Unexpected Graces

 

1-1234699141PRLF

Well, here I am sitting in the saddle.  It feels good!  I have missed this place! I’m glad to be back.

It’s been a rough and tumble couple of months since I last sat down.  When I took a break right before Christmas, I never anticipated the journey I would embark upon.  Frankly, it was like someone gave a monkey a match.  It has been quite a ride.

12716211_10209143679655648_1404086195426651687_o

I needed this time to regroup and set my heart and mind right.  I have been too afraid to write, honestly.  Afraid of what just might come out.  But, it is time.  And, I am grateful.

In an effort to cope with our pain and lighten the mood, our family began to refer to this season as a “plot twist”.   In stark reality, our lives have dramatically changed.  Due to painful circumstances, my Love resigned his position at the church we pastored for over seven years.  Sometimes, it is just time to move on.  There comes a time when you realize the odds are not in your favor and for everyone’s sake, you have to make an exit.  You just hope to do so with grace.

I do believe it has been one of the most hurtful seasons we have experienced in life and ministry.  After 25 years, we have experienced our share of disappointments and set backs.  But, this, by far, was the one of the biggest gut punches of them all.  The only other to compare would be the sexual abuse of our son by a trusted friend and church worker.

her-tears-grey-puddle

I have learned quite a few lessons in our time here in Virginia.  Some are pretty tough.  But all have been for my good.

Our time in Virginia has been anything but easy.  We have endured some losses.  But, I also can look and see some beautiful gains.  I would be shallow if I didn’t recognize them.

A few years back I began my own One Thousand Gifts journey.  It was a life saver, really. Each day I would count out my gratitude, line by line.  I am beginning a new one.  It’s important to remember the gifts from our journeys.  If not, it could get terribly discouraging!  So, it is time.  Time to refocus my attention.

journal

One lesson I’ve learned is, “God gives good gifts.”  Some seasons we just have to look a little harder.  Many times they are hard gifts.  I look back at our journey…it is unlike ANYTHING I’ve ever experienced…yet, I still find beauty in the charred rubble.

Light only shines through cracked vessels. 

So, when people ask me if I had known then what I know now, would I still have relocated to Virginia, I’m never sure how to answer.  In the natural, it does not seem worth it.  We have paid quite a high price.  We certainly didn’t know all we were taking on.

Truthfully, I don’t like that question at all.  My first instinct is to scream NO, of course not!

Injustice,

hatred,

jealousy,

abuse,

unfair expectations,

rejection,

financial loss,

illness,

anxiety and depression,

plots and schemes,

abandonment,

betrayal.

Who would?

df26c006fa5aa6c371c195a58fbf0918

When I look at that list of pain, it would seem hardly worth it.  I could easily drown in that sea of loss and hurt.  I do see, however, the gifts from God’s hand that He gave in the middle of such ugly hard.

So, I choose to look at the gifts.  It is time. 

11947605_10208016280711379_5278790613076934361_n

Friendships,

children discovered their gifting,

memories made,

bound family ties,

new dreams inspired,

spiritual growth,

loyalty,

a sweet canine companion,

hope,

peace,

increased faith,

grace from unexpected places,

deep kindness,

lessons learned,

lives changed,

wisdom,

provision,

protection,

opportunity,

divine encouragement.

I am most certain I have forgotten many other blessings.

I have a sneaky suspicion I am not alone in this listing.  We are not unique.

11949464_10208016339112839_6410654275708581477_n

We all have experienced our share of pain and loss.  I simply refuse to get stuck here.  I don’t want to live in the muck and mire.  I will not suffer needlessly.  I want free of it.  And, the only place I know to start is with gratitude. 

Christ does not promise a trouble-free life.  No, indeed.

EGYPT-POLITICS-UNREST-CHRISTIAN

This world is fallen and is coming undone.  People disappoint.  No amount of dancing can undo that fact.  But, I have learned something else.

Light shines out of my broken places.

God is mending in such a way that light will warmly glow and draw others in.  They will meet Him there.  It isn’t about pretending to have it all together.  No one understands such living.  It is a fairy tale and too great a weight to drag around.

12346402_10208592832404811_4671665384202200831_n

So, once again, I have picked up pen and tablet and will scribe my gratitude.

