When I think back over the last 40 years…and think about the times when I hurt others, either intentionally or unintentionally, I can see how my mouth seemed to play the biggest role. Either I said something insensitive and hurt someone with carelessness…or I said something hurtful intentionally to get some emotional space in an argument…or I didn’t say something comforting and loving when I should have…or I felt awkward and did my nervous babbling thing and it prolonged something that I should have let die down. I can remember specific instances of hearing unjust statements made and not speaking against them…or nervously laughing…or…I’m ashamed to admit…contributing.
I can also remember being cut very deeply by words…and being a people-pleaser for most of my life, the person didn’t have to be in my inner circle to hurt me. I can remember spinning on the words afterward for hours or even days or weeks…not being able to let it go…continuing to re-live the conversation and what was said over and over again…going into “analysis paralysis” where I excavated every possible corner of my heart to see if there was truth to what the person had accused me of (even if they didn’t realize that they had.)
Words matter…and we can’t get them back. Written or spoken. Intentional or not. Once they are sent out, we don’t get a do-over…and we have revealed who we are.
“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them.” Matthew 15:18 NIV
Over the last year or so, I have been broken by the hateful things I’ve seen posted on social media by people that I wouldn’t consider hateful. And there were times that I spoke up against the unjust words in a gentle way in order to not escalate the hurt. And other times, I kept quiet because it wasn’t my turn to speak. Some times I saw others speak up in ways that brought people’s hackles down. And other times I saw others speak up in ways that just threw a hand grenade into an already tense situation. And it occurs to me that what we are putting out there is what is in our heart-space…it is the mark that we are leaving on the world…and it matters. Now, some will say that is why they don’t post or comment…and to them, I say…have a voice of truth…don’t be silenced. Others will say that they encounter so much friction because they are standing up for something…and to them, I say…stand up for someone instead of something.
I think our mouths were meant to communicate what is in our hearts…and hearts were meant to love people. So how are you doing with this? What comes out of your mouth? Is it loving? Is it truthful? Does it build people up? Does it encourage others to do what is right? Do your words accept responsibility for what you’ve done wrong or do you make excuses? Do your words encourage the hearts of the discouraged? Do your words gently speak truth into broken spaces? Do your words stand against injustice? Do your words represent truth about the one who is The Word?
My prayer today is that we would ask for wisdom and wait to receive it. I am praying that we would speak when we are meant to and that we would shut up when we should. I am praying that we would learn to be gentle with our words and that our words would be guided by a heart-space that is taught kindness from God. I am praying that our words would be a tool for healing instead of breaking…that we would build things instead of breaking them…and that we would, once again, love well. Finally, I am praying that we would honor God with what comes from our mouths…because then, we would also be honoring him with what comes from our hearts.
Much love friends,
“I think it’s all in your head. If you just quit thinking about it, you’ll realize that you are fine.” My body shook with rage as I listened to these words and felt this person slip away from my inner circle. My face was hot and my breathing got faster and I was very aware of my heart beating fast and hard…so hard that I was sure that it must be moving my shirt on my chest. The only thought I could pull together was “You are not a safe person for me anymore. You simply are not safe.”
This interaction happened in the year following the poisoning when I was going through hell. At the time, I was trying to regain my health through very extreme measures…I was dealing with bitterness and anger toward the man who had stolen my life from me…I was mourning the loss of the life that I had before…I was spiraling in a spiritual crisis…I was facing the isolation that accompanied my decimated health because people simply didn’t know what to do with me and consequently quietly pulled away…I was feeling guilt and shame for not being able to contribute to the family in any way…and I was already battling thoughts of suicide. And then I had this person tell me that all of my health issues were make-believe. What he really wanted was for me to get over it so that he didn’t have to feel any awkwardness. But if I could have just made it disappear with positive thoughts, don’t you think I would have? If I could have taken any shortcut out of this…anything that would make it end…I absolutely, without a doubt would have taken it…but there was no shortcut…there was only through.
