Redeeming Resolutions

I have a love/hate relationship with my husband’s truck. It’s big and bulky in comparison to my midsized sedan. The cup holders are always occupied and it smells funny.  The gas pedal is touchy and I can never adjust the mirrors quite right. I’m a bit insecure behind the wheel and have to pay attention to every detail while driving – namely so I don’t hit anything.

It’s expensive. I hate car payments.

But driving the testosterone truck typically serves a necessary purpose in my day – Moving new residents into my building. Escorting seniors to a safe and secure environment while making sure they have the belongings to make their new apartment feel like home.

Driving the truck is a temporary inconvenience.

Resolutions feel much the same way. They are big, bulky and overwhelming. They drag me out of my comfortable setting and they cause me to refocus and reevaluate my priorities. Unfortunately, instead of treating them as a valuable tool, I treat them as a temporary inconvenience. Something I try for a while, only to retreat to what is comfortable and convenient.

Mostly because my execution is less than perfect on the first try.  I’m a go big or go home kind of girl.  Baby steps have never really been my thing.  Oh, and obstacles?  My stars.  How many hurdles must I  jump to achieve my new goal.

In December I set a goal to work out six days a week knowing I was building up to a habit.  In January, my goal moved to working out six days a week, but doing so first thing in the morning.  This means my alarm sounds at zero dark thirty.  After my second week, I woke with my alarm ready to tackle the day.  I got up, let the dog out and saw her jet from her normal potty spot and right back to the door.

“Such a wimp”, I thought as I popped open the door to step out. Only I heard something:

 

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Mmm hmm.  Our diva dog found a kitty.  A kitty she loved upon first sight. A kitty I was not prepared to adopt at zero dark thirty on a cold Monday morning.

Then, I committed to getting my blog back on track. Ahem:

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It seems like it never ends.

So how do busy, distracted girls redeem their resolutions?  Here are a few tips and tricks I have found along the way.

Write down your resolution.

What in your life do you want to change?  Write it down.

What will it take to start your change? Write it down.

Who do you need to recruit to help or keep you accountable? Write it down.

Write down your new schedule.

In The Best Yes by Lisa Terkuerst, she makes a recommendation to take a time inventory. I took it just one step further and penciled in the schedule of my desired week fitting in my new workout and writing plans into existing white space.

Be realistic.

Can you fit this new resolution into your life?  A couple of years ago, my answer was no. I couldn’t.  My kids were little. My husband works third shift and it wouldn’t have been safe to leave them home alone in the early morning hours.  Now, they are a bit older.  A bit wiser. A bit busier. This resolution fits with my life season.

The other thing I have to consider before adding something to my life is making a serious consideration of what I need to take away. My burden might be someone else’s blessing.  What doesn’t fit into the perimeters of your life any longer?  Let go so someone else can grab on.

Count your wins

Counting your wins, no matter how small they be, is a guaranteed way to track progress. Even though I hadn’t counted on adopting a cat at dark thirty Monday morning, I still got her settled, made it to the gym, shortened my workout schedule and went on with my day.  Did I win? Yes. Because I went.  Going was the goal.

What will your wins look like?

Don’t stop

When I started running, my husband said, “If you keep putting one foot in front of the other, you won’t stop.” Keep stepping and soon your resolution will graduate to a habit. And on the days you don’t feel like stepping, step anyway.  Those days are the most important to progress.

Redeeming resolutions is a simple as making the decision to start small.  One little change today. One little change tomorrow.  One big goal met a bit more down the road. Celebrate your wins.  Don’t stop stepping.

The slogan “press on” has always solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

Calvin Coolidge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you trust me?

“You don’t trust me.”

Exhausted, I sit clasping the bread and the cup surrounded by people but feeling empty and alone.

“God, you’re right. I don’t. Help me trust you.”

This has been a long week.

After a few days fighting with a flu bug, my youngest Madi was hospitalized for dehydration.  It was only supposed to be 24 hours.  Compiled with a shortened work week, I was already on sick day number two of a three-day week.