I won’t forget our pain, for it has left a mark.  But, mostly I will remember with a heart of gratitude all God is and was to me in the pain.  The strong arms that have held and carried.  I will remember.  All that was meant for my harm, is turned to good.  Nothing can ever take me from His hand.

That is what I will remember.  That will be my focus.  There is beauty to out-sing the ugly.  For it is well with my soul.

12615664_10209001008088948_3467437942845045546_o

What Did You Say?

12006188_10208120037865243_1019996952083077666_n

Stuff happens.  People say stuff.  People do stuff.

What I am asking myself is, “Ok, so what are you going to do with that?”

Words hurt.  Words get into your heart and soul.

I am noticing unkind words spoken about me or someone I love leave a mark.  I am getting better at being able to look at what was said and putting them into perspective mentally.  I can look at the situation and logically realize these people speaking have no real consequence in my life.

To put it honestly, they really mean nothing to the big picture of my life.  I don’t mean that rudely.  In relationship to my life, they have not invested in me nor are they a part of the circle of influence in my life.  They have not walked with me or listened to my heart.  They’ve not prayed for me and are not committed to my welfare.

Yet, words can be crushing.

cropped-img_774511.jpg

The Scriptures say there is power of life and death in the tongue.

Proverbs 18:21 says,

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” 

Have you given any thought to the words you speak to others?  I am paying more attention.  It matters.  It’s too easy to quip off something without thinking of the consequences.

But, my experience this past week has been on both ends of the spectrum.

I have heard words spoken to me and loved ones that were more poison than fruit.  Words that had the potential to bring death.  But, then I have also heard many loving words of life.  Words that speak life, hope and encouragement.

10168201_10205519276527835_6867101749092095366_n

Which ones am I listening to?

I have had to do some hard work to properly deal with the hurt that came from the hurtful words.

Logically I understood the place those words have in my heart and mind.  Yet, the words caused a grief I could not shake.  It settled over me like a heavy blanket.  It took a couple of days to shake off the heaviness that covered me.  The words were an indictment against who we are and everything we hope to be.  Cruel and dark.

These words tried to carve a giant, black X over our hearts.  

“Not good enough.  Not EVER going to be good enough.  Broken.  Not loved. Hopeless.  Death.  Rejected.  Inadequate.”  

But, after my Sweetheart and I prayed over our hearts and those we love, the true work began.   It has proven difficult to shake off the death grip of those words.

images-3

It’s not coincidence that hurt follows on the heels of victory or success.

The Scripture talks about a “lion who comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  Lions are stealthy and swift.  The lion worked steadily all week through a totally different and unrelated  interpersonal issue.  This work was meant to distract me and cause me to lose focus.  Then on the heels of great joy and victory, a lethal strike came from a completely unexpected angle.

I began to wonder.

Why do I listen and take to heart more the words of hurt than the words of healing?  Why can’t I shake this?

It takes hard work.  I knew I had a choice.  Either I was going to give up and lose the ground I had fought hard to win, or I was going to army crawl, if need be, through to victory.

What do you do when you don’t want to become the victim of a strategic spiritual attack?  Scripture says we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood, but against powers we don’t see.

 Sometimes it is confusing.  It isn’t so easily recognized.  Hurt is hurt.  Misguided and misinformed people often are unwittingly used to strike and wound.  It sure looks human.  But, really it is a spiritual attack in nature.

look-colors-abstract-art-color-painting

So, here is what I have done this past week to counter attack and increase my strength.  It doesn’t come easily.

It requires a concerted and mindful effort on our part.

I realized I can either roll over and let this disrupt God’s work in my life.  Or,  I can fight, quite literally, the Hell out of my situation.

It’s working.

  1. Pray over the words spoken to you.  God has the power to nullify the effects on our hearts and mind.
  2. Cry.  It hurt.  I am human.  I can’t pretend it doesn’t—nor am I required to.
  3. Remember, actively, who I am in Christ.  He calls me good.  That is enough.
  4. Fill your world with worship.  I’ve been listening to worship music quite a bit lately.
  5. Read the Word and soak in life-giving words.
  6. Turn to a trusted friend to hear your hurt.  Mine was a safe place to bandage my wounds.
  7. Put it into proper perspective.  Remind yourself of the truth.
  8. Keep moving.  Keep doing the good you know you are doing.  Don’t quit.
  9. Keep giving it to God.  We can be slow.  It often takes repeating.
  10. Be mindful.  Be careful not to rehearse and relive the words over and over. They can settle in and take root.

presence-of-god_thumb

I realized something the other day. 

