Let’s talk about all those repeating New Year’s resolutions. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Every year I get to the New Year, excited to make a new start and then look at the list from last year and just sigh. So many of the things I put on my list remain undone.
It’s really important to take an honest look at this whole New Year’s resolution thing. For some of us it’s exciting and we’re just thrilled and motivated to have a new blank sheet of paper or a new blank calendar so we can try again with a clean slate. But some of us lean into discouragement, and we’re like “Ugh, I don’t want to do that again, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed, I failed.”
Before we go any further, I just want to affirm one thing: all of us are failures.
All of us have put things on our New Year’s resolutions that we haven’t gotten done. Anyone who tells you that they got all of it done exactly how they wanted is really not being honest. I have never known anyone who got done everything they wanted to do.
So I think we need to give each other a really big hug and embrace the fact that we’re all not getting it all done.
That’s not the point
Writing all. the. things. on a New Year’s resolution list just to go and do them all is REALLY not the point. Instead I want to suggest to you, and I really want to encourage you today that the point, of doing the New Year’s resolutions is to set a focus so that we can aim at something.
I happen to travel a fair amount, God offers me different opportunities to speak across the country or around the world and I have children and extended family that are pretty scattered across the country so I get to go visit. When I get on an airplane, I know that pilot has a a flight plan. I know he is going to follow that plan to deliver me from point A to point B. You can rest assured that I would not get on a plane with a pilot that’s just going to go for a fly that day and was hoping that I would come along for the ride… No. I wouldn’t do that, I want to get on a plane with a pilot that not only knows where he’s going, but has a plan to arrive there.
Like a pilot, I realize that in life it’s important to have that plan, and to be headed in a direction.
The primary direction that we should be headed in is to honor God in all that we say and do.
We need to make sure that we’re focusing on Him. And it would behoove us to plan a few steps along the way that will help us achieve this.
I want you to realize that I’m not coming at this as someone who does it perfectly AT ALL. I’m not coming at this as someone who accomplishes it all, in fact some years are much better than others. Some years, I can look at my list and think “Wow, I’ve really gotten a lot done” and other years I look at the list and go “I didn’t do any of that” and the reasons I don’t get them done are the same reasons you don’t get them done.
Sometimes life interrupts the best laid plans, or we get distracted and allow other things to come in and shift our focus. But in either instance I want to encourage you to not take those momentary failures as an excuse not to sit and make your list of New Year’s resolutions. Instead, I want you to take a fresh approach.
This year, prayerfully seek God as you lay out what you will focus on.
I thought this list from Neilson was interesting and I want to share it because I think you’ll probably relate to these top ten resolutions for New Year’s.
- Stay fit and be healthy
Most everyone wants to put something like this on their New Year’s resolutions. We want to do better than last year. I find it funny that we write New Year’s resolutions right after the holidays and get tempted by all of those sweets that are still hanging around the house. Of course I’m going to put eat healthy on the top of my list! For the last month I have not been doing that. So that’s at the top of 30% of people’s New Year’s resolutions lists.
- Lose weight
Of course we want to look better and stay fit and trim. But I would suggest that it’s not always the physical weight we need to lose, but the stuff of life, I think we all have those responsibilities that we’ve taken on that God would not ordain but we went ahead of him and took it on anyway. Or maybe it’s the stuff that clutters our minds and our houses that’s the weight that we need to lose this year. Take an honest look at your own life, is there something you need to shed?
- Enjoy life to the fullest
This one really resonated with me even though I had already written my New Year’s resolutions for this year. Because so many of us, myself included, get caught up in the doing, that we miss simply being and enjoying those moments that God puts out in front of us every day.
- Spend less, save more
I would have added at the side of this one to Give more. Not just financially, but give more of ourselves to the people around us and not give as much to the computer or our digital lives.
- Spend more time with family and friends
Oh how I would encourage you to do this. This is actually one of the things that I want to do more. This year I have resolved to spend more actual face time with my people. I really hope that in this new year that you and I will take time to be with real people in real time including our husband, children, and friends.
- Get organized
Well my good friend Kristi Clover can help you with this one because this is not my forte. I really do strive to be more organized and file more, my file pile is about 3 inches tall and I’m hoping to get it down to nothing. We can do this!