Why am I writing about this? Good question. I think that we have an epidemic today. I think that we are so busy being busy that we don’t take care with our words…we are careless and we injure people. I think that we are so stuck looking at things from only our own point of view (and surrounding ourselves only with people who will validate our own point of view) that we think we are qualified to pass judgement on things that we honestly don’t know anything about. I know that my story is extreme…I haven’t ever come across anyone else who has experienced it…but I’m using my story to make the point…nobody could even get a glimpse of what I was experiencing unless they took the time to hear me…and in my brokenness, I found that people didn’t want to hear me…what they wanted was for my experience to be simple and neat and tied with a bow so that they could consume the cliff notes version, file it under some already existing category in their minds, and move on. And I frustrated people because their pre-made categories didn’t work with my story.
The thing is, I don’t think my experience is unique (the poisoning…yes, that is unique…but being helpless to have people understand before passing judgement…well, I think that happens to people every single day.) I think that this happens when a new mother is dealing with depression and people tell her that she has no reason to be blue. I think this happens when someone makes a political statement and we dismiss them as a crazy/stupid/illogical/heartless person from across the political aisle from us. I think this happens when a person of color simply makes a truthful statement that black lives matter and people scream back that all lives matter. I think this happens when a person struggles with mental illness and people ignore it because they look ok on the outside.
I guess the point that I am trying to make is this: In a courtroom, not just anybody can be brought in to speak about certain matters…people who are qualified to speak on a subject…experts…are brought in (and their credentials are heavily scrutinized)…so why do we think we are qualified to pass judgement about things that we don’t know about? Why do we try to negate the experiences of others when learning from people that are different from us can only broaden our knowledge and deepen our compassion?
This one was hard for me to write. Not only did I struggle with reliving that memory and the feelings that go along with it…but I also struggled with facing my own guilt in this area. How about you? How are you doing with this? Do you spend time with people who are different from you? When you hear a perspective that is different than yours, do you take it in and crunch on it a while or do you begin to mentally rip apart their experience so that you can negate it? What do you have knee-jerk reactions about? Do you actively seek out people who stand counter to you on those subjects so that you can have a deeper understanding or do you surround yourself with people who will agree with your current stance (making it unnecessary to allow your self to become uncomfortable and brave enough to lean in to the discomfort?) Are you still learning something new every day or have you embraced becoming stagnant?
My prayer today is that we would be authentic people who are confident enough to allow others to be authentic also…that we would love people enough to listen and really hear them…that we would step away from our battle stances and step closer to someone who is different from us. Friends, I am praying that we would each draw closer to God and allow him to move us closer to each other. I am praying once again that we would love well.
Much love friends,
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23
In about a month, I am giving a talk in my marriage class. It shouldn’t be a big deal…I’m outgoing and never (ever!) have trouble talking with folks (whether I know them or not and whether they know that they want to talk or not)…but having a conversation is different from holding a microphone and talking from the front of the room. I have incredible anxiety around these kinds of situations…any situation where I feel like I am having to “perform.” The subject area is right up my alley: Fun and Connectedness. (I mean, c’mon! This practically has my name written all over it.) So what’s the problem?
Well, I guess my problem is two-fold:
First, there is the performance thing. I am the girl who would vomit before tests in school…from seventh grade all the way into grad school. And even as an adult, I would get performance anxiety around testing for taekwondo. (I’m sort of ashamed (and sort of proud) to admit that I was known as the lady with the fun flask at testings and tournaments. I would arrive early and pour vanilla rum into Dr. Pepper and voila! It was a yummy Vanilla Dr. Pepper from Sonic…but more fun.) I mean, c’mon! I’m an adult! (at least chronologically if not otherwise.) And…I am paying a lot of money for these judges to judge me…but I was so afraid that they would also “judge” me. *shudders* As a deeply-died-in-the-wool-people-pleaser, that thought alone can make me freeze up and just shut down. (And yes, I know all of the reasons (Biblically and otherwise) why I should not care what anyone thinks of me…it’s my blood pressure, stomach, and brain that have the absolutely terrified and paralyzed disconnect.) **Warning: Digresses to a story: When I first started board breaking in taekwondo, I got all gummed up in my head at testing because I knew my board-holders (Mr. Scott Mischke and Mr. Nevels.) Nicest guys in the world…but I knew them. When mentally preparing myself for this testing, I had faceless board holders…but these