Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Forgotten Days

This time of year we can get so focused on Christmas, then check it off the list as we head into New Years Eve. But what about these last days?  Don't they deserve some attention?  We are in the last week of 2017, how do you want it to end?  It’s easy to look to a new year; starting over is always good!  I love a good reset button.  A fresh start can be healing and rejuvenating, but there is something to be said for finishing strong.

One of my areas of weakness is starting something that I never finish.  I love crafty endeavors, and can begin working on projects but get busy, let them go and before I know it, those knitting needles and yarn have been in that bag in whatever closet was mine for the past 17 years with no scarf in sight!
Don't just make that clique resolution list for 2018, not that we shouldn't look at the year ahead, but what can you check off that list now?  What project is list undone, time spent with loved ones, making amends with a relative or friend, errands to complete, paying off a debt, writing an encouraging note to a friend who needs it, getting a workout in, finishing that book or Bible reading for the year?  Doesn't it feel good when we accomplish something? What can this week mean for you?  The possibilities are endless and all within your reach.  Maybe this year has been full of disappointments and failures, but why not end with one positive accomplishment that can be your focus as you ring in the new year?

I will admit I am tired today.  I have a tornado at home and while I came into work, I really have thought about going home.  I may do that, my kids are home from school and a little quality time is a great idea, but I need to make the most of my hours here.  Yes, my work list could be finished next week - why wait?  Why not get it done early?! Procrastination can serve its purpose, it’s often my adrenaline jet fuel that helps get my butt in gear, but it can also provide me an endless stream of stress. 

As I look at this week, I want to finish my yearly Bible reading, spend time in the moment, and focus on the people that surround me.  I want to get that last donation load taken into the shelter and make a list of all the tasks that need to be done so when I am at a loss for how to spend some free moments, I can seize them.   2017 is going to end with patience and joy as I hug my husband and kids and let my heart dwell on my many blessings!  Let’s live in the rest of what we have before we wish away today in search of the hopes of tomorrow. 

Let these last days be ones to remember!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Do You See A Trend?

You never know how some aspect of your childhood will later affect you.  When I was seven years old, my mom and I moved from North Carolina to Indiana.  It wasn't supposed to be a move, it was supposed to be a stop along the way to Santa Cruz, California, but don't we all know sometimes plans change. 

My mom had my sister, Catie, shortly after our move and the three of us shared a bed in my grandpa's two bedroom trailer.  It may have been tight courters but I didn't notice.  I loved those 4 years.  Those four years have left me with a plethora of memories.  My grandpa, known to me as Pappy, was one of 8 siblings. His only brother and a few of his sisters still lived in Kentucky, where he was from, but three of his sisters lived in New Castle, Indiana, as well.  We had a lot of family gatherings and I loved my great-aunts.  They got together regularly for cards, quilting, family dinners and just for "loafing" (hanging out).  Pappy would spend the winters in Florida fishing, which meant that we'd gather for fish fries (frying up fish) quite a lot in the spring and summer.  I didn't realize how that affected me until recent years. 

I've said goodbye to friends who lost a battle with cancer, or have seen friends mourn the loss of a child, but many of my friends' funerals are like the dear friend I said goodbye to earlier this year.  She didn't lose a battle with cancer, she just finished her race.  She was over the age of 90 and full of life until the end.  

Yesterday, I said goodbye to another friend, she also wasn't a spring chicken.  She was 89 years old when she closed her eyes in her hospital bed for the last time.


I realized, I'm starting to see a trend.  Reality is I hang out with a lot of older people.  Part of it is because of my role on staff at a church, but then again, I am the youth pastor.  I have made it a part of my job to integrate generations.  We do service projects for retirement homes and have had several older volunteers join us. 

When I question where that desire came from I see the thread leading back to those four years in Indiana.  Going over to Aunt Mary's house, or eating a huge spread at Aunt Abbie's or even spending hours with Aunt Helma, influenced me - not to mention quality time with my Pappy.  Wednesday night church services ending with a trip to Dairy Queen, sitting in the garage with him learning to whittle, or running around with him on his moped or golf cart.  Those experiences impressed upon me the importance of spending time with our elders. 

It met a need in my little girl heart and in a generation where kids and teens are isolated from people as they delve into the technological world, its a need that is present today.  Older folks often felt neglected and being able to connect with those much younger is great for both parties.   Sure, it is sad to have to say goodbye to so many precious people, but, I am better for calling them friend.

Do you ever look at your priorities or trends in your own life and ask yourself, where did that start?  Do you have a unique childhood happening that has impacted the choices you make today?  Its easy to see some of the more obvious options like traumas, but what about the more innocuous options like my love for the older generation? 

Drawing the lines in our timeline can truly be a magical experience.  We should never stop being students in the "Me 101" class.  Its not all about us, but usually in learning about ourselves we can unearth connections with how we interact with each other or even God.  

In this busy time of year, take a break - grab some coffee, tea or hot chocolate; and delve into the study of you.  See what trends and treasures you discover!


Wednesday, December 13, 2017


I think most of us would love for everyone to like us.

As I look back over the story of my life, I realize, for many years that was my goal, but in order for that to happen, I'd have to change my identity and there is nothing beneficial about doing that.

God made a world full of unique people because he wanted the variety.  He loves each of us, the way he made us, but with that comes the reality that I won't always be liked or well received.

In the center of that reality comes one of my greatest fears.