Have you ever felt God reveal something to you?  Well, He did the other day.

He gently spoke to my heart.

 “Who are they to mark what I have declared GOOD, as not good?” 

That pierced my heart and mind!

God has called me and mine GOOD.  He has taken our pain and wounds and broken pieces.  He promised to heal and has done a mighty fine job!  And, then someone declares that divine work “not good enough” and “broken”?  That is not part of His plan.

God does all things well.

We don’t always know all the good work He is doing in a life.  This very fresh lesson gave me pause even today as I sat and talked with a loved one.

There would be no carving of an X today.

love_wallpaper1

What Now?

images

“Smart people know how to hold their tongue; their grandeur is to forgive and forget.”

OR

“People with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.”        

  Proverbs 19:11

 

I am amazed!  Maybe that’s not the best word for it.  I am troubled.  I think that is more appropriate.

The offense of this week is the red cups of Starbucks.

I’ve noticed something.  Christians are too good at being offended.  Trust me.  I know.  We are all subjected to it.  I’ve lived it personally.  Up close and in living color.

I wonder.

images

I wonder what it must say to the world.  We are having high-speed come-aparts over a red cup.   A secular company.  Their great commission is not concerned with reaching people with the gospel.  Their commission is serving great coffee and creating a comfortable place for folks to gather.  Which they are fulfilling.  God is not depending on Howard Schultz to spread the real reason for the season through Starbucks.

Unfortunately, I think Christians are living out their reputation of being angry, spiteful and opposed to everything.  We are experts at being offended and being angry.  This isn’t what is going to invite in the hurting.  And, why would it?  Why would they want to subject themselves, their mistakes and regrets to the scrutiny of Christians?  I’m sure a root canal without anesthesia holds more attraction.

It doesn’t have to be a red cup.

images

Just pick a topic.  Ahhh, and just think about all the wasted time boycotting.  For the most part, we would not have any place to eat, shop, or entertain ourselves.  Maybe we should boycott movies and theaters—maybe television.  Let’s not go to movie theaters or subscribe to Netlix, Direct TV,  Amazon or Barnes n Noble (shouldn’t support the book publishing industry).  For goodness sake, we probably should all become self-sustaining and walk everywhere.  That way we do not support or even concern ourselves with anything that could possibly be of the world.  We won’t sully our hands this way.

How about this one?

images-1

We are really good at bashing our own.  Take your pick of national ministers.  They offend someone theologically or maybe it’s just the size of their home, and God bless them.  I wouldn’t want to be them.  And, don’t forget, it always has to be a public scathing on social media.  Who are we to feel so superior to judge so harshly and diminish a person’s ministry over differing viewpoints?  It does more damage than good.  (I won’t even get into the hurt it must cause their families.)

“People with good sense are slow to anger, and it is their glory to overlook an offense.”

Christ followers should be the most joyful, grateful, grace and hope-filled people around.  But, it sure seems like sometimes we only know how to be offended.  I’m not talking just about on a national scale.  But how about our average every day, in and out?  It’s living in our local churches and communities.  It’s no wonder discouragement is the number one hazard of ministry.  Those who are involved in ministry often feel they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.  It’s often never good enough.

images-1

I think my biggest concern is that we are often times too easily and too quickly offended.  We are too quick to call each other out.  What has happened to just overlooking an offense?  What has happened to civility?  Why can’t we realize people make mistakes or are just different than we are?  Where is grace?

Graciousness is an art form that is all too easily neglected.

Let me be very clear.  I am not talking about ignoring and condoning sin.  I am not talking about being lazy or lassez-faire in guarding our own.  But, first, the right to speak into someone’s life must be earned.  That is only done through relationship and commitment.  Gossip or slandering on social media, or just among ourselves, is not the responsible way to handle issues.  I’m going to use a southern term—it’s ugly.  Why do we want to be ugly?  It doesn’t compel anyone.

olQMF0c

I can be too easily offended.  I am constantly working on giving the benefit of the doubt.  I know life is more peaceful and joyful when I am not allowing myself to give in to offense.  Offended people are not happy people.  It only leads to bitterness.