guys…I knew! And I liked them! Ugh! Well, as it would go, I was all amped up and kicking it wrong for the first two tries. When I got to the last possible attempt, the thought occurred to me, “If you throw up on them, you will have to quit because it will be too embarrassing to ever return to class.” Well…that’s just great! I knew then that vomiting was eminent and I had to do the last kick (pass or fail) before the vomiting happened or I was just screwed. So, I managed to throw a terrible, ugly, embarrassingly bad side kick…and accidently broke the board…with my calf. What the-? Hold on, I used to be a science teacher…I have taught physics…that isn’t supposed to be possible! And in my confusion and disbelief, I passed my test. I stood there stunned and saw the stunned and amused faces of Scott and Kevin looking back at me as I thanked them and wandered away somewhere. (I’m still not sure what I did or where I went after that…I sure hope I wasn’t driving.) The only thing that made sense to me was that I was so pathetic that God had mercy on my and broke the board for me. Honestly, it’s the only thing that I can think of.**
The other problem for me, where this upcoming talk is concerned, has to do with my long-held belief about women being quiet in church (1 Tim 2.) And while I have this settled in my mind after extensive study (I am happy to have a conversation about this if you want,) there is still something that nags at me…some insidious voice that tells me that I am being a “bad girl” (and not in the fun way…just in the disobedient-to-God way) and that gives me heartburn. It gives me pause and it opens me up to doubt. This nagging thought is the reason that I have denied my Spiritual giftedness for so long…but I simply can’t deny it anymore: Pastor/Shepherd, Teacher, Prophecy (Counsel), and Exhortation (Encouragement)…these gifts define who God made me to be and the story that he has chosen for my life to tell. So, every time I consider doing this, I have to go through the entire exercise of re-studying in order to make sure that I am in humble obedience to God and not in some sort of rebellion. It can be exhausting.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I guess it’s for a couple of reasons: First, I’d love prayer support. Ever since making this decision, I have honestly felt attack. My time has managed to become over-loaded with stuff that I don’t like or have a passion for (soul-sucking tedious stuff like updating websites and dealing with rosters and stuff) and have been denied the deep conversations with actual people’s faces (in person) about real ideas. I have been unable to muse although it is one of the only things I want to do. So, I am asking for prayer as often as God brings it to mind to think about. (And thank you in advance.)
Another reason I’m writing about this is that I think that big things are happening in the Church (universal…not just the one I attend) where biases (gender as well as others) are concerned. As long as we are unable to put ourselves in someone else’s circumstances (gender, race, socioeconomics, orientation, up-bringing, etc.) it is crucial that we talk with people to gain their perspective. I would be willing to bet that very few male pastors in the Bible Belt have struggled against feeling like they are a willfully disobedient Christ-follower for speaking truth in church. Considering that many of us spend time with others who are like us, it stands to reason that we lack exposure to many perspectives that could allow us glimpses of God’s truth and character that we don’t currently see.
Finally, I’m writing this as an encouragement. I don’t think that there are many worthwhile things in life that don’t require some work to accomplish. For example, if public speaking were easy for me, I might be prone to thinking that I was doing it through my own strength…I might forget my need for God…and then I’d miss the entire point of why I do this.
Time to flip the tables: How are you doing with this? Is there something that you should be doing but aren’t because you “aren’t good at it?” (For me, it shows up as recurring thoughts that make me go “Where did that come from? I don’t wanna do that!”) Are you surrounding yourself in “holy huddles” and not exposing yourself to other perspectives? (We are each a PART of the body…not an entire body on our own…we are meant to be in community with people who are different from ourselves (different body parts.) Who can you ask to enter with you into a healthy exchange of ideas? How can you grow in your understanding of God and the story that he would like to use your life to tell?
My prayer today is that we would be obedient to our Lord regardless of whether or not we like what he has planned for us to do. I am praying that we would honor him with a gift-offering of being willing to lean into our discomfort instead of fleeing from it. And finally, I’m praying that we would respect him and those he loves by allowing them to share stories about their experiences with God with us.
Much love friends,
I have a lot of back-story…a ton! I’ve shared a good portion of my story here: poisoning and the resulting bitterness, anger, and health damage from it, my personality flaws and how I developed some of them, my spiritual journey including some periods of crisis, all about my family who get named in nearly every post…all kinds of stuff. There is a lot to my story and to spend much time with me requires understanding of a lot of my story in order to not get offended (For example, with the brain damage, I forget things…people who are close to me have to deal with re-telling me stuff all the time…can you imagine how frustrating that is to them?!)