- Learn something new or have a new hobby
This year I have resolved that I want to become more in touch with my artistic side. I have a son that’s in art school and I just love what he is able to create and I have another one who’s an artist and my daughters write beautifully and I just really want to take time to slow down to take some time to step away from the computer screen and be a little more artistic this year.
- Travel more
I just want to enjoy staying and being around town here in Charlotte. I travel a lot to the airport and I love to be home but we’re actually going to be doing some fun things in our area this year and I’m really looking forward to that.
- Read more
If you’ve been around here for a while you know I am passionate about reading. I recently read some statistics on the amount of people that read and I was actually really disappointed that so very few people actually read after they graduate high school and even less after they graduate from college. That’s so sad to me to know that so few of us are growing our minds by reading. I’m working on a post to share soon that’s my reading list for this year and I really want to encourage you to be growing your mind through reading. One of the books on my list is Love God with All Your Mind by J.P Morlin. He advocates the importance of Christians to be reading across the disciplines to become better people and better advocates for the faith.
There’s more to it
That was a great look at the popular resolutions, and there are really are some important things on that list. But I want to challenge you to take it a little further. I have another list for you.
I want to encourage you to dare to dream.
Sometimes resolutions feel like just a dream that we dare to put on a list. But really, that’s exactly what a resolution is.
What could we dare to dream what we could accomplish by the end of this year with the strength of God.
“The world is yet to see what God can do with a man or a woman fully consecrated to him.” – D.L. Moody
That takes dreaming, friends! What has the Lord put on your mind this year? To change, or to be, or to start. Spend some time listening for a word or two from Him in this area of resolutions.
I also want you to dare to attempt.
It’s really easy for us to want our kids to do great things for God. But mom, what about you? What amazing things are you going to attempt?
For my fiftieth birthday this last October I actually went and jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. And while that’s not for everybody, one of the reasons that I did it is that I want to do hard and daring things so that I can continue to inspire and motivate my children to do hard and challenging things.
We need to attempt because it’s in the attempting and in the dreaming is where we find that we’re daring to fail.
There’s a really great movie called “Meet the Robinsons”, it’s a very unique view on how a family deals with failure. Believe it or not, in this movie the family actually celebrated failure. If we’re going to dare to dream this year and if we’re going to risk and attempt we’re probably going to fail, and how we model failure to our children is going to be really important.
I think often we start cutting back on the things that we want to risk, but I really believe that we have an amazing opportunity to continue to risk, to attempt, to dream, and yes fail. And in all of that, we have the blessed opportunity to navigate failure in a beautiful, God honoring way.
I want to dare you to grow.
Grow in the spiritual roots that are laid out Galatians five. Dare to grow in the fruits of the Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness and Self Control. Look at that list! Where are your strengths where are your weaknesses? Would you dare with me this year to grow your weaknesses and your strengths?
I know all this talk of lists and change and growing and daring can be overwhelming. But trust me friends, it’s not meant to be.
Scripture is heavily laden with pointing us to living intentionally.
“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who believe in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
If you are feeling down and discouraged and even under condemnation from the enemy because of your past failures, scripture clearly says that is not of God. Rather, His grace is sufficient in our weakness. You are free.
It’s hard for me, a recovering perfectionist, to admit that I didn’t get it all done last year. But by the strength of God alone I can face 2017 and write some of the same things I wrote last year and go forward with the strength that comes from God alone. that is what he calls us to.
“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid, do not be dismayed” Joshua 1:4
Go forward in God’s strength and look forward to what He’s going to do through you as you submit to Him and live intentionally.
Write it down one more time, and let’s trust Him to work through the list this year.
It Doesn’t Matter What Everyone Else Is Doing
The fashion industry depends on it, as do many magazines and talk shows. Certainly ‘reality’ television needs it. I’m talking about voyeurism. Watching how other people live and wanting to live just like them.
The right jeans.
The right car.
The right hair style.
The right house.
The right job.
The right glasses, dinner entre’, and exercise class. All these luxuries are predicated on what everyone else is doing.
Arguably it was the worst in junior high. I mean the worst. We all wanted desperately to just blend in with each other. No one wanted to stand out. Standing out was bad, even scary. Whatever was vogue or cool or hip—that’s what we wanted. We wanted to be accepted, liked, and included. We wanted to prove who we were even though we didn’t really know yet. And we hoped no one noticed.