The greatest fight we can engage in spiritually is to refuse to be offendable.

Let’s live out of a life-giving mind and heart.  Not everything must be confronted or called out.  Not every offense even needs to be acknowledged.  Sometimes, we just need to shake it off and give it no other thought.  That takes discipline and strength.  But we are all better for it.  Not only between each other, but in the eyes of those who watch from a distance.  And, quite frankly, we all won’t look so ridiculous!

love-life

Yes!  Keep up the good fight.

But let it be done from love—not offense.

Fight against injustice.

Fight against a culture of death.

Fight against poverty.

War against evil and it’s ravaging.

But, do it from an un-offendable heart.  

Fight for justice and life.

And through this, we will be known by our love.

images-3

Where Are You?

33a9fdf227c936023cc80de8dfbee0c5

Esther.

Queen Esther.

Before she was queen, she was a humble and exquisitely beautiful woman plucked from a nondescript life.  A woman minding her own business…an orphan raised by an uncle.  In that part of the world, in that day and age, women were not destined to really be anything of consequence.  They were property at best.

Maybe you are familiar with this story from the Bible.  She was plucked from her home and taken to the king’s palace with hundreds of other women to win the contest of the most beautiful, most alluring and charming female.  The king was done with the current queen and was ready for the newer and more malleable model.  Queen Vashti was on the outs.

Esther was vetted and prepped and sent before the king.  To make a long story short, he picked her.  He was smitten.  God was at work to preserve His people…her people.  God is always at work.  Even if we don’t see it and aren’t picking up on it.  He often works below our radar.  He has a plan.

images-1

There was one man in the kingdom who despised the Jewish people and Esther’s uncle in particular.  His goal was to annihilate them.  But, due to Esther’s great courage and God’s favor, she prevented this atrocity and saved her people.  And, as a twist of fate, this vindictive man was put to death with the same gallows he had planned for Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.  Talk about irony.

God doesn’t play.  He had redemptive plans far bigger than man could see. 

Mythical_ancient_Greek_Crown_large

The amazing point of the story is this:  Esther was willing to be used and stepped up to the plate.  She prepared herself physically, intellectually and spiritually to carry out this audacious responsibility.  She knew the risk involved.  Death was a high possibility.  God knew he could count on this one humble, Jewish woman.

What does this story have to do with my blog post this week?

obedience and risk

As we journey through this life, we enter different seasons.  Regardless of the season, we have choices to make.  Will we be obedient to what God is calling us to do?  Are we willing to take the risks this might require?  What is God calling us to do that is risky?  Perhaps it doesn’t look as glamorous as the potential of becoming queen.  But, you know there is a cost.

Submission isn’t really submission until you have to obey in something you don’t want to obey.  Life is a series of choices.  Each choice to obey Christ and his invitation makes us stronger.  It becomes easier with each choice.  Esther willingingly stepped up to be used for a greater cause.

Colorful-Mosaics-244492

Or, it could be, right now you are in a waiting season.  Maybe He isn’t asking you to be in the business of doing a particular assignment at this moment.  Then your time is now!  There are some tasks at hand.  This is your time to prepare.  Like Esther, there is much you can do to prepare for the assignments in the future.  Take a look:

Be patient.  It’s hard sometimes in the waiting.  It often feels like being stuck.  It isn’t glamorous and isn’t always easy.  You may have dreams, but God isn’t bringing them to fruition until you are truly ready.  It won’t happen until His good time.  Now is the time to get ready.

  • Learn.  This is the perfect time to learn and grow.  Find a mentor.  Read and study.  When God is ready is ready to send you out, you need to have grown deeper and wider.
  • Listen.  What does He want to say to you?  What treasures in the secret place does He want to reveal.  There are things you need to know.  Choose quiet instead of complaint.
  • Praise.  Gratitude is the key to growing deep in the waiting.  It makes the waiting a lot more enjoyable as well!  It opens our hearts to His possibilities.
  • Keep the heart right.  This is probably one of the hardest tasks in the waiting.  It’s easy to doubt, get anxious, become frustrated, or maybe even turn bitter.  Just don’t go there.  Rest in the knowledge that no season devoted to God is ever wasted. Realize the beauty that will come  if you allow it.

mosaic-tile-floor

I’ve lived through many seasons of preparation and waiting.