But my kids will always come first.

Yet, as Thanksgiving morning dawned, two days later, her condition worsened.  She just couldn’t get over the hump. Each day I prayed for healing and each day the prayer seemed to fall on deaf ears.

Madi Hosp

It’s in these moments I realize I don’t really hold control.

And it really bugs me.

Suddenly, it’s not about me anymore.

This was the place in my heart God was speaking to.

You see, he had to remove me from the throne of my life so he could take his rightful place.

In a year of big growth, change and opportunity, God had to remind me he was still in charge.  I could whine and mope about how uncomfortable I was, but in reality, it was a thankless attitude. And now, it’s time to rebuild.

So, it’s been a couple of months since you have heard from me.  Here’s a quick update.

Madi released from the hospital the Friday after Thanksgiving. Eight straight days of vomit. If you know me well, you know this is my personal hell. I hate puke. Hate it.

Her condition amounted to nothing more than constipation. What cannot go down, goes up.

True story.

Seriously.  I’m not kidding. My kid was full of poop.

But we knew that already.

Four days later, the washer broke and by December 10th, my kids were certain we weren’t going to have a Christmas tree.

I mean, I didn’t have anywhere to put it.  We had laundry everywhere. I guess we could have strung some lights around the piles of laundry.

(insert sigh)

It was the very moment I stopped fighting for things to go my way and surrendered to the mess that God met me.

He infused me with peace.

He showed me where to start.

He provided resource.

He sent people.

He provided opportunity for service.

What started as a very complicated season turned into the simplest, most wonderful Christmas we’ve had in quite some time.

I’m continuing to learn contentment in wins both small and large.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about that with you as the month goes on.

So, if you’ve made it this far- Thank you.  I know it’s a little rusty but I promise to keep polishing as we go. Today, it was just important to start getting thoughts down on paper once more.

It’s my win for the day 🙂

 

 

 

I gave you my old ugly heart. You returned it restored and new.

“Lord, it’s a mess.  You can’t possibly want it.”

I am standing in a crowded auditorium.  A prevailing churches conference.  A room full of ministry leaders.  Movers and shakers for the kingdom.

Do you ever just feel like you don’t quite belong?

Chris Tomlin is leading worship.  I mean, how cool is that?

The last two days, we have been poured into by names like Bill Hybels and David Ortberg.  I’m singing and connecting with God in an experience that is a bit out of my ordinary world.  I am compelled to lift my hands in worship.  And then, it happens.

I can feel the tangible touch of God on my hands.  He is silently telling me, “Return to me.”

You see, God knows that my outsides look pretty good, but my insides are another story all together.  I haven’t let him in yet.  I have been volunteering in kids ministry and learning things about his word that I have never heard while washing down tables and leading kids to their assigned classrooms.  But I haven’t let his word resonate yet.  I know he means it for them.  I just can’t believe it for me.

I want kingdom opportunities and when I see another succeeding, I don’t see that they are succeeding for God.  I just see that they are farther ahead in the race and I am bitten by a little green bug of jealousy. I long to be the center of attention.  There is an emptiness inside of me that demands it.  I just want my chance to prove that I, too, am worthwhile.

But in this moment, God is not asking me to prove anything.

He is just asking me to return to him.

So I did.

In those following weeks, I recommitted my life to God.  In my mind, I had always been a believer.  I was baptized as a baby.  I knew he was there.  But, I made the choice to be water baptized as an adult, not because I believe it will take me into the gates of heaven, but instead, to show outwardly what was happening to me inwardly. God was washing away the old and ugly to reveal something new & beautiful.

I immersed myself in his word daily.

I learned to pray in alignment with God’s will.  Not about my wish and want list, but about his purpose and balance for who he created me to be.

I connected to others through small group bible study.

One day, I was sitting in church observing a woman I greatly admired.  Her ministry was in the spotlight.  A strange, unfamiliar feeling came over me.  It was joy!  I was genuinely happy for the success she was bringing to the kingdom as a result of her work and effort.