There is only one person you and I are called to be like. Only one—no one else. In fact, the ultimate goal of the life we have here is to be conformed to His image. To take up His cross and follow Him, to reflect His glory, testify to His goodness, to point others to Him. We are charged with walking in the Light and abiding in Him. To transform our minds, not grow weary in doing good, to stand firm, and be on guard.
It really doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing.
It doesn’t matter even as our culture continues to shift away from God and more toward the individual. Culture encourages selfishness. It advocates for relative truth. Today we see individually defined and lived out loud. It rejects God’s ways and commands, refusing to see them as loving and kind.
Everyone else’s behavior isn’t supposed to set the bar for our standards. God does. And His bar is higher. It’s the cross bar of Calvary. The cross bar of Calvary says come, follow Me, learn of Me, rest in Me, trust Me. The cross bar of Calvary demands sacrificial love, sacrificial living, sacrificial service. The cross bar of Calvary challenges us with these thought: What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his own soul, and the first shall be last.
Humility is the way.
Serving is the way.
Honoring is the way.
Dying is the way.
Jesus told us that the world hated Me and it will hate you, too. We don’t like that part. We like the parts of the Gospel where people were healed, the blind see, the deaf hear, and the lame walk. We like lepers being restored. We like sins forgiven. But the part about taking us the cross, about washing others feet, about humbling ourselves—oh, and the part about being hated—we skip over that part.
But that part is what it’s all about. We are here to live a life that matters. Living a life of obedience. Fixing our eyes on Jesus and keeping a hope of heaven. We are live in such a way that our example points other people to Him. We are here as aliens and ambassadors. This world is not our home. We were made for more than this. This is just the preparation for Heaven with Him. Eternal life with Christ and God the Father is what we are made for, perfect fellowship that will last forever.
We keep trying to fit in with the world around us instead of allowing Him to fit us for service above. Fitting in shouldn’t be our goal. As daughters of the king we should stand out. Not obtrusively. Not obnoxiously. Not in a rude or gaudy way. We should stand out because we are standing on His promises. As we live, we are to let our light shine wherever we go because we are children of the Light.
It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing, but rather what He doing through me and in the lives of everyone else around me.
That is what matters!
Now Is Not The Time
“God’s timing is perfect.”
People tell us that when we are exhausted from waiting. They tell us when we don’t think we can take another step or when we feel like giving up all together. When it feels like the trial or the discipline will never end. When our prodigal still hasn’t returned. When a job is allusive, disease is overwhelming.
The God of the universe Who exists outside of time, interjected Himself into time on time. He wasn’t early. He wasn’t late. He was right on time. Jesus, born of a virgin, in a ‘stable-esk’ setting, to young, weary parents, was right on time.
In Psalms 90:4 and II Peter 3:8 we are told that God is unhindered by time. God is timeless. He doesn’t work on a clock. He’s not running out of time. He doesn’t miss appointments. He is never late. He is only, ever on time, every time.
Our aggravation with time, feeling like there is not enough, like the clock is working against us, like it’s our enemy, is the reality of being created. God’s creation. He set the clock when He put the sun, moon and stars into motion. He set the week with the days of creation, complete with the institution of rest.
And our time is limited. We don’t have forever here. We have forever there, somewhere and for eternity. Only two options: Heaven or Hell. Both are real. Both last forever. One is with God. One without Him. Endless fellowship or endless aloneness. Ultimate Joy or ultimate grief.
God’s word, the Bible recounts instance after instance of His perfect timing. Never early, never late. To the characters in the Bible and to us, He regularly seems like both. We often accuse Him of being late, of being unaware of the time-our time. But He’s not working on our time. He’s working outside of it.
Hannah thought that God wasn’t listening. It’s common for us to think He cannot hear us when He doesn’t answer our prayers, not at least in the way we wanted Him to answer them. We blame Him for being deaf. Or we blame Him for not caring. Or we blame Him for being unable or unwilling.
According to our clocks He’s late. According to our schedule He missed an appointment. According to our alarm He forgot. Nope, not true.