At first glance, these seasons seem mundane, trivial and unproductive.  But, if they are devoted to Christ, they are anything but wasted.  The depth and strength developed through those times grew me to the level I needed, in order to properly handle the next task and season.  Never despise the seemingly insignificant and ordinary days.  The world calls for “doing” and “busy-ness”.  In that paradigm, doing and busyness is the sign of importance and accomplishment.  Not so in the paradigm of Christ.

Just like Esther, be ready!  When the season of waiting and preparation is done, God has an assignment for you to join.  He will call to you.  Be watching and waiting.  Keep your ears close to the heart of God.  He will call.   After all, isn’t this what you have been preparing for?

Mosaic_-_Mosquée_de_Paris

Disappointment

11900019_10207964691661685_8374470678997526573_n

Disappointment.

Who isn’t familiar with it?  It’s a part of life.

Walking through disappointment with kids will wrench your gut and wring you out.  As a mom, I know life happens.  There is no way to protect them from disappointment and do them justice.  In those hard moments, there is so much wisdom to be poured into these sensitive hearts.

I really love those moments of teaching our young ones to process pain and disappointment in a healthy way.  I certainly don’t love the circumstances that bring the pain, though.  But, what shallow and weak human beings they will be if I don’t shepherd them through their difficulties.

Hope

Today was such a day.  Another disappointing report crushed a young heart.  I could see it–a beautiful face fighting hard to hold back the tears.  A heart full of dreams and faith.  Lots of believing and praying childlike prayers.  It was in that moment I had to close my mouth and say a prayer.  I prayed for the right words to ignite a fire of faith.  My first thought was, “Lord, what do I say to another disappointing report?  What are you going to do about this?”

I know all too well these times come.  We don’t hear the answer we want to hear, we are passed by for what we deserve, people don’t live up to our expectations and wound us, or there is another delay in our answer.  And, we ask, “What am I supposed to do about this?  Where are you, God?”

Here are 3 thoughts to help us through these moments:

  • God sees and knows.
  • He never leaves us or forsakes us.
  • God works all things out for our good.

I absolutely believe God sees and knows all that is going on in our lives.  I know He never leaves us or forsakes us.  I know for a fact He works all things out for our good.  I know these three things to be true in my life.

1914882_1242133580007_8284500_n

We have walked through some incredibly severe and trying situations as a family and I remember sensing God speak to me that He had seen it all and knows it all.  What a comfort that was to me!  Just hearing that affirmation of love still brings hope to my heart.  You know what that means?  He had never left me and He truly understands my pain like no other.  He would vindicate and heal the wounds in His good time.

11947605_10208016280711379_5278790613076934361_n

I told my disappointed one yesterday that God does not always answer in the fashion in which we envision in our minds.  Our small box of plans can’t even begin to hold the answer He has for our situations.  And further, if our disappointment and need hasn’t been answered just yet and we’re still breathing, then the answer is still on the way!

Big lessons for a young one.  Better to learn and solidify your faith at a young age and know for yourself this great big God of the universe than have to wait until your older and have no clue who He is!  Yes, I would love for this life to be smoother sailing, with more positive reports, but, I know He is with us even in those moments.

He is walking through it all with us.

11949464_10208016339112839_6410654275708581477_n

By the way, lots of love and hugs help, too!  God isn’t shocked or offended by our pain and questions.  Take some time to grieve and process the loss or disappointment.  Talk it out and then move forward.  By the end, a little ice cream hit the spot!  There are no callous “stop crying and suck it up” talks in this house.  But, we are learning to not wallow in our pain.  Eventually, we were able to laugh a little and hug it out!

So, what disappointment have you swallowed lately?  It is sure to come.  But, you can stand strong when you remember this:  He sees and knows; He certainly hasn’t left me;  And, I know good is on the way—it may not look exactly how I planned, but His perfect plan is at work in my life.

Hey….maybe you should even have a little mint chocolate chip ice cream to top it off!

images

Would you like to read more about this wonderful journey through this one beautiful life?  Sign up to receive a post delivered straight to your inbox each week.  I would love to have you join me on this journey of hope!  Here’s to a great week!

