Only Mine to Do

January 9th, 2018

I’m a sucker for a list. Hand me a pretty notebook or agenda and I will make magic out of its pages. I’ll fill in dreams, to-do’s and even give life to all that has been happening in my thoughts. Maybe it’s a word love affair. One of my girls’ loves making lists too. She, like me…pours her heart out on paper whether it be a grocery or shopping list or just a notebook to keep organized and on time to this or that.

I do such a jam-up job on making TO-DO lists….I thought maybe making a TO NOT DO list was just as important. If you think about it, there are many different voices constantly trying to get our attention. Not all of them are good, helpful or even of value but we (out of guilt or being easily distracted) fall into the trap of focusing on stuff that doesn’t truly matter.

What matters in my life may not in yours.

Let me make this simple. I will do what I value most. Just like you are probably doing in your own life. Some people think making their bed each morning is a waste, I do not. Making the bed fills something up inside my love tank and releases endorphins that shoot off an arrow of happy right into my heart. Every time I walk into my bedroom throughout the day and see my beautiful bed, peyong! That arrow hits me one more time!

Have you ever been to someone’s house and needed something? Anything? A napkin? Fresh towel? Extra blanket? Did you peek around for one? Or just outright ask? I mention all of those items because those are things you will always have at my house. I think of those things as very important. However, not everyone does. I’ve been to many friends homes that do not set out napkins with a meal. Why? I have no idea other than to say that maybe they just don’t need or use them. Filthy animals! 🙂 I suppose using my sleeve to wipe off that BBQ sauce is fine.

See what I’m saying about our differences?

I don’t want to get off track here because the truth of the matter is there are things in this world that are only mine to do. Things that have nothing to do with creature comforts or how I run my house. I want to section those things out and face the reality of WHAT IT IS GOD WANTS TO ACCOMPLISH IN AND THROUGH ME.

I’m only going to be here for a limited amount of time.

My TO NOT DO list may look something like this:

1. Worry.

Worrying doesn’t change any of my circumstances. It only causes what I’m zeroed in on to fester and grow into a monster bigger than God ever intended for it to be. What a waste of my time.

2. Focus on what I don’t have.

I’ve noticed how much I don’t have when I scroll online at what others are showing off there. It also reminds me to be careful of what I brag about to others. Even if it’s out of pride. Someone struggling could be hurting and my fancy couch, new bathroom, constant Nordstrom sale shopping, fun repeated vacations, expensive dinners out and whatever it is that you see online that makes you feel low…only emphasizes what that person can’t ever have.

PS – I do not have any of those things happening in my life. So, don’t hate.

3. Compete.

I never ever want to go back to a place where I feel my value is tied to what others think of me. Younger gals, I’m sorry you are in such a world. Don’t fall for that lie. It’s not necessary to compete with other women to be awesome! Matter of fact, it’s awesome to pull as many chicks up with you as you can. Let’s all win.

4. Blame others.

Watching your kids grow up and face the world opens your eyes to a myriad of weak spots in your parenting. Don’t believe me? Just wait. If you’ve taught your little punkins to own their mistakes and face up to their responsibilities, then good on you. If you haven’t, you may be privvy to a life of watching them blame others for every calamity that comes their way. Oh, I’ve been guilty too. It’s easy to blame someone else for what’s wrong in your life. I don’t want to do that. No, God doesn’t want me to do that.

5. Fight every battle.

I clicked like on a Facebook post the other day on a hot topic that I felt needed my approval. WRONG. It didn’t. Later that day, a beloved writer that I follow posted a prayer for the one who felt she had to add her two-cents online. While I know she wasn’t talking to me, I heard her. I do not need to jump in for every battle. You’d think at my age I’d have this figured out. I’m extremely gifted in the opinion area. No one needs to hear it or wants to. Sorry kids.

6. Assume.

My very first day at college, God handed me on a silver platter the greatest English professor. On the board he wrote the word ASSUME. He went on to warn us that this word would wreck us if we allowed it any power in our lives. Not just in English class but life in general. He jokingly pointed out that more often than not when we assume something….it ends up making an ASS of U and ME. I’ve never forgotten his lesson. Mostly because it holds a deep amount of truth to it. Assuming is guessing. Guessing is not knowing it as truth. Don’t assume.

7. Give up.

I’ve wanted to give up so many times over the last year but God hasn’t let me. It’s important that I experience hard things. Knowing what I know now about how long my husband has been unemployed blows my mind. Had I known at the start……I may have given up. The lesson, I have learned to keep going, to keep praying and believing. God never gives up on me. Why would I give up on him?