A few months back, I was dealing with something in the middle of being just…beat. I don’t remember exactly what the issue was but I needed to talk to someone who already knew me and my entire back story without me having to retell it all…I needed someone that would already understand the significance of what was going on. So, I called my girl, Lesley. We talked and came to some sort of reasonable decision together without me having to catch her up to speed on the weirdness that is me. At the end of our conversation, I told her about how I chose who to call for this issue and you know what her response was? “Well…Here’s to not being exhausting!” In my mind, I could see the smile on her face and maybe her even holding her glass up in the air in a toast. I have thought back on that conversation many times over the last few months and can’t help but get a goofy grin on my face every time.
Why in the world am I talking about that? Well, I think that my friend, my Lesley, models friendship in such a beautiful way…a way that many of us could stand to learn from. She invests in people and honestly wants to know their stories. This gal has very patiently taken the time to really get to know me on a bone-deep kind of level over the last several years. She shares some of her own story too (not everyone is quite as revealing about their “stuff” as I am *makes mock shocked face*) so I find her authenticity really refreshing. She is a compassionate encourager and an amazing combination of sweet (where you almost think it can’t be real…but it is) and spit-fire. I love the combination of tenderness and grit that she has. But most of all, when she is talking with me, she is completely present. She was tracking right along with me when I called her that day and didn’t miss a beat or an opportunity to encourage. She also was able to insert humor in just the right place to make the conversation not get too heavy.
I really do have a point here…I’m getting closer and closer to making it. I am wondering how you are doing in this area. Statistically, 9% of people feel that they do not have even one close friend…I’ve been there before…it’s a dark and scary place. So, my question is how are you doing with this? Do you feel like you have friends? Do you feel like you are a good friend to others? If you have struggled making friends, how open and authentic have you been with people? How present are you with them? Could you improve on your current relationships by going deeper with those people? **Warning! Don’t get all saran-wrap-clingy-crazy on people and just walk up to them and emotionally vomit on them…going deeper takes time…it’s a ramp…not a cliff…besides, crazy is best served in small portions so that it’s a bit more subtle…use finesse, so to speak…so that, by the time they realize you’re a total nutter, they are already hooked! 😉** If you don’t have close friends, what steps can you take toward entering into meaningful relationships? What investment can you make today?
My prayer today is that we would invest in relationships with people and that we would prioritize people over things in our lives. I am praying that we would be Jesus to the world around us and love each other well. I am praying that we would invest enough that it makes us able to say, “Here’s to not being exhausting!” Much love friends,
I’m messed up. When I say this, I don’t mean it in a funny way…I’m seriously messed up. There are things about me that I have known were wrong with me for years and even decades but I wasn’t joining the pieces together to figure out what was going on: When I was in middle school, I found that I started getting really nervous before tests…you could just say the word test and I would have to go to the bathroom and throw up. I started getting referred to the school counselor every year because someone would witness it and, being super-skinny, the assumption was that I was bulimic. I would explain to the counselor and she/he would always tell me to settle myself down and not get so worked up about things. That’s a bit easier said than done…I mean, if I could manage to not throw up, don’t you think I would? It’s not like it’s a fun party idea. This trend in me went on all the way through grad school. Still vomitting my emotions which were just so overwhelmingly big! Anytime I had a confrontation or some sort of performance, off to the ladies’ room I would run. I was fast to have confrontations with people which made me think of myself as unkind and impatient…the truth was, I would just rather get the confrontation over with than drag on anxiety over the potential future moment because the anxiety was so much worse. Even in Tae Kwon Do, I became known as the girl who would bring her “fun flask” to testing and tournaments because I would get so wound up at the idea of people judging me…for the record, they are called judges and I was paying them to judge my abilities…but no matter, I would freak out and have to run to the ladies’ room again. I know, I know…you wish you could be me…we can’t all be that lucky though. 😉
What in the world is my point? Well, several things honestly: For one thing, I think that we grossly underestimate the power of our body chemistry. I received a life-changing diagnosis last week from two separate doctors…I have an anxiety disorder. At first, I blew them off because “I’m a very happy person.” Turns out, it is not the same as depression…it also turns out that the chronic pain I’ve been living with for the past 8-9 years is from constant muscle spasms due to my body’s inability to release tension properly. Oy! I minored in chemistry and have a master’s degree in physiology! I should know this! But when the chemical imbalance is in you, it is much more difficult to see it objectively.