No Weak-Kneed Parenting

 

IMG_3627

Good parenting is a lot like this tree.

This tree is The Founders Tree in Landa Park, in New Braunfels, Texas.  I grew up with this tree. This beautiful statue of strength dates back to around 1700.  That tree has weathered a lot of storms and droughts!  This old Live Oak is considered an Indian Marker Tree—a tree that was tied sideways in order to point to a favorable water source.  The Founders Tree is thought of as the mightiest tree in Texas.  Actually, this scenic park is full of many beautiful trees.  Your just not a self-respecting park if you don’t have beautiful, magnificent trees!

I was mesmerized by this tree growing up.  It sparked my imagination and wonderings.  In some ways it felt sacred.  What had this tree witnessed or who first saw this tree?  Maybe travelers had found shade and rest by this tree.  Its size and age alone inspired awe.  I knew of no other tree like this one.

You may think I have lost it.  You aren’t really seeing the connection between a tree and parenting.  I think there is.

images-2

 

Parenting is not for cowards!

This tree is strong and resilient.  It wasn’t blown away by some gust of wind.  When we parent, we must be just like this tree—strong and resilient.  Our kids are gonna wear us down.  You may feel like you have been chewed up and spit out before the first bowl of cereal is poured and the first cartoon is played!  Or, maybe they are older and know just the right buttons to push.

My least favorite thing is to be greeted at first light of the morning with a sibling squabble or a grumpy kid.  It can set my day off wrong before my feet ever hit the floor.  But, I have to remember my purpose.  My purpose is to parent them and set the tone.  It takes personal strength and hutzpah!

They need us to be strong.  They need to be able to count on us to set strong, protective boundaries.  They may not be your friend, but that’s ok.  They need a parent more than a friend.

 

Parenting is an endurance race!

endurance

 

This tree has been here a really long time!  Really–1700.  It didn’t let the all-too-familiar droughts shrivel it up.  It has weathered storms that have rolled through.  If you just look at this tree, you see the shape and contour.  It has an incredible root system and is near a water source.  Both of these qualities have helped this beautiful tree stand through the generations.  This is a perfect analogy for parenting.  Your root system needs to be wide and deep and you need to know your source.  Where are you getting your strength and depth of character?  Who are you relying on to lead you as you parent?  The internet?  The latest parenting craze?  The internet has been a great source of much needed information for me.  Got an issue?  Read a book, search the Web!  But, really I just have to rely on what God has to say to me about my situation.  It’s amazing how much He actually has to say to us.  What do I want my children to be like as the grow?  I need to look deep within myself and see what is in me.  This is the best way to work out this endurance race.  Some days feel like a sprint, but realize you are parenting for the marathon.

 

 

Parenting is sacred!sample_634617194030440887001_1

God has hand picked you for your children.  These children don’t need some other mother or father.  They need you.  You have what it takes to raise them just as they should be.  I’ve always taken mothering incredibly seriously.  God has entrusted these children to us to ultimately lead to Him. That is the primary goal.  How we parent matters.  Our children will learn how to see God through how we live.  Their first impressions of God come from us.  It matters!  We teach them how to live life.  We aren’t perfect and that’s okay.  We say to our kids, “Follow me, as I follow God!”  When we mess up, they can have a front row seat to God’s grace in your life.  They probably won’t understand it all now, but later they will look back and see clearly.

Our kids look to us.  Will we inspire them?  We can’t leave it to the world to lead them.  It doesn’t take a village to raise your child.  It takes you!  Yes, we have those around us who contribute to their lives, but we are the primary source of inspiration and guidance.  You may say, “Wow! No pressure, there!”  We don’t have to do it alone, though.

On many occasions I have prayed about specific parenting issues I have had with each of my kids.  I need God to lead us in parenting these humans in a way He wants them parented.  No.  I have to have His help.  They have a purpose to fulfill–He knows better what they need than we do.

We need to love and nurture and provide support and shade.  The generations to follow depend on you.  What do you want your legacy to be?  What goals do you have for your parenting?  What do you need to adjust in order for the next generations to have a lasting legacy to look to?

Landa-Park-Fouders-Oak

 

Do I Have To?

images-3

I have experience.

Lots of it.  Some of it has come with kicking and screaming, but I have experience, nonetheless.  “What experience?” you may ask.

