone who attacked a family member just hours before in front of you.

How am I representing Christ to those who know who I have been in the past?  I am not the same person I used to be, but sometimes when I get around certain people the old flesh man comes up.   I can quickly turn into a spoiled, selfish brat and deny the truth that my life is not my own and things aren’t all about me.  I try to guard against this as it is easier to do with certain personalities, but I know at times I still revert back to my childhood and teenage ways.

I can also easily go down a rabbit trail of my “fun party days” and all the crazy, sinful things I used to do – as if because I serve God now my life is no longer interesting.  I glorify that sinful life instead of God who delivered me from it.  My past is one I’m not really proud of, except to say that God has used what I have done and been through to help others for His glory.   When I share what God has brought me out of, it should point to Him, not deny Him.  These are two areas that God had already shown me needed to change in my life, and that I surrender to Him when it comes to my awareness that I’m doing it.

Does my life reflect I know Him and the reveal Him to those I encounter or do I deny Him through my words and actions?  I am the only Bible some people will ever read.  Sometimes it may be a person that has no relationship to me, but that I meet through a friend.  My life should reflect my relationship with Christ.  Sometimes it will be a person who has nothing to offer me.  I should offer them Christ because of my relationship with Him.  Sometimes my life may be read by someone with completely different views than they have, someone who may persecute me.  My life and words should still reflect the Truth of God’s Word.  When I run into someone who knows the life I used to live, my words and actions should reveal to them a life transformed by the power of Christ.  Wherever I am, with whoever I am with, my life and words should reflect who I am in Christ and who He is in my life.  His Word says “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.Matthew 10:33

 

 

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Windows to my soul

limitations

One of my friends called me out on something this past week.  I know that it was needed, and I received what she had to share.  I had been hearing that quiet inner voice telling me to stop making excuses.  She was just a confirmation of what the Holy Spirit was already speaking to me.  The following day, I received a message from her stating that she had not meant to come off so strong.  She didn’t want to discourage or offend me.  I let her know that I appreciated her candidness and that I welcome her speaking into my life any time.

I realize that I have a very strong personality, that can be intimidating on a light day. However,  more than anything I want people in my life who will speak truth, in love.   People who will call me on “my crap” because despite what I might say, I know I have a lot of it.  I am very good at making excuses and helping others accept my self-imposed limitations.  I appreciate people who see past those excuses and will speak wisdom and correction into my life.  Most people are not willing to stand up to my personality.  Most people will skirt around issues and then back away from really holding me accountable.

 

johari window

Johari’s Window

 

I have reached the point that I am tired of status quo.  I am ready to move forward and grow in the areas that I have been blind.  I think about Johari’s Window, and realize I want to expand the area of Known to Self.  I really want to move into awareness of the areas that I am blind to and that are unknown to me.  The Holy Spirit is the only one that can show me the unknown, and He has certainly been revealing things to me over the past few years.  I know it is not easy or comfortable, but I cannot  grow without being aware.  I am thankful for God’s patience with me as He works to bring the unknown into the known.

In order to grow in the blind areas, I need people who can speak the truth to me in love, despite how I might react.  I have to allow people to speak into my life and allow myself to really hear their point of view.  I feel like I usually do this, but sometimes it takes me a while to process things and allow the truth to take root.  While I care what people think especially my friends, I have never allowed the opinions of others to dictate my life.  I need time take information shared and allow God to show me His truth in my life.

People who speak into my life but want me to rush into change will be disappointed.  That only happens if they are confirming something that God has already been dealing with me on in our quiet time.  People who aren’t able to accept that I am a work in progress are also going to be disappointed.  Change is usually occurring at a rate that may or may not keep up with their perceptions of who I am.  When I allow God to rearrange things in my life, change happens.  I don’t think about needing to update others about the change God is doing.  I think actions speak louder than words, they will eventually see the difference in my life.