Its not snakes or spiders, but it is rejection - okay, I'm afraid of snakes too!  Rejection seems to be a haunting reality that speaks to the core of our questioning - "am I good enough?"  Rejection can seem like a megaphone into the depths of our identity, but it doesn't have to be! 

No one can speak to my value unless I let them.  The only being able to do so is God and when he was done creating, he said, "It was good."  God has packed me (and you) with value and its my job to allow his voice to stand above any person who might say otherwise.  

In a book I've been working through on anxiety, I've become familiar with a counseling technique to overcome anxiety, called flooding.  Flooding is a method of facing ones fears by jumping into the fear.  The author shares a story about his fear with blood and how one encounter with a burn victim in the ER cured him because his involvement was necessitated by the circumstances.  

Despite the pangs of pain it might create, over the last month or so, I've been motivated to completely uproot any remaining insecurities from my childhood.  Doing so involved facing the "R" word, so I've put myself out there.  In one particular event recently, I asked for connection with people and got rejected - every time!  Over ten requests and not one yes.   But in the process of rejection, I decided to keep going.  It was hard, but I discovered that the rejection wasn't me, because each "no" came with a reason.  Some had legitimate responses, while others seemed more suspect.  I was offering an encounter which would require vulnerability and not everyone can deal with that word, which means it has nothing to do with me.  Despite the discouragement, I did not allow the rejection to speak to my heart.  

Blocking the internalization of that rejection, allowed me to see just how often I inject my own, limited interpretation into the comments, encounters and responses of others and draw conclusions I have no ability to accurately do.  You know the saying, to assume "makes an ass out of you and me." While I'm not sure the origin of that saying, it is pretty accurate.  When we assume we make judgements on partial information, and that can never aid us in knowing people or being known.     

As I referenced last week, BrenĂ© Brown, shares in her book, Rising Strong - people are doing the best they can.  If I believe this, then I am required to stop injecting encounters with my own bias. I must instead get more information, be honest with myself and others about the stories I'm creating and must seek to keep going in the midst of obstacles like rejection.  

Truth moment - the fear of rejection is much worse than rejection!  Its not making everyone like you, its finding people who inspire you, share common vision and spark growth that we should add to our tribe.   Beyond that we all have bad days and won't always be in sync even with the best people on the planet.  We must put ourselves out there, because the flip side to rejection is connection and that is something we all desperately need!  You know what else, rejection has its own benefits - I am learning a lot about myself and the world around me.  No experience is completely without merit.  When we survive the challenges we learn what we are made of! 

I don't know what you fear, but I know we all suffer from the human condition and have something that holds us back, the question is, will you let it continue to keep you down?  Break free and chase after the life God intended! You are worth it!

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

BFG and Jesus

This morning I had the pleasure of connecting with a young woman that God placed on my path several years ago.  We discovered our mutual love for theatre and Jesus.  As we reconnected over coffee and conversation interrupted intermittently by my two-year old, we entered into a spiritual conversation on fear that I wanted to share with you.

Often, we can walk through life in fear that, as we face crossroads, we will pick the wrong way.  Life choices like the city you live in, the job you take and the person you marry can fill your heart with anxiety, well if you are anything like me it can.

Yes, God has a plan and we can trust him to guide us, but hearing his voice isn't an exact science and the reality of that unknown can fill our hearts with fear.  The truth is - it doesn't need to.  We can trust God and if, please note the "if" here, we are seeking God we will find him.  Jeremiah 33:3 says, "Call to me and I will show you great and unsearchable things that you do not know."  We can take that promise to the bank.

Sometimes we spend time seeking God in our prayer and Bible times, and we look for that green light to go forward. While that is wisdom, making the choice often comes with some uncertainty.

If you have seen the movie BFG, you will recall the scene when BFG leaves Sofie back at the orphanage to protect her from the other giants.  After realizing she isn't in a dream, she goes out onto the balcony, calls to BFG, asks him to catch her, closes her eyes and jumps.

He in fact does catch her.  She was able to jump because she knew BFG and she knew he loved her.

We must know God and know his love to have the faith to jump.  But when we do, we can trust God will catch us.

I remember my sophomore year Bible class in high school at Dayton Christian.  My teacher, Mr. Pittman, told us a story of having to decide which school to attend.  He was seeking God in the direction and made his choice.  As he was about to head out, he got a call that changed his course.  He used this illustration to show that sometimes you have to make a step in one direction, and know that if its not the direction God is leading, then God is big enough to change the course.  But often we have to take a step in faith and not allow fear to paralyze us.

Fear is not of God (2 Timothy 1:7).  God is love.

We can't allow the unknown to hold us back, but with the love and wisdom of God, we should feel freedom to propel forward in life.

Sofie doesn't allow fear to hold her back, not just with the leap of faith from that balcony but as the story continues on.  She stands for what is right in the face of those man eating giants.

I don't know what your man eating giants are or the crossroads you face, but I know the God who created us, the God who died for us and the God who seeks to love us at all costs.  That kind of love will sustain you and protect you as you venture on in life.  It doesn't mean you won't encounter challenges but truthfully, I can take courage in knowing that by serving Jesus, my Savior, I have confidence to step out in life.  The worst thing that can happen to me is death but even if someone takes my life, they can't take away my freedom in Christ and the life after this that he has promised me as his child.

Go out and do great things with God at the helm of your life ship.  Seek him, find him and conquer this world.  We are living for things far greater than the crossroads we encounter!!