Well, it is …..

stick-to-it-ativeness. 

Yeah.  It’s not as beautiful as it sounds.  Trust me.  Everyone has one of two tendencies.  That is to fight or flee.  And, actually, I am by nature a flee-er.  Many times the option of “flight” seems pretty alright to me.  So, honestly, I don’t come by this naturally.

But, I am married to….you guessed it!  A fighter.

No, not a fighter, as in, he can’t get along with people and stirs up conflict.  He is the kind that won’t run from a battle.  He knows what is needed and will fight to see it happen.  He’s not a quitter.  His philosophy is, “I may not be smarter or more talented than others, but I can certainly outlast anybody!”  Um, clearly, this has made for some great fun over the years.

I like comfort.  I don’t like to go through the stretching and retching part of life.  I like for everyone to like me.  I want no hardships and certainly no sacrificing.  I want dreams and projects to flow smoothly.  I really don’t want conflict, hate it in fact.  I certainly don’t want to be judged or misjudged.  I like for the tasks I set my hand to to flow without hiccups or roadblocks of any sort.  I want everyone to agree with me and my opinions. And, I certainly do NOT need or want rejection.

It hurts. The hard stuff hurts.

Life tends to bring along those moments when we must choose.

There isn’t any way around it.  Someone or something intrudes into your dream or boundaries.  Something important is at stake.  The life or death of it depends on whether you stay and fight or run and flee.  Maybe it’s your family, a child, a dream, or a way of life. Maybe it’s your calling or vocation.  Perhaps it is fighting injustice or standing up for what or who is right.  Whatever it is, you will have to choose.

Either way, everything hangs in the balance.

I’ll give you 3 examples from my life.  Perhaps you can relate.

First of all, my husband and I started a new church back in 1994.  We were young.  We were inexperienced and truthfully didn’t have a clue as to what we had joined up for.  We were still trying to figure out who we were at the tender age of 24.  We had seen great success stories and figured we could pull off something just like those.  It took 7 years to reach the goal of 100 people.  It took even longer to acquire our own facility.  We worked hard.  It certainly wasn’t for a lack of hard work and sacrifice.  We barely survived on the meager salary.

About the third or fourth year in, I was done.  We had faced apparent failure on many levels.  I wanted to quit so badly!  My husband?  Oh, yes, I know he did.  But, we didn’t leave that congregation until 2008.  He would pacify me by telling me to just give him until May.  If things didn’t turn around by May, we would think about going somewhere else.  Well, he knew that once winter was over in Iowa, things always look better at some level, come May.  I figured him out, finally, about the third year of being told that.  I’m slow.

Second story.  In 2008, our family moved to Virginia to our second congregation.  This seemed as if our dreams were answered in one fell swoop.  Not long after moving here,  it seemed as if we had stepped into a nightmare.  This was a very different hard than our Iowa challenge.  We faced intense obstacles, setbacks, reversals, personal attacks, rejection, strife, and twisted plots.  The personal and professional price has been high. This church was in deep crisis and they weren’t in the mood to be helped.  So many times I could have been packing boxes on a moment’s notice.  All my husband needed to do was give me the word.  I was more than done!

Final story.  The first three years in Virginia seemed like they were from hell.  We took a huge financial hit when the real estate bubble burst and we needed to sell our house and move to Virginia.  Then, my son came to us and told us he had been sexually abused for three years by an authority figure.  Then, my other child was diagnosed with a serious medical condition after months of intense, unexplained pain and slow debilitation. Then, my father passed away after battling Alzheimers for 13 years.  This all happened within the first three years after moving to Virginia.  There were moments during those very difficult years I began to question the presence of God in my life.  I wasn’t so sure He could be trusted.

images

Here’s the deal.

At any given point in my life, I desperately wanted to throw in the towel.  The pain felt greater than the reward.  And, yes, there have been some serious sacrifices made that only God will be able to make right.  But, we didn’t quit.  There were no magic formulas or bribes to hold us steady. The only promise we had to go on was God would see us through.  It might be painful, it might look ugly, but we would make it if we just didn’t quit.  “Those who quit remember the ordeal.  Those who endure remember the adventure.”  That has become a life value of sorts.