When I have confirmation about blind spots from God, or when God reveals something that was unknown to me, I understand some boundaries that have been in place, need to change.  I recognize the boundaries that I once needed to protect myself, are just self-imposed limitations and no longer serving a purpose in my life.  Once I can see that, I can begin to move forward into the fuller life that God created for me to live.  I am working on the window to my soul, what I can see and what others can see.  I am trying to be more transparent with myself so I am can be known by others.

 

 

 

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Blinds

As I was in praise and worship today, I kept seeing a picture of blinds, like mini blinds in a window.  Just a little bit of light was shining through the closed blinds.  I started thinking about how much we try to hide from God, both of our self and in knowing Him more fully.

At times in my life I have been content to just have a little of His presence.  I just want a little of His light to shine on me.  I have been satisfied with just knowing a little about Him.  I have been content to just allow Him to deal with a little of my sin and other personal areas where I know that change is needed.  That little bit of light that peaks through has been enough for me to feel like I am making progress because I am not standing still.  But not enough to make me truly uncomfortable with what I am trying to hide from allowing Him to address with me.blinds

There are other times where I have opened up the blinds and allowed God to illuminate the areas in my life that needed to change.  It at times makes it hard to see, as God rearranges my life into what He designed me to be.  A period of growing closer to Him, learning more about Him, and see Him become more real in certain areas of my life.  Over the years, my life has changed dramatically.  At times I hardly recognize the girl I used to be, but then I am a new creation in Christ.

It is interesting that God meets us just where we are.  It is even more interesting that He allows us to control just how much we allow Him to change our lives.  He gave us the full ability to open our heart up to Him or close the blinds completely.  I have learned with the blinds in my home I can adjust them to  have the light shines up or shines down depending on how I adjust them.  Sometimes I just want the light of God to reflect on what He has already done in my life.  Other times, it reflects on areas that I still need to change.  However, I have to choose to open the blinds completely to let Him shine and show me that what He has already done has prepared me for the next work He needs to do.

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Stirring up wells

There are deep wells that are being stirred within me.  Wells that had been filled, some that I didn’t even know existed, some wells that I didn’t understand the drawing towards.  But they are there, waiting to be re-dug, waiting to be stirred, waiting to be drawn from again.

I have always had a deep desire to see the Church be the Church.  Never a desire for a small group of people to rise up, but a desire for there to be a unity of Spirit that causes all God’s people to step up and be the Church.  Never a desire for a specific denomination to dominate, but for people to find a place that challenged them spiritually and be all the God created them to be.  I never felt a drawing to a particular country, just a global desire.

I never understood the desire. At the time I first felt that drawing, I wasn’t even attending church.  To my knowledge, my mom was raised Catholic and then converted to Baptist at some point; there was limited spiritual development in either of my parent’s childhood homes.  My exposure to different denominations or even different churches were limited.  I had been to six churches in my life, and really only three types.  I had only lived in three towns at the time, and really had never traveled.   This deep, burning passion and desire in my heart didn’t make sense.

stirringAfter the death of my mother, I learned from my siblings that my mother became a Christian after my birth.  I learned from my Auntie that her grandmother was the one that took them to the Catholic Church.    Just recently I learned that there are deep wells on my paternal side of the family.  Founders, church planters, pastors and preachers of Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, and Nazarene churches.  Family members that would do gospel sings in the community.

Genesis 26:18  And Isaac dug again the wells of water which they had dug in the days of Abraham his father, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham. He called them by the names which his father had called them.

I thought my parents had laid the foundation of my journey towards Christ.  However, it appears that deeper wells were dug, but over the years the enemy had stopped them up.  I only knew about the “black sheep” stories of my family, but there was a spiritual side that had been hidden by the enemy.

