Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stepping Out in Faith -- Heading to "She Speaks"

Early this morning I sat by my computer, going over some last minute changes on my talks for the critique group I am participating in at the She Speaks conference I am attending this weekend. I’ll be joining 600 other women with a mutual focus on the Lord and what He has called us to do through ministry, writing and/or speaking; I’m nervous and excited.

One hundred things were teaming through my head – schedules for the 5 children, travel arrangements, last minute packing details, the weather, my hair, my shoes, what kind of bird was chirping outside of my window and thoughts like, ‘What was a I thinking when I registered for this?” and “I hope that I do not exceed the 50 pound weight limit on my suitcase.”

Just at the point of nearly being overwhelmed, my nine year old daughter appeared next to me. Wiping sleep from her eyes, wrapped in a pale pink blanket, adorned with hearts, she whispered to me, “Mom, let’s take a few minutes to pray. I’m really going to miss you.”

And so that’s what we did. We went in to the next room, where she curled up in my lap and we prayed. I prayed first for my family, for the details, for their hearts and for my trip. Then, she prayed for me. Her sweet little voice spoke words of encouragement and love, asking the Lord to protect me, help me with my talks and give me a wonderful time.

Just what I needed, at just the right time – prayer.

A few months ago, a friend gave me this quote:

“What really matters when God calls you to do something is not whether you feel inadequate. Of course you will; you are inadequate. So am I. That’s why God promises to go with us. What matters is your decision. Only people who say “yes” to challenge, demand and risk are ever fully alive.” -- John Ortberg.

Although I still have a fleeting thought of, “What was I thinking?”, I am stepping out in faith, trusting that the Lord opened up this opportunity for me to learn more and to grow, and that He has already gone before me and will be with me (Deuteronomy 31:8).

If you are led to pray for me, thank you. I will be gone through the weekend. Please pray for my family, as well.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Authenticity Pondered (Part 2)

In yesterday’s post, I shared with you some of the thoughts that my readers had regarding the deep topic of authenticity. I’ve been thinking about what I agree with and what I am not quite sure about, in regards to what they had to say. I’ve got some of my own thoughts.

I think living authentically has to do with living openly, in humility, before the Lord, ourselves and others.

It’s about embracing who God created us to be, and at the same time acknowledging that we are not perfect. We are infected with sin. We have weaknesses, and yet we are not defined by these weaknesses. We are defined by God. It is being aware of our beauty and blemishes and secure in who we are in His sight – secure enough to be vulnerable.

It is being willing to say, “I struggle with ______ .” Fears. Doubts. Feeling down about myself. Believing lies. Temptations. Self-pity. Selfishness. Apathy. Worry. Rejection. My past. My present. Depression. Anxiety. It is sharing where we are at in that struggle and how God is working in our lives.

We seem to desire authenticity in others, but are hesitant to always live it out ourselves. It requires taking a chance to open up to others and share our lives – the joys, the sorrows, and the struggles. We’ve likely been hurt before in doing so, and so we shirk back, afraid of rejection or humiliation.

Living authentically does not fear others negative responses to our willingness to be honest about ourselves. It is trusting God to use our lives and our stories. Others may be critical. They may accuse us of being too serious. They may turn their back on us, out of their own discomfort. It is not wearing our heart on your sleeve or airing our dirty laundry 24/7, but having a willingness to share who we are wisely and openly.

Being in the company of someone who is willing to live authentically is refreshing – like a trickling stream, an autumn breeze, or watermelon and lemonade on a hot summer day.

I think it is the “cup of cold water” that Jesus talks about in Matthew 10. It is loving in the name of Jesus, opening ourselves up, sharing our life story, sharing our struggles, in order to encourage and comfort those whom God has placed in our paths, by sharing what God has done and is doing. It is taking the comfort that we have received from God in ALL troubles to comfort those in ANY trouble (2 Corinthians 1:4). When we open our hearts, are authentic, honest, real – not perfect, just real – God can use us as a vessel of His love.

It’s funny. As I am writing this, I can feel my anxiety rise over sharing my thoughts. I feel vulnerable. Somewhere, out in the distance, I can hear someone saying, “I don’t agree. What does she know? I don’t think she’s very authentic. Who does she think she is writing on this subject?”