There are many giftings we don’t possess.  There are quite a few things we do well; there have been many mistakes along the way, too.  But one thing which doesn’t require talent or gifting is something we do have—“outlast-attude”.  We can outlast just about anything.

images-1

You have to dig deep.  You have to stare your giant in the face and stare it down.  It’s not easy.  But, find the grit and the depth of character to outlast anything life throws your way.  Needless to say, I’m thankful my Honey had enough hutzpah for the both of us!

Your whole life and legacy depend on it.  Everyone who follows after you, depend on it.  It’s not just about you anyway.  It never has been.

images-2

What In The World Am I Doing?

My dad loved the outdoors. 

But not just any place outdoors.  He loved working in his yard.  And, he had the gift!  He knew what he was doing.  My daddy had a good eye and the green thumb touch.  It was so beautiful, I had my engagement pictures taken in our backyard….it was as beautiful as any park.

He knew exactly what it needed and when. He fertilized, watered and trimmed religiously.  This yard was sculpted into a tropical oasis.

I’ll never forget, however, the work my brother and I were recruited to do one spring Saturday.  Before the grass ever went in, we were on rock and pebble duty.  Now, before you think “how hard can that be?”,  let me tell you we lived in the hill country of Texas.  A sledge hammer was used to set fence post holes due to the rocky terrain.  Yeah.

So, imagine millions and millions of rocks and pebbles littering this painfully bare plot of ground.  Ok, well, maybe not millions.

As a 12 year old, I’m pretty sure it felt like a quarry!!

chephrenworkshopsteleridge

But, these pesky rocks had to go to make way for beautiful green grass.  In order for the grass roots to, well, take root and thrive, the land had to be prepped.  #Loads.Of.Fun.  I’m sure he said it built character…….along with driving the green Ford station wagon as my first car.  That was my daddy.

 

Character.

It doesn’t seem we hear that word very much anymore.  On any given day I can find an article on Facebook about parenting for good self-esteem; or how about parenting for great intelligence.  Maybe, parenting towards tolerance and inclusiveness is the key.  Maybe it’s parenting to sensitivity and emotional wholeness and generosity.  It certainly does run the spectrum.  We can take a look at society as a whole and realize some parenting may be going in the right direction, yet so much is not.

Character seems to be an old-school word.

But,  part of giving our Loves roots is shaping their nature into strong, moral beings. 

There is accountability and courage to do the right thing—even in a world gone mad. 

Character is doing the right thing even when you may not benefit or nobody may ever know otherwise. 

Character is looking out for others—being aware of the other person’s feelings. 

Character is working hard and serving one another–regardless of how big or small the task or person. 

Forgiving and holding your tongue, even when it would certainly be easier to set everyone straight….that should set the standard. 

Generosity and graciousness should guide decisions in a world that applauds grabbing all you can get. 

Our children must know there is a code of right and wrong.  They need a moral compass. 

How about respect for human life?  Or, maybe simply being respectful. 

It may mean taking responsibility for a poor decision without placing blame or running the bus over other people.  

Roots. 

They provide the moral compass and the centering force for all we do or don’t do.

Imagine the chaos in even the very littlest of our littles when the root system is not cultivated.  They feel most secure when clear boundaries are in place.  Oh, some things are cute when they are an adorable one year old.  But, come 13.  Yeah, not so cute anymore.  There are so many beautiful life lessons we can teach the Loves God has given to us.

So, here are some wise thoughts to make this happen…..straight from Deuteronomy 11:18-21:

Pray for them.

Tell them.

Show them.

  • We can’t do it alone.  Not in this world we live in. We need God to help us.  He knows them better than we do!  I regularly pray “help me partner with You as I parent.”
  • We have to teach them and write it on their hearts.  Not only when it’s the cute little baby Bible, but when they are strong and the world is fiercely pitching its message.
  • “Do as I do….not just what I say.”  Live it out when it’s hard, even when it would be so much easier to turn and run.  They don’t need to see shallow hype.

8165254228_f3a099cccb

It is our job to train them, shape them and send them soaring from the nest.  This world needs them!  The world needs you to pour into them and expect them to step up and be the very best they can be.

Is it all going to go smoothly?  Nope.  Will we make mistakes?  You bet.  But, they can learn from that as well.  Love and authenticity goes a long way to smoothing out the bumps.  Remember, God gave them to you……and you to them.

parenting-quote