I don’t pretend to know that those wells hold, but discovering them has already been an interesting journey.  As I thanked God for letting me find these deep wells, I got a vision of the powerful prayers that have been prayed through the years in my family.  The legacy that laid a foundation for me to build upon.  And possibly there is more than just a foundation that was built, the structure is just waiting to be discovered.  Maybe I wasn’t left a big financial inheritance, but this spiritual one is already blessing me.  I am ready, like Isaac to dig the wells again and call them by the names my ancestors called them and begin to draw from those wells again.

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I’ve got it all together … (NOT)

I suppose it has been said to me before, but today I heard it.  Possibly because for the past few months I have been doing my own soul searching, trying to get in touch with deeper things in my life.  My search has opened me up to be a little more honest about my weaknesses and failures.  Not that I haven’t always been, but at a different level.

I used to think I was an open book, but looking back – my life has been more of an index or encyclopedia.  If someone was looking for something, I could open up to the page of my life and share.  I have never been a novel for one to just sit and read, enjoying chapters at a time.  I am not one to share personal information just for sharing’s sake.  If I have something personal to offer that might help or encourage in a particular setting, I will share.  My self-disclosure is generally limited to someone needing it.

I suppose today was no different; the comment though was what held my attention, not my sharing of a particular struggle.  She said, “Really?  But you always appear to have it all together.

I suppose it is that imposter syndrome again, because I don’t usually feel like I have it all together.  Yes, I bring my A-game to work, which is where the comment was made, but even there I don’t feel like I have it all together.  I have heard it in a number of life areas though.

AlltogetherI will just say for the record, and shout it from the rooftops, “I don’t have it all together.”  I don’t even mean to appear that I have it all together to outsiders.  Or maybe deep-down I do.  I prefer casual relationships to intimate ones, because if you get to know me, you will realize appearances aren’t all they are cracked up to be.  I am proud to say, “I’m not as big of a mess as I used to be.”  but will quickly add, “It is only by God’s hand and grace that is true.”

 

One area where I really don’t have it all together is my weight and food intake.  Last year I realized my struggle with food is a spiritual and emotional one.  I have placed food above God and I am a clinical binge eater.  Having that knowledge, doesn’t mean I can make the change immediately, it’s a work in process.  It is one I have failed epically with more often than not and God is dealing with me more and more lately about it.

Another area where I really don’t have it together is creating consistency in new areas.  There are areas that  I have built-in consistency.  Those close to me know I really need structure, so when things are important they get a time frame in my schedule.  I give very little wiggle room for those things – my daily and weekly routine is mundane but necessary for my wellbeing.  Trying to add new things, surprise activities, or activities that are dependent on someone else’s schedule really wreak havoc in my life.  I also find myself having a hard time stopping activities that I have built into my schedule.  Trying to develop new habits, take on new things, or let go of old things, despite wanting to have the change really causes me stress.  It generally causes me such stress that I will revert to struggle number one and give up the new thing I was trying to cultivate in my life.

I still have days, just like most people, when I would rather crawl under the covers and stay in bed, lately more days than not.  Growing up, I learned to take my responsibilities I have seriously, so I suck it up and face the day – unless I am vomiting or running a fever, then I crawl back under those covers after I cancel my responsibilities for the day.

I have days where I have really bad thoughts – like Very, Not Nice, Thoughts.  Like, “Oh my gosh, who thinks like that” thoughts.  I learned some time back, not every thought that comes into my head needs to be shared.  I know my family is thankful for this, especially my siblings, because I didn’t have that filter growing up.  I have learned to take those thoughts captive and not meditate on them, but they still come up some times.

I have days where I am not very nice.  My grandchildren, children, nieces, nephews, cousins and husband will attest to it.  If you have seen me “Not nice” you are in my inner circle.  Some people think they have, but I would beg to differ.  Sadly I will tell you that a snarky tone, or brash comment is still me holding back.  Unfortunately, I am a person who can destroy someone in about two seconds flat with words.  Only when I have finished do I realize the damage I have done.  Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Those days are now far and few between.    I thank God for the work He has done in my life because about a decade ago, I would say I was not nice more often than I was nice.