Truth is, I’m not an expert, just another sojourner for Christ, trying to be intentional in my living and loving the Lord. I want to live in humility, wisely, openly, trusting in Him. I strive to live authentically, but I know I fail.

I hope that these words gave you something to think about and maybe even encourage you to continue your quest for living authentically.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Authenticity Pondered (Part 1)

Authenticity – “the quality of being not false or copied; genuine; real”. But what does it really mean -- lived out? What does it look like? How can we do we do it?

We can look at a handmade vase in a museum and say, “That is authentic.” But a vase is not alive; it does not act, feel, or think. It does not make mistakes. It does not have a personality.

I believe that we crave authenticity in others. I think we crave it in ourselves. The whole idea of what it means to live authentically has been on my heart.

A year ago (seriously, has it been that long?) I asked the question, “What does being authentic mean to you? What does it look like lived out?” I received quite a few responses, and today I am going to share with you some of the ideas that my readers shared with me.

· Being comfortable in your own skin.

· Being the same person regardless of the audience

· I think that personal authenticity starts with a desire to honor God through our unique design. Do we believe God has created each of us in such a special way that we appreciate ourselves and desire to share ourselves with others in order to be about His work in a way only we can accomplish? And then, unfortunately, there is our sinful side. Who wants to share that part, authentically? Yet, in our weakness, He is strong.

· It means being who you are, not doing for others to get accolades, not doing/buying for yourself to get attention from others. Simply put, doing what you want when you want for yourself and the benefit of others, not to be showy or boastful, but to just be who you are.

· To me, being authentic is not only speaking the truth, but living it. My authenticity comes from how God defines me, not the world, my friends, not my family, from Christ!

· A person who says one thing, but does another – that person is not authentic.

· True to whom you are in the core of your being or not trying to be something that you are not.

· An authentic person is real in all areas of life – will admit when they are happy, sad, struggling, what the yare working on, etc… An authentic friend has human faults, recognizes that others have faults, too, and accepts you for the human that God created.

· Authenticity is the ability to be yourself, without holding anything back or hiding behind the mask of who you want people to believe you are instead of who you really are. To be authentic then, you must be “whole” – the same inside as you are behaving on the outside. Authenticity is frightening because it makes you vulnerable, but it is also freeing for trying to be something that you are not is exhausting.

Thought provoking? I think so. Some ideas you may agree with, others you may not; it's an interesting cross section. I don’t have all the answers either, but I will be back tomorrow to share with you some of the thoughts that I have bouncing around in my head and my view of living authentically. Feel free to add to the conversation.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Beautiful Feet

I like shoes, but I’m not always gung ho about shoe shopping. It’s really only because of one reason – the size of my foot. Let me put it this way – if I was Cinderella, my foot would be more like a large vase. When I was a little girl, my uncle used to say to me, “It’s good to have a solid platform, Andrea.” I appreciate his attempt at making me feel better. The size of my feet are one of those things about myself I’m not crazy about. I know -- it’s silly. They’re just feet.

In need of a pair of shoes for the She Speaks conference that I am attending next week, my fourteen year old daughter and I went to the store. She sports a darling size 8, and looks cute in everything. I flop around in a – oh, it’s not important. I was in search of a pair of closed toed shoes. For this sandal loving girl – it was a bit of a stretch. I like my tootsies free and unencumbered. In the summer the only pair of closed toe shoes I have are my running shoes. Those will not cut it with dress pants or a skirt.

The good news is that after slipping on shoe after shoe, I finally found a pair. Due to the sale, I was even able to snag a couple pairs of sandals. Maybe shoe shopping wasn’t that bad?

In the quest for footwear, I started thinking about feet and what God says about them.