I’ll admit that I was surprised by this new emotion.

I basked in it for a moment.  It was like trying on a pair of jeans that fit just right.  No way I was leaving it behind.  This is what a clean heart feels like.

To be totally honest with you, I’m still under construction.  This transformation of my heart will never be perfect this side of heaven.  I will always need to be wary of traps like comparison and inadequacy. But now I know how to fight back. I know how to keep my feet from slipping into bondage and brokenness.

Immerse myself, daily, in God’s word.

Pray often.

Stay connected to other believers for encouragement and motivation.

Do the work he has given me.  Own my share of the kingdom plan.

Through it all, lean into him and trust that he is hard at work in my heart and my life.

Know that each day is filled with new mercy.  I am, after all, human.

 

“Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Renew a right spirit within me.”

 

The fall of pride. A review of motives. A lesson in humility.

I stood at the altar clutching my fleece creation as I finished my call for volunteers.  I had a great project in mind and I was in need of some extra hands  to pull it off.

I met eyes with the head of personnel as I turned to exit the stage and nodded a brief hello.  Which is the exact last thing I remember before hearing a collective “OH!”, as I tumbled from the edge of the altar and on to my hands and knees.

No stairs required.

I did a quick pain check and prayed a quick prayer that God would maybe just take me away from the moment.  A little vanishing act to finish the show would certainly be appropriate.  To no avail, I stood to my feet. I looked back to the congregation with a brief wave acknowledging I was okay and immediately left the room in a rush to get back to my office.  No harm.  No foul.

A lesson in humility learned in front of an audience of about 100 people.

No biggie.

Except it was.  Because when you fall off the altar in front of the entire church, everyone wants to follow up and make sure you’re okay.  It was like reliving the fall over and over again which was a hard pill to swallow.

Because in this season of ministry, it was all about me.

How can I make a name for myself?

How can I turn heads? 

How can I win more people to my cause?

It didn’t take me long to acknowledge my error.  Let’s say this moment was the beginning of the end.  It was in the weeks and months to follow that I realized that the purpose of ministry is to point people to Jesus.  Not to me.

I told myself I was pointing people to Jesus but that was a lie.

The truth is that it fed my ego when people acknowledged me and the success we were having in our children’s ministry and my motive for taking the director position was not exactly pure.  It was a chance to make a name for myself and prove that I was not the screw up that I believed myself to be.

God did a powerful work in my life in that season.  The most powerful work occurred in his silence.  At times when I desperately needed to hear his voice for wisdom and direction, he was quiet.  He was with me, but he just didn’t have much to say.  There were many moments when I had to stand on my own against popular opinion.  There were moments when people I respected shut me out.

Yet even in silence, God is still good.

It was in those moments I knew I was running the ministry God gave me in the exact way he was calling me to run it. I wasn’t doing it for me anymore. It was all for him.  And regardless of the noise happening around me, I was at peace.

At the end of that season, I left the ministry he gave me and started a new chapter in my life.  A new church.  It was a while before I got involved in a new ministry.  This time, I wanted my service to be different.  I wanted my service to be for him.  So I waited.  Nearly two years I waited.  At some points, I felt that maybe I had burned my bridges, so to speak.  I had my chance.  No more doors would be opening for me.

The thing about God is that he is not finished with me. Even now.

 In that time of waiting, I have rebalanced my priorities.  I have prayed.  I have reconnected with him. Even though I’m still under construction, he is starting to open doors for me once more.  Not only for me, but for my family as well.

I am done forcing open doors and windows of opportunities for service.  When ministry starts to feel like a burden, I do a heart check.

Is this really where I am supposed to serve or am I blocking someone else’s opportunity to serve joyfully? 

Does my choice to serve in this capacity offer an opportunity to point people to God? 

 Is this just an opportunity to make a name for me?

Each day I wake up and ask for ways to serve the Lord.  I am grateful for every opportunity he gives me, even when I receive no earthly recognition for my efforts. I ask God for a heart of contentment in knowing that I am his fragrance here on earth.  The girl longing for recognition still lives inside of me.  But with prayer and intentional surrender, God helps me to keep my focus where it belongs.