What is true is that He is working on different time table. God is working on a grander scale than we can imagine. He is listening. He is aware. He is busy. Matthew writes that Jesus told His followers that He was going to prepare a place for us. We can know that since His return to the Father’s right hand, He has been busy preparing a place for us with Him where we will join Him outside of time.
That is one aspect of eternity that we don’t often discuss. Here in time the tick-tock, tick-tock enslaves us. It is a cruel master. There never seems to be enough tick-tock for all the laughter, for the rest, for the relaxation. And way too much tick-tock for the waiting and the wrestling. Way too much for the struggles and stress, for the separation, loss and hurt. Way too much. Tick-tock. Time races when things are good. And it stands still, doesn’t move, when the hard times come. Tick-tock echoes.
The Psalmist felt this. “How long, Oh Lord?” David wrote. How long indeed? The moments here sometime feel like forever. Forever since we didn’t hurt. Forever since we didn’t miss. Forever since we weren’t alone or tired or afraid. Forever. “How long?” our hearts cry out. How long?
We are introduced to Hannah in I Samuel. We are introduced to a woman longing for a child. Longing. Tick-tock, time marches. Tick-tock. No child. Tick-tock. No child. Tick-tock. No child. At the doorpost of the temple, she laid it all out. She wept bitterly. I Samuel 1:11:
11 “She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.”
His timing humbles us. His timing draws us. His timing molds us. Hannah was humbled by her circumstances. She needed God. Hannah was drawn to God, knowing He alone was able. She desired God. Hannah was molded by God, changed; she no longer wanted a son for herself, but for God. She loved God.
God’s perfect timing had a purpose: to glorify Himself and to grow Hannah. Her desperate waiting killed her selfish desires. It focused her on God. It taught her that her son wasn’t hers, but God’s. It gave her purpose as a mother: to raise a son to give back to God. Hannah knew that Samuel wasn’t hers. God’s timing and Hannah’s waiting. His perfect timing and her humble waiting.
I’m betting that like me there’s something you’re waiting on. Reconciliation. Forgiveness. Healing. Employment. Rest. Maybe you’re waiting for a friend, a house or a test result. You may be waiting for an answer to a question or a problem that’s years old. You might feel like your drifting without a direction or maybe you are in a storm so intense that you don’t know which way is up.
You cry out. You shed tears or maybe you’ve run out waiting. Know this: When your Heavenly Father whispers, “Now is not the time,” it isn’t because He doesn’t care. It isn’t because He is unaware of your pain, your heartache, your brokenness. And it’s not because He’s late, unaware of the time. His ‘now is not the time’ is perfect time. It’s an invitation to lean further into Him. An opportunity to trust more, to stop trying to hold it all together and just rest in Him.
Allow your Father to hold you. You with all your tears and questions. With all of your frustrations and even your anger. Let it all out in His lap. Know that He is big enough. He is strong enough. He is faithful. He is good. Know that He is outside of time, but aware of ours. He is never late. Never. Rest in His perfect timing. He’s got it.
I Remember the Day You were Born
Balloons. Cake. Candles. Presents. Decorations. Smiles and songs. Family and friends. And pictures—lots of pictures.
Celebrating a birthday brings back memories of the day someone came into the world. As a mom, all of the details come rushing back. The nursery. The shower. Choosing their name. Packing the hospital bag. The doctor’s visits (or the midwife). The predictions. The kicks, the hiccups, the nausea, the nesting.
I’m grateful that the memories of the labor pains really do fade with time—at least until it’s time to do it again. The emotional rush of the birth is exhilarating and exhausting at the same time. Smiling with tears dripping off my chin was standard.
Have you ever considered how God responded to your birth? Have you ever thought about His lordship over it? Ever think about it as part of His sovereign plan? Ever picture Him smiling with tears dripping off His chin?
Psalms 139 gives us insight. In the first twelve verses David acknowledges God’s omnipresence and omniscience. Those are just two big words that mean that God is everywhere and knows everything. Clearly these are words of both assurance and encouragement. David writes, “You have searched me and know me.” Pause just a minute. God knows you. He knows me.
Continuing, David states that not only does God know, He also understands, scrutinizes, and is intimately acquainted with all our ways. “You know it all, You have enclosed me behind and before.” Then, God “laid His hand upon me.” Then further on the writer asks, “Where can I go from Your Spirit?” Here again David is emphasizing God’s omnipresence and omniscience.
