Decision Time

Some decisions come easily others take significant contemplation and investigation. I have been shopping for carpet recently. It was my husband’s idea, but once he pushed go, I was off and running. I love redecorating a room in the house. The problem is we have different ideas on what is appealing and what the budget should be.

We went shopping together, once. We didn’t agree on anything. In his wisdom, he decided I could make the call on the look of the carpet. I had found one that I thought accommodated what each of us liked. We had the space measured, and then the quote came in. I had grossly underestimated the square footage needed to cover the space. There went the budget.

It was decision time. My husband was ready to put everything on the back burner stating, “We don’t have to do this right now.” While there is truth in that, I was now excited for the change. Anybody who has been to our house knows how badly we need new carpet. So, I did some further research. Learned more about carpet, and found an acceptable alternative to my first choice. It’s 50% closer to the original budget, and closer to my husbands first choice in style. I’m feeling like this is a good compromise. He hasn’t decided, yet.

I always take tough decisions to God. I pray and wait for the peace that comes when I know its decision time. My heart becomes calm and knows what it right. As I struggle with patience waiting for my husband to decide, I also struggle with patience with God when the answer doesn’t come as quickly as I would like.

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17 ESV)

When I don’t have that sense of peace, I wait for God to bring a clear answer. Often waiting for clear guidence isn’t difficult. When months or years begin to pass waiting becomes a challenge. I want to push my way through. I want to trust that His timing is perfect. Then I go back to wanting the decision now. Sometimes, I even throw out ultimatums to God. In the end, I wait for pure, gentle, peace that comes from Him.

I’m not waiting for peace on the carpet just hubby’s okay, but there are other significant decisions that I am waiting for that peace before making the leap. One of those is over two years in the waiting. I still push, but in the end I wait.

What do you do when it’s decision time?  How do you know what is the right decision? Do you experience that sense of peace? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Values

I was reading Dare to Lead  by Brene Brown and she described this values exercise. She took a list of values that was three columns on a page. Words like kindness, generosity, love, respect, and accountablilty filled the page. According to Brown to really know what you value, you had to get down to two primary values. This sounded hard but worthwhile.

I was teaching a leadership class at the time, so it was perfect for us to do together. I gave them each the list, and instructed them to highlight their top values, but no more than 10. They could also right in anything they felt was missing from the list. Once we had our top values, I said we had to narrow it down to two. Any more than that and we aren’t leading from our values. I was doing it with them except I had been pondering the list for a week wrestling with those values.

One student wanted two for work and two for family. I said no. We each had to come up with two that would be our primary values to lead out of for the coming year. They were frustrated and challenged, but together we got there.

I landed on wellbeing and dignity. I chose wellbeing because it encompasses a sense of wholeness in body, mind, and spirit. It includes everything from physical health to relational health. If I am whole and taking care of my wellbeing, I am a better person to others. I handle stress and conflict with God at the center rather than me at the center.

I chose dignity because I always want others to know their value. I want to be aware of how I interact with those whom I don’t know personally. I want to examine biases and judgements through the eyes of Christ.

17 Treat everyone you meet with dignity. Love your spiritual family. Revere God. Respect the government. 18 You who are servants, be good servants to your masters – not just to good masters, but also to bad ones.19 What counts is that you put up with it for God’s sake when you’re treated badly for no good reason. 20 There’s no particular virtue in accepting punishment that you well deserve. But if you’re treated badly for good behavior and continue in spite of it to be a good servant, that is what counts with God. 21 This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. (1 Peter 2: 17-21 MSG).

There is nothing perfect about the values I have chosen to lead out of for the year. Setting these values as my priority for the year is what matters. It allows me to focus on aspects of the life of Christ that I want to grow in.

What values are you leading out of this year? How are they focusing you on Christ? Share your values here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Breaking Dishes & Freedom

Broken-Plate

In honor of the 6 year anniversary of this blog, I am reposting the the post from year one that continues to be the most read post every year. Thank you God for your continued faithfulness to this blog-6 years running.

Breaking dishes…just one or an entire kitchen’s worth; at some point all of us have been angry or frustrated to the point of wanting to throw something. Admit it. It’s true. I know I have wanted break things. Maybe it was an injustice or deep wound that kept resurfacing that brought it on. I know what you are thinking, “I can’t go around breaking dishes, I’d have to clean up the mess,” or “that’s not a proper way to deal with anger,” or “it won’t change anything.”  But, in our hearts, we think it would feel good to cut loose and shatter a plate… or three.

This topic came up one night with a group I facilitate for women who are victims of sexual abuse and assault. These women wanted to break some dishes!  It is easy to see how these deep wounds can bring about extreme anger to the point of wanting to throw something.  They didn’t just want to throw something but they wanted to see it shatter.  Anger and pain had been building for years and they saw this as a way to let it out.

What these courageous women really wanted was freedom, freedom from the pain, anger, and resentment that had been building rather than diminishing over time. Freedom begins by understanding what is at the core of the pain.  Once we know what is at the core such as fear, shame, or unworthiness then we can declare our freedom in Christ and allow Him to enter in and set us free.