On Him.

Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin. As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.
1 Peter 4: 1-2

Who do I stand for?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Christians and their beliefs are seriously under attack.  There is a serious disconnect between Christian and culture right now.  Everyone has a verse they can pull out to defend their platform.  Everyone.  Even Christians.  Christians use the bible to live in the comfort seat of judgement while culture uses God’s word to point to hypocrisy that is alive and well within the church.

How can we make this stop?

I think the key is to stop telling culture what we stand against.  Instead, I think it is high time to tell them who we are standing for.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3: 15

My story and experiences are different than yours.  My Christian walk is as unique as my D.N.A.  I am challenged by the Apostle Peter to know my story.  To be ready to give an account to the hope that I have-gently & respectfull. Here is an account of who Jesus is to me. Mind if I practice?

My Jesus is the son of God.  He was born a meager birth to a teenage mom in a stable.  He was raised in a blended working class family.  He was perfect.  Perfect.  He sat with teachers at the temple and at the beginning of his ministry, he spent 40 days enduring temptation in the wilderness.  He led a rag tag group of disciples.  He ate with prostitutes, adulterers, tax collectors and sinners.  He taught multitudes of people.  He was hated among religious leaders but sought after by the sick, the broken and the hopeless.

He was betrayed by one of his own.  Beaten, mocked and crucified in the worst imaginable way. A perfect man slain with a sinners death.  He was placed in a borrowed tomb.  Borrowed, because, he would not be staying for long.  After three days, he conquered death and rose again.  He revealed his resurrected body to his disciples and left them with further instruction to build the church. Their foundation? Not  bricks and mortar, but upon the mighty spirit of God. He left them with a promise to return.  In the meantime, our purpose to go out and proclaim his name while gathering his people in preparation to go home with him.

 Why?

Simply because I couldn’t pay the ransom for my life on my own.  There is nothing I can do to attain the perfection required to live in relationship with God.  He knows that.  So, he sent his only son to die for my sin.  What is sin? Simply every way I fall short of perfection.

He died for me while I was still a sinner.  There was nothing I physically had to do.  I simply admitted my need for him to fill my gaps. Believe that he died on the cross and defeated death to pay the ransom for my life.

In return, I receive his grace and mercy.  Think about this.  I serve a god who will hold an aborted baby cradled in one arm while holding the mother with his other.   Restoring her.  Healing her. Granting her opportunity for a second chance.  There is no sin too deep.  No life to messy.  His blood can make all things new.

I receive relationship with my savior.  The power of his Holy Spirit living within me.  Working on me from the inside out.  Smoothing out the rough spots.  Shining light into the darkest places of my heart.  Advocating on my behalf when I don’t even know what to say.  Perfect power in my weakness.

I receive a family of believers.  A rag tag group of people just trying to honor God.  Sometimes, we mess up.  A lot of times, we mess up.  His grace never runs out.  It is not a license to sin.  Not one bit.  It’s a bit like raising a toddler.  They are learning and growing.  Trying to find their way.  Sometimes gracefully.  A lot of times kicking and screaming.  However, regardless of behavior, they always know they have a loving parent they can fall back on.  One who draws them in with unconditional love.

I receive inheritance in the kingdom of heaven.  Unmerited and undeserved.  A place in his kingdom.  A place at his table.  Eternal life. I always knew I was a princess!

What if, instead of telling others what we are against, what if we told them who we are standing for?

What would happen then?

  How would our world change?

Could be bridge the disconnect between Christian and culture?