I can let everyone in on the secret, and those who really know me well will attest to this.   When people see me and think or say, “She’s got it all together.”, they are really seeing God’s work shining forth in my life.  His light is brighter because it shines through all the cracks in my life.  The things that have really changed in my life, those areas that are pretty much under control now appear “all together” because I have surrendered them to Him and walked in it long enough that others take notice of His control in my life.

I suppose what I really think when I hear “She’s got it all together.”  is “They couldn’t be more wrong.  It’s just God’s light shining through all the broken areas He  has filled.”  Because it is Him, and not me, anyone can have it all together through Him.

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Bonus POD: The Fourth Agreement

Bonus POD: The Fourth Agreement

The fourth agreement is about the action of the first three: Always do your best.

DMR goes on: “Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good.” Source: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

I want you to consider these questions and use them to inspire your writing:
Do you consistently do your best? In what areas of your life do you consistently not do your best? In what areas are you well-practiced at bringing your A-game?
Do you beat yourself up for imperfections at times when you could do better? Or are you compassionate with yourself, as you journey along this path?
How many precious moments of second-guessing and rumination might you have back in your life if you make the commitment to always do your best moving forward?
Is anything stopping you from making a commitment to either the 4th or the 4.5th Agreement, starting now?

I like to think that I consistently do my best, and maybe more recently I have been making that concerted effort.  If I am really honest with myself, the area of my life where I have consistently not done my best is my family.  I am so grateful for my husband and children but I know it is only by the grace of God that we have survived and thrived because when my children were growing up, my family didn’t get my best they got what was left, and that wasn’t much.  While I started making changes almost a decade ago, I have only recently made the move to really put my family first.

My husband couldn’t even schedule time with me as our children were growing up because I put every thing else before him – including work, church, volunteering, commitments to my extended family, our children.  My children are probably one of few children whose school paperwork for pick-up said “Anyone with a Children’s Division (Child protective services) badge.”  In part it was due to not living close to family and dad working an hour away.   They had an adopted grandma from church that was always good to pick them up in a crunch or when I knew I was working late.  Too many times it wasn’t a crunch but a mom forgot and she’s out in the field and no one can reach her, so a coworker in the office would go pick them up.  We can joke about it now, but I didn’t realize the impact that had on my children, especially my youngest.

My A-game, I reserved my best for work.  I learned very early on in my work life that the A-game always goes there.  My first job was for my mother, and at the time I was very rebellious.  I knew that regardless of how tired or under the influence I might have been, if I didn’t show up with my A-game my social life would be grounded.  I learned to push through the tough days when I lost friends to car accidents and suicides because emotional days were not part of my mother’s expectations.

bestThere was a time early in my career that I couldn’t bring my A-game.  It wasn’t for lack of trying but I had too much work responsibility for the number of hours in the month.  I put it on paper and said, “If I can’t do it all, I won’t do it at all.”  I thought it would be better to quit than to not give the A-game.  I didn’t quit, but I walked out that day.  I needed a different perspective.

After that time, I let people know in advance “If you ever don’t think I am bringing my A-game, let me know I will walk away.  The people I serve deserve my best.”  And I truly mean that.  Sometimes I recognize I am not giving my best and I will walk away.  Once,  I  missed it completely.   The people in my life were not willing to call me on what I gave them permission to speak.  Even though I offered in my struggle, I wasn’t dealt with honestly.

I realize that the early shaping of who got my best was greatly influenced by my parents.  I love them both dearly, but some lessons are meant to be unlearned.  Work got the best, everyone else got the rest.  I realized as an adult (as I was just a child myself when I was raising my children) that my priorities were really off.  I learned that while I should do my best at whatever I put my hand to, that my best should also line up with what I say my priorities are.  God gets my best, then my husband (Still working on it), then my children and grandchildren, then my extended family, work, church and volunteering.  I have learned it is a daily practice to keep things in the right priority.