Secondly, I think we have some misconceptions about what weakness looks like and what strength looks like. For example, I think that we should recognize the less obvious forms of strength…things like choosing your battles so that you are able to value relationships over winning a debate, serving in an area where you are unlikely to be noticed, or taking the time to study those around you and discover what ways make them feel the most loved…the most seen…and love them in that way…in their own way.
Finally, and please please hear me on this, do NOT assume that because someone’s health struggle is mental/psychological that they can/should just pray their way through it. A simple chemical imbalance can make basic, every-day functions nearly impossible to handle. When a person with the imbalance hears you say something trite like “Oh, well, you should just hand that over to God.” it not only alienates that person from you and warns them that you are NOT safe for them…but it also can damage their relationship with God and their view of themselves. If you have not struggled with something, don’t give advice as though you have. (Now, before you get all up-in-arms, I am not speaking against the power of prayer…not by a long-stretch…I think prayer is huge…I am just saying that maybe you should learn from your friends about their struggles and walk with them as opposed to judging their struggles from your protected position where you don’t experience it.) If you want to love your friend well, get into their mess with them and walk out with them instead of standing on the side and giving directions.
So, how are you doing with this? Is there something that is “off” about you that you have chalked up to quirkiness for too long? Is there something you are avoiding talking to a doctor about because you don’t want to hear the answer? Are you afraid of what people will think of you? Do you have someone you love who is struggling to keep their head above water? How can you extend love, grace, and hope toward them? Are you afraid of getting dirty in their mess? Jesus wasn’t afraid of getting messy with people: He spent time alone with a disreputable woman, allowed an “un-clean” woman to touch his garments, spent time in the company of a tax collector, and took the attention and scorn of a woman caught in the act of adultery onto himself in order to provide her with a little bit of dignity. He got messy with people instead of standing safely off to the side and saying “What you ought to do is…”
My prayer today is that we would take an objective look at ourselves and those we love. That we would make steps toward health and be willing to get messy with and for each other. I am praying that we would be willing to be utilized for good by God. Much love friends,
I woke up this morning with a smile on my face and praises in my soul despite the barking that was causing me to wake up at 5:30am (Again! Good morning Maverick…our foster puppy.) Last night, it was officially announced that our good friends are getting to adopt a new and precious little boy and my heart is celebrating! This amazing couple have been pouring into my sweet Michaela for years. They were her Sunday School teachers at church every Sunday morning from ages 2 to 7…and trust me…some of those years (specifically 2 and 3) were not easy. This couple has come and picked M up to take her out for ice cream, they have shown up at her school to eat lunch with her, they have been “her people.” When we have had family conversations about who our “safe grown ups” are…you know, the people that the kids could answer the door for or leave in a car with…this couple has been up there on the list with the grandparents! I am so excited for them and am bubbling over with joy for this couple…I am praying that Stan and I will be able to pour into the life of their precious little one in even a fraction of the way that they have poured into Michaela.
I guess my musing this morning has several seemingly random points (none of them are political…so please don’t turn this into a debate.) The first point is that we each have the ability to change lives in deep and lasting ways. My friends have done that for our family and I am praying that their community of friends (ourselves included) will all do the same. To me, raising a child is an over-whelming and scary thing…but that is replaced with hope and joy and blessings when people reach out with open hands and love each other well.
My second point is that blessings often come through the sacrifice of others. I am specifically thinking of the birth mother right now. I’m praying that God will heal her body from delivery and her heart…as I imagine she is filled with mixed emotions. Between hormones from pregnancy and delivery, the joy she must have at finding a beautiful and loving family for her baby, and the grief I am sure she must be experiencing at saying good-bye to a baby that she has lovingly carried inside her for months…I have not met her but I am sure she is an emotional mess right now. I am praying that God would honor her sacrifice and bless her for the love that she has shown this baby and my friends…this was no small thing she did…it is beautiful and selfless and deeply loving…and my soul leaps joyfully inside me when I think about it.