#TeamMom: I feel unqualified

7:56am

“Lucas, have you found that shoe yet?” “No mom.  I swear, Madi was messing with it last night! She knows where it is.”  He’s probably not wrong.  I don’t recall tripping over it in the bathroom this morning.  “Madi, if you hid your brother’s shoe, you need to return it.  Now!  We need to leave ten minutes ago.”  “Mom”, Madi replies in her matter of fact tone, “I did not hide Lucas’ shoe.  BUT.  I can make it reappear.” OH.MY.STARS!!! “By all means, please, make it reappear.” I reply. My budding magician leads her captivated audience to her bedroom closet.  “Ta Da!”, she announces as she whips open her closet door and proudly waves the prodigal shoe. 10.9.8…Doh! “Lucas, you’re gonna have to put that on in the car. Let’s Roll!” I gather my belongings and head to the car.  As I stick my key in the ignition, I wonder if I am cut out for this gig they call motherhood. If I’m being honest with you, I really want to wave my white flag.

The responsibility of mothering my children well presses in on me. More often than not, I miss the mark when It comes to raising my kids. Some days, I just want to run away.  Not forever.  Just until I can pull my own stuff together so I can effectively manage theirs.  No teen drama.  No missing shoes.  No Fancy Nancy.

When I share my shortcomings with my mom friends, I quickly realize that I am not alone.  Every mom I know has “stuff”. Every mom I know feels the pressure of getting it right.  If she tells you otherwise, dare I suggest she is lying?  Deep down, I think we all worry about whether or not we are screwing up our kids.

Motherhood, and all of her chaos, is a role given to us by God.  Which means it falls under the safety umbrella of qualification. God does not call the qualified.  In this regard, that makes sense.  Imagine if God called only qualified moms to produce future heirs for this earth.  They would tell him to go fly a kite, grab their bag of mini twix and head to the nearest hammock with their kindle.  Been there.  Done that.  Have the pla-dough stomach to prove it. 

Instead, he qualifies the called.  On the job training.  Or, trial by fire.  However you choose to look at it.  In addition, he gives us a community of moms to call upon for encouragement.  Mom’s who have gone before us and gently remind us to cherish every moment we have with our kids. Mom’s who are walking along side of us. Mom’s who will follow in our footsteps of motherhood. 

When we feel alone and unqualified, it’s time to reach out to a community of moms who feel the exact same way.  There is no room for judgement here.  Only love.

When  we see the mom juggling her cart and her screaming toddler, throw her a fist bump and remind her that this too shall pass.  Remind her that her calling as the mother of her kids is not a mistake.  She has exactly what is needed to be the mom her kids need and deserve.

  When you encounter the mom of a teen, give her a hug.  She likely needs it.  She is torn between loving her child for every bittersweet moment she has left and completely understanding why other species eat their young.

The empty nest mom? What a bank of wisdom we can draw upon. She is not as out of touch as we would like to believe.  Might be that she has lived through some moments that look a little like our reality today.

Lets stop using comparison as an opportunity for judgement. Lets stop focusing on our shortcomings and weakness. Instead, let us come together as #TeamMom, gently lifting each other up.  Affirm each other. Remind each other that our past failure does not dictate our future success. That God qualifies the called for the roles he gives to us as moms.  Then, give her a twix, a hug and a pat on the back as she heads back into this gig we call motherhood.

Redirection

Two weeks ago, Madi came home with a negative hearing test from school.  After two failed hearing attempts at school, we had to pursue a formal hearing screening.  As we settled into the sound proof booth, the “games” began.  Madi was to put a block next to her cheek and drop it in the bucket when she heard the ding in her ear.  We did well- at first.  But, as time progressed, she became more intrigued with the blocks than the test.  I knew the moment I lost her.  I handed her a long circular block.  She held it next to her cheek.  A second later, the block was Madi’s new mustache.  Hearing test?  Forgotten!  The Audiologist redirected her attention to the test.  A few minutes later, also during the test, Madi struck up a conversation about what was on the block, again, paying no mind to the fact that she was supposed to be “listening” for beeps.  Long story short, with a little redirection, she passed her hearing test.  But, what sticks with me was how the testing would have come out had she not been redirected.  When she was paying attention to what she was supposed to be doing, she had exceptional hearing.  However, when she was doing her own thing, her hearing health fell way below the line.  She was deaf to everything but her own purpose in that that moment.