8. Wish away my life.

I know a friend who wishes every problem away. There’s never a positive possibility from her troubles. Everything is doom. In my human nature I too can be completely consumed with getting out of hot water. Still, my life isn’t a mistake and neither are my troubles. God has a plan and when I wish my life were something it’s not I’m being pretty ungrateful for what I do have.

9. Pay back evil for evil.

My mother-in-law is the queen of finding a positive in a rotten situation. She can turn around a tumultuous experience and challenge you to find the good. Every time. When my kids were small and had an issue with another child, I would try to help them believe something good about that kid. What may have sounded as an excuse for their behavior wasn’t really that, it was my way of helping them to soften and love the other child because the heart will betray us. If we are not very careful, when someone wounds us we allow it to fester and make us vengeful. I want to love my enemies.

10. Forget my pain.

I have worked too hard to survive this last year. Every struggle, every heartbreak and every rejection. They taught me very valuable lessons. I don’t want to toss those aside when God ends my current situation. I am the person I am because of everything I’ve experienced. What the devil meant for harm God means for good. So, I’m going to hang on to all the things that pushed me closer to God. I’m going to use them to help others and to hold myself to the fire. Pain is a constant reminder that there is more.

So, see….I have work to do that only I can do. I have young adult children who need me, I have life to share with friends and family….I have a husband to fight alongside and stories to tell. Every day is a new opportunity to do or not to do whatever it is that fires up my soul.

What would your TO NOT DO list look like?

I AM STRONG

January 5th, 2018

I used to think hotdogs would be what killed me. Scratch that. It’s stress. S T R E S S is out to take me down! I can’t describe how powerful it is over me right now. It’s almost physical. As if, I can actually feel it picking me up over its head and throwing me straight down to the ground with full force.

It hurts.

My face is all krinkled up (Botox can’t even release this tensed up face of mine), my shoulders are drawn together tighter than a cork on a champagne bottle and my mind is reeling with desperate thoughts. I’m not lying when I say that stress wants to kill me. It is that powerful!

You probably know this already but I’ll say it anyway, job loss robs you of more than financial security.

Don’t get me wrong, lack of money can make you want to run far away from all your life and its responsibilities. Seriously, WHERE’S THE EXIT DOOR OF THIS PAIN?

Job loss robs you of your peace.

It smashes your confidence.

It destroys your joy.

It blasts your heart with all the brokenness of every rejection and lost opportunity.

It steals your thoughts and turns them into schemes of desperation.

It jacks with your knowledge by making you feel stupid regarding issues you know inside and out.

It creeps up like a black mark on your past achievements and tries to whisper negative thoughts.

It compounds every weakness.

It holds you hostage in a link to the person or persons who “let you go for some other company” and replays over & over the day they told you to get lost.

It wrecks you.

It takes away your smile.

Steals your rest. Pushes you to turn to anything ugly or unhealthy and stuff it down in your body. It makes sure you’re too wrapped up in worry to have fun or let go and let God.

Stress is a homicidal maniac! It hates you and it hates me. Like a cancer that won’t stop growing if you and I don’t fight with all our might, stress will destroy us.

I’m fighting so hard today. My bills are hanging all over my head and there’s no end in sight to the day a paycheck rolls into my hands. I’ve faced down the giant over & over again but every day that I wake up and there’s no job, the stress grows and festers.

Right this minute, my hubby is meeting with a guy about a job. The first time they met and talked, the job offer (and halleluia for that) was for a very low salary amount for a very big and hard job. Thankfully, he had the courage to point out the enormity of the job and the requirements to actually do the job for the salary offer didn’t make sense.

Today will decide everything. Either this company can afford the position or it cannot.

Please pray for Don that he would be strong, sure and all anxiety would be removed from his mind. He’s not had a job in 483 days. It’s almost destroyed everything inside him both mentally and emotionally.

God,
We have no doubt YOU have kept us going this long. You have protected us from many situations and circumstances and we believe you when you say you are working!
Help us, provide exactly what is needed. You see it all. Gracious God. Thank you.
Amen

When Hard Looks Different

January 4th, 2018

I’d like to believe that I’m fully equipped to see outside of my own problems to those of hurting folks around me. But, like any other human….life can blind me to the needs of those caught up in catastrophe and hold me hostage inside my own dang issues!

Forgive me, Lord.

I had a situation recently with a student that opened my eyes to just how wrapped up I can get in my own troubles. I won’t go into ALL OF THE details but the student was missing a chair at her desk and instead of walking 4 steps to the left and picking one up (they had simply been scooted down a bit) she stood there like a statue. I began class and noticed her still standing while everyone else sat ready to go. When I questioned her what she was doing she answered that she didn’t have a chair.