 1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 NIV).

So, what would breaking dishes get us really? Freedom. Huh? Yep, that’s right, freedom. Oh we broke dishes, but with a twist. One night I surprised them with a box full of old dishes and a tarp. As we stood in front of the brick wall outside the church, I told them this was a celebration.  I told them that for each plate they broke they had to declare what part of their life was now free through Christ.  The shattering pieces represented what they had broken free from in their life.  They shattered the enemy, shame, fear, unworthiness and so much more.  When that first plate hit the wall there was an overwhelming wave of release followed by cheers and tears of joy. It was a Holy Spirit moment. Yes, it was symbolic, but God met us there as they declared their freedom and shattered their yokes to slavery.

It is His desire to set us all free; free from the dirt we carry like shame and unworthiness. It is available to all of us. So, invite God to join you as you declare your freedom and go break some dishes. What does God want to release in you? What new freedom are you declaring? Share it here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

Significance

Photo by Dana Bartheld

Significance, a word I heard several months ago, and has been stirring around in my heart since. It is something I want, however it means so much more to me today than it did as a young adult. In my younger days, significance was about the right job, position, authority, responsibility. It was about power over others. It was about others seeing me as someone significant. Now its meaning is very different.

When I look at scripture and the life Jesus lead, significance changes. Jesus shows me that it comes through a deep and personal sense of meaning and commitment to others. It begins with that sense of meaning that comes through a relationship with God. Then, it becomes about strengthening relationships with others. It becomes about being present with others in their mess. It becomes about showing up for others when they need you but can’t ask for it.

Significance becomes small. It is seeing others as more than myself. It is being willing to serve in insignificant ways to build others up. It’s doing the laundry, cleaning the bathroom or running the vacuum for someone else. It’s holding the door, a kind word and a reassuring smile. It’s reminding others of their value.

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (Philipians 2:2-5 ESV).

But in humility count others as more significant than myself; that is where I will find significance. It comes from a sense of deep contentment through Christ. I want a sense of significance in my life. I need to adjust my purpose to the small things that bring value to those around me. This will come through focusing on others and focusing on God.

How do you define significance? Is it something you are looking for? What are you doing to create significance within yourself or others? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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New Beginnings

Silverware and new beginnings, what could be the connection? It started with a simple question to my youngest son. “Do you have any silverware in your room?” His answer was no. I was skeptical. I knew the silverware drawer was a little light after dishes, and his room has his own version of teenage clean. I’ll leave the rest to the imagination. Needless to say, I couldn’t take it anymore and decided it was time for a fresh start in his room. It was time for a mamma kind of clean. Guess what I found?

The start of a new year is a great time to clean out the old to make room for the new. It’s time to relfect on the things I want to leave behind, things like jealousy, pride, and self pity. The sad part is that it didn’t take a lot of reflection to come up with the clutter in my life. I know I need to do some deep cleaning to see changes, to embrace new beginnings.

It’s the Spitit of God that reminds me of what is ahead when I am focused on Him and not myself.

The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less. 6-7That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. (2 Corinthians 5:507 MSG).

I am reminded to set aside the things that are dragging me down. I am reminded that inward thinking only brings me off His course. When I’m focused on Him, I’m more thankful, offer more grace, and find more joy in life. I am more able to see the good in situations and rather than the worst. I am more able to see myself as enough. It is time for new beginnings. Out with the old and in with the new. Here’s to the new year filled with good cheer.

What are you cleaning out of your life? How are you making room for new beginnings? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Jump To Conclusions

Sometimes I jump to conclusions. I get excited or anxious and think I know the outcome before I have all the information. I was given the green light by my husband to shop for new carpet for the family room. We had tried shopping together and quickly discovered we were not going to agree. My husband, in his wisdom, decided to let me pick out what I want. Part of me felt bad that we weren’t doing this together. The other part of me couldn’t wait to start shipping.

It was in my enthusiasm to start shopping that I headed out to a flooring outlet knowing the best way to keep hubby happy is to find a good deal. I only had a couple of hours, but I wanted to see what they had. I thought I knew where I was going. It was Sunday, and I wanted to be home in time for the football game. I was certain this clearance center was part of a larger store. I was wrong. Not only was the store not where I though it was, it wasn’t part of the larger store. The kicker, the outlet store is not open on Sundays. Ugh. I was so bummed that I had jumped to conclusions and wasted my time.

I jump to conclusions in many ways. I jump in work situations, family situations, and even church situations.. I think I know other people’s intentions and perceptions. I make snap judgements about what others are thinking. I assume I know the best course of action before I have all the information. All of this haste usually end up with me in the wrong. These scriptures from the wisdom of Proverbs remind me that jumping to conclusions is most likely going to cause suffering.

The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5 NIV).

Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them (Proverbs 29:20 NIV).

When I pause and listen for God’s guidence, I am more likely to gather all the needed information. I am more likely to ask appropriate questions. I am more likely to give the benefit of the doubt, and I am more likely to show grace. When I jump to conclusions, there is more hope for a fool.