My third, and final (and lesser) point, is that I have many friends who would refer to all of this as karma…I would whole-heartedly disagree with that. Yes, this couple is amazing and now something amazing is happening to their family…but I think that is a blessing from God, not karma. See, karma would indicate that they somehow deserved the years of not being able to have the family that they have dreamed of. Karma would indicate that the birth-mother deserves the emotional and physical turmoil of giving up her baby. Karma, in theory sounds nice, until it is applied to real life situations: rape, incest, molestation, murder, bullying, and abuse of all forms would all be “deserved” if karma were true. I do not believe that anyone deserves to be a victim…I do believe, however, that God sustains us through trouble and blesses us in life…so with that, I reject karma. However, if you believe in karma, I don’t reject you…there is room for us to civilly disagree and even discuss these things.
So how are you doing with these things? Are you pouring into the lives of others? Are you involved in a community that serves each other selflessly? Have you ever been the recipient of selfless and life-changing sacrifice? How might you sacrifice for the benefit of others? Are you giving our loving God credit for the blessings in your life? How can you practice gratitude for your blessings?
Today, I am praying for my friends and their new baby boy as they begin a new journey in life. I am praying for the birth-mother and asking God to honor her beautiful example of selflessness and sacrifice. I am praying that we would all serve others around us and change lives (and the world) for the better. Much love friends,
I woke up this morning and checked my social media and found a message from a dear friend. She was vulnerable and requesting prayer on behalf of a friend who is deeply grieving. So many things went through me when I read her account of what prayer was needed for and the tragedy surrounding the need. But despite all of the praying I am doing for my friend’s friend, there is one thing that I simply can not get past…the honor that I feel that she opened up to me. That is the subject of today’s musing.
I believe it is no small miracle when a broken person in this broken and painful world takes a chance and opens up to me. I do not take that lightly. After all, we are all broken usually because we have been damaged by other people in the past…someone has let us down before and caused pain and damage and grief in us. I believe it is truly miraculous when we are able to overcome our fear of more damage and pain with the hope of connection and love and peace and I am so in awe of the Holy Spirit right now for being able to stir that in his people.
All of this is probably not new to you all…I mean, prayer requests are common-place here in the Bible-belt…but what struck me was how earnest and vulnerable my friend was in her message to me. When someone lets me see a little glimpse of their soul…that is just beautiful and amazing and special and rare…and I have been thanking God all morning for that and for this friend. In fact, I’m blubbering as I type this musing…it’s ridiculous really.
But, it’s got me thinking again. I know that I am not the average bear…I have been accused of being an “over-sharer”…whatever…I’m totally fine with that. But I know that “normal” people find it a bit harder to share than I do. So, can some of you please let me know what it is that makes you feel safe to share with someone? What characteristics are you looking for in a friend that you can be true and real and raw with? Or do you ever even get to that point with people? Do you have those kind of people in your life? Do they know that they are those people for you? And just a request from my experience this morning…will you please let them in on…it because this has made my entire day despite the tragic circumstances. This friend was worried about burdening me but…wow! I am so blessed by her sincerity and realness…it completely over-rides any burden that I might experience. So, your mission should you choose to accept it is: 1. Share what characteristics you look for in a bone-deep, soul-sharing kind of friend. 2. Acknowledge whether or not you have any of these kinds of friends in your life and find a way to let them know. and 3. Take it a bit further and try to be the kind of friend that you value…invest in your soul so you can pour out into others.
Much love friends,
I am going to be vulnerable with y’all here….so bear with me: Friendships are weird. When I am fulfilled friendship-wise, my life is usually amazing. But the second I feel lonely or left-out, it leaves me with despair. I have a harder time seeing the character of God without people…possibly because I have trouble even thinking if a person is not present with me to bounce ideas off of. (I’ve mentioned before being an extreme extrovert…if I don’t say things to people, I can’t actually think…I literally feel like I get dumber when I am deprived of time with people.) My social needs can be over-whelming to the unsuspecting and I put it ALL out there…there is no guessing what I’m thinking because chances are, I’ve already said it out loud to you. (Absolutely no filter!) So, it’s a lot for some people to handle. But God knows how he designed me and he has been creating friendships where I wasn’t expecting them…deep friendships…new friendships…old friendships that are reigniting…and it feels like heaven is giving me a much-needed hug.