Something deep inside me bubbled with frustration, not against her but regarding my own crappy troubles. How I wished my problems were that simple. I knew instantly that much of what I’m going through could be viewed by someone else as no big deal. For me, it feels monumental. Everything I know as normal is gone. Not one single thing is the same in my life, except for Christ. He has remained steadfast and gracious. The rest, crazy…mixed-up and outrageous! Making no sense.

I asked her to think how she could solve her problem. We laughed about it after a few minutes but I admitted to her my feelings of wishing my problems were so easy to solve. Life is hard. My hard may not look like yours but that doesn’t mean yours isn’t painful and treacherous. Everyone who experiences trials deals with them in their own unique way. You may find unemployment as a break or a fresh start where I have reached the point of insanity and struggle to get out of bed every day.

My hard is not yours. Aren’t you glad?

Next time I see someone hurting, I won’t compare what they are struggling with to mine. There is no way to measure the intensity for one over another. I don’t want to negate what someone else feels just because I’m buried deep under a blanket of distress.

What’s hard for you right now?

When Do I Give Up?

January 3rd, 2018

Pressing on has been my mantra. The cards I’ve been dealt have been rotten. Still, I’ve pressed. Somedays, I’ve looked at the glass half-full and others that badboy has been half-empty in the middle of a blazing squelching desert and the car’s out of gas!

But, I’ve snapped out of my low boohoo “feelings” and looked ahead with hope.

I know who I am in the grand scheme of my circumstances. I know WHOM I belong to no matter how broke, broken or beaten up I get. He will restore me and make me better because that’s the kind of God He is (Joel 2:25). That’s why, I press on.

On bad days, I imagine ways to escape and run away leaving behind any record of my being there in the first place. On good, I sing…smile and run wild with hopes for my future.

Pretty radical, huh?

That’s what the mind can do to us (to me…to you) when we let it run rampant. It tricks us and tells us to over-think, to analyze, to worry, to doubt, to give-up! Don’t listen to that fickle. mushy trouble-maker.

Why? Because, that’s the place where giving up grows.

This is one of the reasons I surround myself with God’s Word. If you’ve ever been to my house, you’ve noticed I have scripture or encouraging words on my walls and countertops. I need it — it helps drown out all the other voices that haunt me and try to invade my mind.

The mind is a battlefield.

I’m not giving up. I confess, I’ve wanted to. At my lowest, I’ve screamed out MERCY! I’ve face planted in tears when job loss has nearly ruined us and I’ve begged for help. Still, my God –> He’s there pushing me to press on.

So, I will.

I will keep my eyes on the hope I have in Him. There are no mundane days, all are hope-filled and sacred. It’s just a matter of paying attention. God is here, working and blessing even in and especially in the hardest of my days.

He’s doing that in your life too.

What Can I Do for You Lord?

January 1st, 2018

Who knew that through the hardest year of my life I would grow so much? Year after year, I’ve prayed and asked God to help me grow in my faith. 2017 was definitely one for the books! I had no choice but to grow, it was either that or lay down and die. The pain was unbearable at times. The loss, the lostness….so much and yet God kept me safe, loved and on track.

Maybe it’s maturity (which, I’m still working on guys) that has opened my eyes to what really matters in this life. Jobs, things…being included or liked by others, none of that really matters in the grand scheme of things. My heart has proven to be one of the wonkiest things about me and just because God is completely into our hearts and the condition of them within us as a people — HE DOESN’T LEAVE US AS IS!

So many times I banged on heavens doors begging God to end our joblessness and He heard me. Yet, nothing changed. Except it did. Me, I changed. I woke up every morning starving for a Word from Him. Knowing that another day would come and go without a job offer or a paycheck….I would sit with Him for hours praying and listening.

Something I wouldn’t have done otherwise.

I know what you’re thinking: What kind of Christian are you? I’ll answer you: A selfish pathetic one!

See, I’ve lived 50+ years asking. Not asking the question God wants to hear most either. Just asking for all the wants I have for ME! Give me this, let me have that….gimme gimme gimme! All with a nice little GODLIKE bow on top. Afterall, God loves His children and wants them to have everything they want, right?

Wrong.

He doesn’t care about anything we can acquire here on earth. Really. He doesn’t give a flip about how big your house is or how popular you are. Not a smidgen. He doesn’t look down and say, “Wow, you have made a ton of money child…let me give you more since you’re so good at it!”. Nope. He isn’t about that. Don’t get me wrong, He blesses us. He loves us. But, he’s not all about dumping success on us without some sort of plan.

How we use what He’s given us matters.

I’ve squandered blessings without even considering they were there for me to use to honor God. Maybe you have too. So many times this year I found myself in positions of waiting. Honestly, WAITING could be my word of the year for 2017 but since I gave up claiming a word, nahhhh!