How about you? Do you jump to conclusions? Does it work out well? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Christmas Is…

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Christmas is the season of giving, it seems most appropriate to take time and remember and read the reason we give. We received the greatest gift in Christ. This little babe wrapped in swaddling clothes forever changed the world through grace. He restored my heart. He washed me clean. Gratitude often overwhelms me, so I invite you to sit with Him and rest.

Merry Christmas!

THE BIRTH OF JESUS

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angelof the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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Love Is…

It is that time of year. It’s my favorite time of year. I love the Christmas season also known as Advent. I love the decorations and giving gifts. I love spending time with family and the spirit of generosity. Not everyone has the same experience of this season. Not everyone knows what love is.

I recently saw this quote by Bob Goff, “Love picked us so grace could find us.” There is a lot packed into this statement. Love picked us, I read that as God picking us whiich He did. Remember the scripture, “For God so loved the world?” God is love and God chose us. God so loved us that He chose grace over any other option. 

As I let this quote merinade within me, I am overwhelmed by God’s love and grace for me and all humankind. I am also challenged to be love to others so grace can pick them up. I am called to be an example of love to others in the world. Am I doing that well? It is a great time of the year to reflect on this scripture and take inventory. Am I showing others what love is?

So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without loveLove never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end. 
8-10 Love never dies.  (I Corinthians 13:4-10 MSG).

This scripture helps me take that inventory. It reminds me of all the ways that love can show up. It reminds me that love can be hard and often counterintuitive.  It encourages me to be an example of what love is. It is my prayer this season that we all live into Goff’s statement, “Love picked us so grace could find us.” 

How does the Christmas season impact you? Has grace found you? Are you challenged to love better? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Fear is…

Fear sells. Fear divides. Think about the news whether you watch it on mainstream TV or follow soical media fear is flooding the airwaves. Violent crime often leads the headlines, yet according to FBI statistics violent crime occurs at half the rate it did in 1990. I know these stories grab my attention over a feel good story.

Fear causes us to be reactionary. It sneaks in and takes over before we even recognize that it is driving. Our bodies are are intricately created to sense and react to fear. This happens through our sypathetic nervous system instantaneously before the brain gets involved. The sypathetic nervous system reacts the same way regardless if it is an immanent threat or a serious concern. 

I have noticed lately that fear is leading me to parent in less than helpful ways. Fear of addiction and death can easily take over how my husband and I try to guide our teens into adulthood. Both of us have family histories with addiction. We have watched it destroy life. We have both walked alongside loved ones who have lost children far too young. It can cloud our approach and it definitely clouds our hearts.

Over and over again, God tells us through scripture, “Do not fear.”  I revisit scriptures such as this to refocus. 

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIV).

God continually reminds us to focus on Him, lean on Him, and trust Him in all things. I really want to be in control, but I know I’m not. But, God is. God knows how to walk me through all of the challenges life will bring. Letting my life be lead by fear removes the love and joy that is intended for me and my children. I continually go back to the scripture in Matthew 5 that tells me not to worry. It won’t add a day to my life. Slowly, I’m getting better at loving and trusting God with the lives of my children.

Fear is insidious. Are you letting it run your life? Is it preventing you from loving well? What are your victories over fear? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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Stubborn is…

It was a simple task take down the container of protein powder and don’t knock the lemon juice off the shelf in the process. Pull the powder forward. Push the glass bottle of lemon juice back. Go slow; it will all be fine. This is what I kept telling myself as I negotiated the powder off the shelf. I could have simply put the juice on the floor, and taken down the protein powder. I thought I could make this work. My plan was perfect. Why should I take the simple option? Stubborn is insisting on doing it my way even when the option is simpler.

Suddenly, something shifted unexpectedly. The bottle tipped forward, fell off the shelf, and hit me squarely in the eye. The swelling, bruising and pain were instantaneous. Some ice, ibuprofen, and makeup and I was off to work. The next morning my head, neck, face even my jaw were throbbing. Ibuprofen was not helping. It was time to enlist a chiropractor all because I was too stubborn to set the juice bottle on the floor.

I can be the same way in matters of faith. I have turned a deaf ear to God at times. And, at times it has left me with a black eye. 

God keeps renewing the promise and setting the date as today, just as he did in David’s psalm, centuries later than the original invitation: Today, please listen, don’t turn a deaf ear . . 8-11 And so this is still a live promise. It wasn’t canceled at the time of Joshua; otherwise, God wouldn’t keep renewing the appointment for “today.” The promise of “arrival” and “rest” is still there for God’s people. (Hebrews 4: 7-11 MSG).

God has been persistent and patient with me. Thankfully, His promises are for today and everyday. On the days when I am stubborn, God gently reminds me that His way really is less painful even if it seems hard at first. When He encourages me to have a difficult conversation, I can exemplify what stubborn is. When the difficult conversation ends in a restored relationship, I am grateful. God’s way always ends up being the easier path. I pray this is my last black eye. 

How has God been persistent and patient with you? Do you often turn a deaf ear? Share your experience here and breathe life and bring hope to others.

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