When we seek to love Him and trust Him, He …

· Sets our feet upon a rock (Psalm 40:2)

· Keeps them from stumbling (Psalm 56:13)

· Keeps them from slipping (Psalm 66:9)

· Lights the path with His lamp for our feet to walk (Psalm 119:105)

· Says our feet our beautiful as we bring good news, proclaim peace and bring good tidings, proclaiming salvation (Isaiah 52:7)

I think that’s cool. Regardless of the size or look of our feet, cute shoes or not, He thinks that they are beautiful, as we step out in obedience and share the love, hope and peace of Jesus to a hurting world. That brings perspective to me, and I’m glad that I have that platform to stand on.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Fear of Being Forgotten

Trips to the dentist. Phone calls. A special request from the children for a treat at the store. A promise to play a game. My purse. Paying a bill. A submission for the community calendar I write for. Scheduling appointments (Which reminds me … I need to call the orthopedist for one of my children). And on and on it goes. I have been awfully forgetful lately.

It’s really bugging me. I hate the pit in my stomach when I realize that I forgot to do or get something. It’s been happening way more frequently than I would like. Is it too much on my plate? Too much on my mind? Or -- shhhh! -- peri-menopause? I’m not sure of the cause, but what I realized today is that what is really bothering me about it is that at a deeper level it is tapping in to my fear of being forgotten.

I have no idea where I developed this fear. Something deep down inside of me fears being left out, left behind, of low priority – low enough to be forgotten – like a pack of snacks at the grocery store.

Do you fear being forgotten?

Truth is, we are all forgotten from time to time. People will fail us. We fail people. However, we can be confident that God will never forget us. He never leaves us. He is never too busy or pre-occupied. He is always present, at our side. What a relief.

I am so thankful for His faithfulness. Believing it is something that I am working on. In Joshua 1:5, God reminds Joshua, “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” That’s for us, too, and one thing I am determined to never forget.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Puzzle-ing Days

I wish I could look on the cover of the box. Then I would know how it would all turn out, and somehow, I think that would be best for me. But then again, not really. I know better.

I love a good jigsaw puzzle -- looking at a pile of pieces, separating out the borders, and piecing them together. After the border is put together, then I can get to work on the inside pieces. There is enjoyment in picking up piece by piece, looking for familiar colors and patterns, and placing them together. There is satisfaction in seeing the varied pieces, in size, shape and color, gradually coalescing together to create a bigger picture, whole and defined.

Life is like a puzzle. Each one of our days is a piece, placed in just the right spot, by the hand of He Who Created the puzzle. He begins with the outside of the puzzle, framing up our lives with the assurance of His love. Then, piece by piece, He places each day within the confines of His love. Some days are monochromatic and mundane, others are colorful and busy, still others are dark and dreary. A piece here, a day there, the Lord settles them in one next to another, not always in what we see as order – left to right, right to left, up to down, and down to up. Sometimes, they are grouped together, giving us a glimpse of the whole, other times one or 2 pieces sit, connected, but not revealing even a portion of the picture.

We don't know the number of pieces in the puzzle of our life. God has numbered our days, and day by day, He places them, planned from the very beginning of time. He knows the picture; He planned it. He takes each day and all that it holds for us, and fits them together in just the right way to make you, you and me, me. Our stories are made up of a million pieces.

Most days, it’s puzzling to me. Once in awhile, I capture a view of what the whole might look like. In spite of my not always getting it, my faith grows and is strengthened, as I trust my life to the Hand of the One who loves me, “being confident in this, that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

That’s for you, too. He is at work in your life, dear reader, piecing the days together, as puzzling as they may seem. The good work He is creating in you, is a beautiful work -- the perfect work -- drawing you and others around you closer to Him and revealing His love to a broken world, through you.

Dear Lord, Help us to appreciate each piece – each day. Help us to accept that seeing the cover on the box would not be helpful to us, that if that was so, our faith would not be faith at all. Help us to give thanks for each day, whether drab or exciting, full of holes or of knobs, believing that each day is another piece of the puzzle that God is placing together for His glory and for our good. Amen.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hooked by Criticism

I felt the sharp point pierce my skin and then dig deeper still. My stomach sank to my feet and my head began to spin silently, as the barbed hook of criticism (the non-construtive sort) lodged itself in to my heart. It wasn’t that it was a very big hook, it just was that it hit me in a tender spot and triggered a pain that rippled through out my body. Critical words, whether big or small, direct or indirect, hurt.

Regretfully, as much as I have experienced the pointed jab of criticism, I have cast the hooked line myself and injured others. I hate that. It humbles me. It makes me sad.