Hearing Aids:
Yesterday, I was reading the account of Haggai the prophet, and this verse struck my attention regarding another group of people needing redirection.

“Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet, saying, “Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?  Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways!”  “You have sown much, but bring in little; You eat, but do not have enough; You drink, but are not filled with drink; You clothe yourselves, but are not warm; Ane he who earns wages, Earns wages to put in a bag filled with holes.”

Thus says the Lord of hosts; “Consider your ways!  Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified”, says the Lord.  You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away.  Why?” says the Lord of hosts.  “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.”         Haggai 1: 3-9

Haggai brought this message to the people of Judah and Jerusalem after they began the work of rebuilding the temple but soon became discouraged with the mission God gave to them.   They stopped building when the going got tough.  They made excuses.  The reasoned that the temple they would create would never be as marvelous or beautiful as what Solomon had.  So they lost focus.  They attended to themselves and they were spinning their wheels.  All of their work ended in ruin.  They were financially and spiritually devastated personally and as a nation.  Why?  Because they simply needed a little redirection.

“…and be strong all you people of the land, ‘ says the Lord , ‘and work: for I am with you” , says the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:4)  The story of the people of Judah and Jerusalem caused me to stop and take note.  Am I doing the work I am supposed to be doing?  Or and I simply working for my own purpose and pleasure?  I don’t wish to spend the majority of my time spinning my wheels.   My prayer, this week, is for redirection and restoration from a God who longs for His temple to be built to its full glory in my life.

Will the Real Slim Shady PUH-LEEZE stand up?

I am a closet rap fan.  Okay, so I’m not in the closet anymore.  There is something about Bass that sets things right in my world.  It’s quite possible that this love stems from being rocked to sleep by it in student housing as a baby.  When the song in my title, produced by Eminem, debuted, I recall an interview he did with one of the major morning shows.  The talking heads asked him,” What is the meaning of your song?”  To this he replied that we all have two egos that live within us.  We have one side that we want the world to see.  The good, loving, wonderful side.  But we also have a “Slim Shady” that lives within us.  This is the ego that causes us to flip someone off in a fit of road rage. (His words, not mine!)  I remember his words resonating with me.  I can completely relate.  NO!  I have not flipped anyone off in traffic, but I do have a two year old that lives inside of me when things don’t go exactly my way.  Turns out, I’m not the only one.  Take note from Paul in Romans 7: 18-20:

“And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  I want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I want to do what is good, but I don’t.  I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.  But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one who is doing wrong; it is the sin living in me that does it.”

As “good” Christians (this IS an oxymoron), we tend to believe that we are born as “good” people.  In reality, the bible says there is no such thing!  In original creation, we are born to the “flesh”.  This not only means our skin, but more importantly, human nature!  This is the earthly nature of a man apart from divine influence, therefore, prone to sin and opposed to God.  So God decided we needed some training wheels.  He sent Moses to the mountain and created “The Law”.  Believers of God were so excited about “The Law” they forgot God’s promise of a Savior.  Many still believe, to this day, that through their own “good” actions, they can get to heaven.   But, the bible say’s we have to be born again, to the spirit;  The disposition, or influence that fills and governs the soul of anyone.  In my mind, I know God sent his son to the cross to die for my sins.  I fully accept that I cannot get to Heaven on my own.  But my dilemma comes in when I try to live up to “The Law” and transform myself into who I think God wants me to be.   This was not God’s design, at all!  In Galatians 3:3b, Paul reminds us, “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Okay, so when you say it out loud, it sounds scary!

I leave with this thought.  When my “Slim Shady” is trying to come out to play, I will remember that I am “under construction.”  If God had made himself perfect in me, I would be blogging from Heaven.   God produces good  fruit: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control.  If the fruit I produce is anything other than these character traits, I am commiting Galatians 5:24-25 to heart:

“For those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed their passions & desires of their sinful nature to the cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the spirit, let us follow the Spirits leading in every part of our lives.”