It hurt to wait. It was mind-blowing, painful and heart-ripping! There were times that I had to sit back and watch others dig deep in pockets and hearts to love on people in need or desperate for rescue….knowing that I was one of those in the most desperate need for help.

OUCH!

At times it felt as if I was standing outside of myself watching it play out in a dream. Powerless. I could barely stand it. If felt similar to the scene in the Scrooge where he has this ghostly vision into his life and can see into all that is happening around him and HIS EYES ARE OPENED! My eyes were opened to so much through waiting.

Still, I got up every morning and studied God’s Word. I sat listening, I spilled my heart and I let His peace overwhelm me when I couldn’t stop the desperation filling my head and heart. He was faithful, patient and merciful. Even when I was angry. He loved me.

Nothing has changed but everything is just as it should be.

My heart is healing, my mind is focused on what matters most and God is still working. I may never know why this has happened to us and that’s okay. God owes me nothing, it’s me that’s the debtor. I owe Him. He has given me so much, losing stuff can’t compare to what God has done for me. He breaks every chain, even the chain of faith laziness. 2017 revealed to me just how neglectful of Him that I’d been living. Such a shame.

My future is hopeful not because of anything other than God says it is and I trust Him with every day. I can do hard things. I can wait. I can be still and know that HE IS GOD. Ask me how I know.

So, as I walk into 2018 thankful for every day of the last year….I ask God, What can I do for you, Lord? Not do this for me, but HOW CAN I SERVE YOU with my life? Use me. Push me out there to love, help and do for whoever it is that needs YOU through me. I’m open, my time is yours.

I waited and He heard me.

My Holy Indifference

November 29th, 2017

I love the story in Mark of the 4 friends who take their paralyzed friend to see Jesus. These guys are the kind of friends we all need, determined and loyal to the end. Scripture tells us the crowd was bonkers (my interpretation) no one could get near Jesus (I imagine Black Friday shoppers all racing for a great steal). Still, these guys wanted to see their friend healed by Christ. They knew if they could just get him close to Jesus….He would take it from there.

I want friends like that.

Better than that, I want to be a friend like that.

If you know the story, you know these friends hoist their buddy up on top of the roof of the house where Jesus is teaching. Have you ever helped someone move? Good friends carry one another’s sofa and grandma’s heavy antique china cabinet — real friends find a way to get you to Jesus!

They tear through the roof and lower their beloved friend down to the Lord. Mark 2:5 says, “Jesus saw THEIR faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'” The man gets up and walks out proving that Jesus has the power to heal & forgive. Meanwhile, the scribes and Pharisees are watching the whole thing and inside their heads are thinking, “Who does he think he is?”. Because Jesus is Jesus, he knows their thoughts and calls them out on it.

This story gets me in a few different ways. One, these friends. Wow. Who doesn’t want friends like that? Can you imagine having someone love you so much that they climb up on top of a roof and rip a hole to let you down to see God? Two, the indifference of the scribes and Pharisees. They were all about finding fault (how often do I do that?), they were looking to point a finger. Instead of being pro-active like the 4 friends, they sat there doing nothing for anyone else.

I’ve been guilty of wrapping up ME in my own little protective cocoon and focusing on all my needs for most of my life. I haven’t climbed any rooftops for any person lost from the love of God. I’ve felt sad for them. I’ve even prayed for them. But, I’ve mostly been indifferent.

Who wants to embarrass someone and talk about Jesus? Not me.

Who wants to seem weird? Not me.

Who wants to point out sin in someone’s life? Not me.

Who wants to seem holier than thou? Not me.

In the meantime, people are hurting, lost and in need of Christ. I don’t want to talk about all the feelings I’ve experienced during this 446 days of unemployment. They’ve been rough. Ugly. More than words can even describe. Still, I’ve felt loved by friends who’ve carried us on our mats to the roof of encouragement. But, I’ve also felt the indifference of those who don’t really care whether or not 446 days without a job go by. It’s life. Not my problem.

Yesterday was a terribly discouraging day. The lowest of lows plagued both hubby and me. Something silly like not being able to find our outdoor Christmas lights pushed us both over the hold-it-together edge. He gritted his teeth and I snapped back to JUST GET ALL THE CHRISTMAS BOXES OUT OF THE LIVING ROOM!!!

We are unraveling at the seams.

Today, I feel better. The process of waiting is a lesson in holy humility. I give it to God. Like the paralyzed man, He cares about my situation.

Lord,
I don’t want to be indifferent when it comes to you or loving others enough to bring them to you. Help me focus on those outside of myself. Knowing you, trusting you and obeying you deserves all my attention and care.
Amen.