I don’t know why we do it. Part of our sinful humanness, I guess. Perhaps it’s to prove to ourselves that we are “okay.” We fear being inadequate and so we try to elevate ourselves by injuring others. It’s been said that “hurt people hurt people.” I think that is true. Or maybe our words are a flowing over of years of fermenting bitterness or a reenactment of what we experienced somewhere in our past. I’m sure there are a million reasons. I wish I understood it better, both for my protection on the receiving and delivering end.

Thinking back to when I was working as a PA, I recalled that when a person came in to the office with a fish hook in their finger the procedure to remove it would be to continue to push the hook through. Pulling it back out through the direction from which it came, was difficult and even more painful. Following the arch of the hook and moving the point forward, until the hook was out, was the best way to remove it.

So, I’ve been pushing through and working out a hook over the past couple of days. The gentle hand of God is helping me. I’m trying to use His truths about Himself, about me and about His plan for me, to help wiggle the criticism out. I am feeling more at peace, and learning to depend on Him more, in new ways. He is releasing me, slowly but surely, from the injurious effects, and also gently reminding me of the pain that my own barbed words of criticism can cause. In the end, I now see how He is taking this time to further grow me and change me. Again.

Dear Lord, Thank you for your faithfulness in helping us in all circumstances. When we are hurt by others, please help us to see the truth and trust you for all things in the process. Help us to be sensitive to where others are, to watch our words, to encourage and build up rather than discourage and tear apart. If we have hurt others, help us to be bold to seek forgiveness and seek to restore the relationship. Thank you for being gracious and merciful to us. Amen

Friday, July 2, 2010


The score board was broken, so the score did not light up, but it wasn’t necessary to see it, anyway. We knew our team was down, and it wasn’t looking like a win for my son’s junior little league team. It was the bottom of the last inning. William, my eleven year old son stood at bat with two outs and two strikes. To add to the tension, the bases were loaded.

The pitcher hurled the ball, William swung the bat and -- “smack!” -- the ball sailed through the air, far in to left field. Everyone ran. The outfielders ran towards the ball that flew through the air. The infielders ran to cover their bases. The boys on base ran to the next base and the next base, and the next. William ran all the way to third, three runs being scored before it was all over. The crowd (and probably most dramatically, I, his mother) jumped from their chairs, screaming and cheering. My son's team ended up winning the game. One would think we won the World Series.

Today, William has been reliving his great moment in his own personal little league history. At lunch he outlined every micro-second of the infamous hit, detailing how he stood at bat, where the ball met the bat at the “sweet spot,” what he was thinking when he hit the ball, and on and on.

“And my friends and coaches were giving me high-fives, saying ‘great hit, William’ and ‘way to go, William.’ Even my friends on the other team were giving me high-fives and ‘way to go’s.’ It was so fun!”

Then he paused, held his hand high, with palm outstretched and beamed, “It was great getting all those high-fives mom, but I’m thinking – I’m going to give God a high-five for helping me to make that great hit!”

I love that -- giving God a high-five. Now that’s a picture to behold in my mind. The Lord’s strong, perfect hand reaching down, palm open to meet the hand that He formed, as it stretched out to show gratitude. Very cool.

I’m convicted by my son’s spontaneous acknowledgement of his gratefulness to God. It was grand to see him have a terrific game, but even sweeter to see his heart living a life of thankfulness. I’m learning from him; and in this game of life, win or lose, I’m going to work on reaching up, touching the hand of God, and giving Him a high-five for all He’s been and done for me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Pictures and Points to Ponder ... from our trip to California

God places signs of His love for us, everywhere, in all sorts of environements. (A heart shaped hole in a Redwood tree in Muir Woods).

As a calm lake reflects an image of a rock, a quiet and gentle spirit that trusts the Lord, reflects Him.

Sometimes, the road of our story takes a God ordained detour. It can be good. Very good.

Lovely and strong, these small pink mountain flowers grow and flourish in a hard place. So can we. (Discovered blooming on the steep, rocky wall in the Yosemite Valley).

The Lord has written, sealed, stamped and sent you a message today. Are you looking to see what He has to say?

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