Understand, I am not beating myself up about my imperfections as a wife or parent.  I spent some time dealing with the shame and seeking forgiveness from my husband and my children.  I am just being honest.   Looking back I am compassionate with myself in my failures. Maybe I know I was doing the best I knew how at the time.  I try to help others not make the same mistakes if they can help it.

I know that I won’t always get it perfect, but I can say I will do my best.  Sometimes that best will shine.  Other days the best I have to offer is just showing up.  When I realize I haven’t given my best, I can reflect, apologize, forgive myself, move forward and learn from my mistakes.  I can give myself grace because God gave me grace and He covers when my best isn’t enough.

This post is prompted by
Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.

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POD #28: Who’s in Your Cabinet?

My Cabinet roles were pretty non-traditional. Who might be in your Cabinet, and in which roles, if you were in the position to assign them? (Plot twist: you are.)

cabinet

As I think about who makes up the Executive cabinet, I realize that some roles I might like filled, I haven’t made the time to cultivate the relationships needed for the right person to fill the positions. So as I think about the role that it could play in my life, I think more of the characteristics of such persons that I would want to fill the role.

Attorney General – I would want an attorney general who not only knows and understands the letter of the law, but reviews it in light of the spirit that it was intended. I believe that the law not only protects, but it can defend. It can be just, impartial and fair at the same time. I would want someone who knows the boundaries that I have in place, but also the ability to see when those boundaries need flexibility and when they need more firmness.

Secretary of Agriculture – I am generally not good with making the wisest food choices. I have little experience with farming, trade or production, or stewardship over natural resources and meeting the needs of others through those resources (AKA – I passed on not so great habits to my children and other children in my family.) I immediately think of a personal trainer that believes in health eating from all food groups. Someone with the ability to challenge me to learn a new way of living and hold me accountable in this area of my life. Someone with a strong personality that wouldn’t give in to my excuses, and would push me just a little more than I think I can go.critique

Secretary of Defense – I believe that the greatest and only secretary of defense that I will ever need for my life is the Lord. He is my refuge, my defender and the only one that can fill this job. I have allowed too many people to defend me where really it was not needed.  Those who would come to my defense when really I need to be held accountable do not serve my best interests.  One must know when to defend and when to concede.

 

 

 

Secretary of Transportation – This is where I am a little silly, but I would love to have my own person chauffeur, boat captain and pilot so that I do not have to drive but can travel anywhere I like whenever I want.  I want the to be  fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient to meet my interests and enhances my quality of life.  I spent enough time driving, and would love to travel so my secretary of transportation needs to be multifaceted.  I suppose if I ever when the lottery that might be the option.

Secretary of the TreasuryI would want my treasury to be headed by someone who is a savvy investor with a sound record of returns.  Someone who could help me not only budget but also save and invest.  I want someone who would help promote my economic prosperity to ensure that I could leave not only an inheritance for my children and grandchildren, but to the causes that are important to me.

Secretary of Veterans Affairs – I am not a Veteran, but I would love to have a secretary of Veteran Affairs in  my life that would fund 100% of the needs of Veterans.  I would want to know that those who served our country are given everything that they need – access to housing, health care, mental health care, and education.  If they honorably served their country, they should have the same or better benefits available to them as those that are given to those who are unable to work and receive government benefits.  For Veteran’s this should not be considered a handout, but a benefit of those who serve and their families.

These are just a few cabinet positions that I would want in my life.  Really, I think a personal trainer/dietician, a financial advisor, a career mentor, and a spiritual mentor would be the cabinet positions that are most needed in my life.  Although the secretary of transportation would be my selfish desire to have filled, I will let God be my Secretary of Defense and Attorney General.

This post is prompted by
Tara-Nicholle Nelson’s 30 Day Writing Challenge for Conscious Leaders.

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