I’ve kind of been resisting the idea of a small group for the past several of years. I mean…it’s ok for other people…I would even recommend it for just about anyone…but I do community ok on my own…I don’t wear a mask at all…and I just was not seeing eye-to-eye with people on how it would look missionally and socially…and honestly, I have greater needs than the average bear. (I crave a Lucy to my Ethel or Ethel to my Lucy…I love informality and comfort and realness that is just hard to come by…at least, for me, it has been.) That’s not to say that anyone was “wrong” in how they were approaching it…we just weren’t seeing eye to eye on it…and sometimes we weren’t even seeing eye-to-ankle…so it left us all feeling unfulfilled and sometimes even a little bit resentful or just falling flat. But I think I may have recently, possibly, accidentally stumbled upon a small group and that is also leaving me a little unsettled…not because there is something wrong with them…not at all…but because I was finally resigning myself to the idea that maybe it won’t look like what I thought it was going to look like…and last night kind of turned that resignation on its head. You know, God is funny that way…at least to me he is…He frequently has to get me to a point of contentment where I am before he will give me what it is that I crave…I guess he knows my obsessive personality and doesn’t want me to accidentally enter into idolatry or something.
Anyway, all of that to say that I cried out to God a couple years ago about my relationships. I didn’t want shallow relationships…I have no use for them. I want to connect with people in a bone-deep kind of way and slowly, God has been bringing those relationships into my life. Each one is unique and provides a different glimpse at the character of God for me: Carrie shows me his compassion, Susan shows me his determination and consistency, Lesley shows me his wisdom and gentleness, Jackie constantly reveals his word and his Spirit to me, and this new group of ladies have already shown me his acceptance and encouragement as well as companionship. I’m blessed through these friendships and they challenge me to grow closer to Jesus.
So, that got me thinking…again. Does my own character reflect that of God and if so what aspect? Something for me to ponder. And you…how are you doing with this? Do you look to see God’s reflection in the people around you? Would they say that they see it in you? If so, what does your character say about what you believe and who you believe in? What do you want your character to say about you? If you could sum up what you are about in just a couple of character traits, what would they be and do they line up with what you reflect?
Praying for character to shine to you and through you all today.
Last fall, I was sick and feeling terribly with some sort of throat-nastiness (I think that is the medical term for it) and my sweet girlfriend brought me all the stuff to make a yummy and boozy hot apple cider (apple cider, honey vodka, the works!) Anyway, this sweet gal is always the first one to volunteer to help others but she won’t let anyone do anything to help her out. Right now for instance, she is in terrible pain with her back and waiting to get in for an MRI and she won’t let me bring her dinner or take her kids or anything. So, it got me thinking about this in a different kind of way.
I think that God impresses on our hearts when we should be doing things to help others…I know that he has gone to great lengths to have me help people at various times…sometimes I have been obedient and other times I was left wishing I had been obedient: paying for someone’s groceries when they were short money in the grocery checkout line, helping someone who’s car has broken down, catching a dog that is running loose through the neighborhood and trying to find the owner, offering drinks or lunch to delivery people or people who are doing work for me, etc. I think that we are supposed to respond to those urges…not only with obedience…but with quick obedience before the opportunity is lost. My girlfriend that I am writing about is quick to do that…and I love her deeply for it…honestly, it’s one of the most beautiful things about her! But, sometimes, I wonder if she understands that others are divinely called to do this as well. God lays things on our hearts and there is great joy to be had in obeying his requests. There is great fulfillment in being where God would have me be and doing what he would have me do.
My point? Glad you asked! I think that many of us recognize when we are supposed to do these acts of kindness or obedience or however you want to think about it. Whether we respond appropriately to that is important and we should all be evaluating whether or not we are screaming “No!” to God. But, do we realize that accepting help can be an act of obedience as well and allowing others to say yes to what God has put before them is really important too? I know that I don’t want to be responsible for squelching the Holy Spirit’s work in someone else’s life. So, how are you doing with this? Do you hear God prodding you? Do you obey when you do? If you are obedient, are you obeying quickly so that you don’t miss opportunities? How are you doing with accepting help? It’s hard, isn’t it?! Are you able to allow others to use their giftedness in your life?
I am praying that you all have the kind of people in your life that you can both give and receive help from. Have a lovely day friends!