God cares about your birthday. And He cares about mine. He was there. As the psalmist writes, “You knit me together in my mother’s womb; I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
Here are some Bible birth stories worth thinking about. What about Cain? After all, he was the first child born. Adam and Eve had no reference point, no What to Expect When Your Expecting books, no parties and yet, what a moment. Read little further on. What about the day that Isaac was born to a 90-year old Mom and a 100-year old Dad? Sarah and Abraham with smiles and tears dripping down their chins. Think for a moment about the day Rachel finally gave birth to her long-awaited son—Joseph. Similarly, think of Hannah when Samuel arrived after Eli promised that her prayer would be answered. Smiles and tears.
In the book of Ruth, Boaz accepted his role as kinsman-redeemer. Through their marriage, Obed was born. That was accompanied by great celebration! Obed became the father of Jessie who became the father of David. David was the youngest with six brothers and two sisters. His family already had a calendar full of birthdays! What about the child born to David and Bathsheba as a result of his adultery with her and murder of her husband? What heartbreak. Then came Solomon. Bitter sweet. Still, smiles and tears dripping.
Move forward now into the New Testament. Of course it begins with the birth of John the Baptist. After years of infertility, God chose Elizabeth and Zacharias to be the parents of the forerunner to Christ. John’s birth was greatly celebrated by his parents and community. Not long after the miracle of John’s birth, Mary and Joseph were alone and far from home when they welcomed Jesus, the Christ, and held Him for the first time. Smiles and tears had to be dripping off their chins. I wonder if the same thing was happening with God the Father’s too.
These are all physical births. And while God is present at each one, there’s another birth that He also attends. Spiritual birth. Nicodemus came to visit Jesus, at night. As a Pharisee he had some questions for Jesus. The whole issue of these two births (physical and spiritual) fueled their discussion. Jesus explained the importance of being “born again.” The idea thoroughly confused Nicodemus. All he could think about was the physical, but Jesus was talking about the most important birth—the spiritual one.
Jesus goes on to explain. This is the context of the best-known Bible verse found in John 3:16. The verse contains the words of Jesus laying out the Father’s plan and His role. God’s plan: send His Son as the Savior of the world. The Father knew that only a perfect sacrifice could pay the debt required by the sin of the world. Jesus’ sacrifice extended grace to all who would believe in Him and trust that His death was payment for their sins. Placing personal faith in Jesus signifies spiritual birth.
Do you remember yours? Do you remember the day you decided to place your faith and trust in Jesus as your Lord and Savior? What was it like? What promises did you make? What assurances?
Now let’s consider one primary biblical example: Saul (aka Paul). Saul was born into a family of prominence. Intelligent and passionate, he trained and excelled in the Law and the Prophets. He was a Hebrew of Hebrews Gamaliel taught him, trained him. Saul was passionate about his role among the Jews. And when God got ahold of him, he was just as zealous about bringing others into the family of God.
Not every birth story is ideal. Some elicit painful memories, unanswered questions and deeps wounds. Some of us weren’t anticipated or possibly not celebrated.
Do you remember a favorite birthday of your childhood? What stories have you been told about your birth? No matter what, God fondly remembers the day you were born both physically and spiritually, complete with smiles and tears dripping.
Dare To Reflect
How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?
Parenting isn’t easy that’s why…
In my new book How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You? I write about how God uses those times when we are speaking to our children to speak to us. In the following pages, I present one part of a 3-part dare I present to the readers in this book. I invite you to dare to reflect, then pick up a copy of the book to help you reach your goal of having an even stronger passion for your family as well as stronger longing to grow deeper in your relationship with the Lord.
Love a challenge to do something you wouldn’t have otherwise considered doing?
Love the idea of digging down deep in yourself and demanding more?
Love the opportunity to grow and mature, to develop new habits, get rid of old ones and soar?
As kids we dare each other to touch something forbidden, eat something yucky or do something stupid all in the name of proving ourselves. When we participated we were driven by the desire to be accepted, respected, apart. The Bible is a great big dare. God invites us. “Dare to trust Me, My love, faithfulness and sovereignty. Dare to live like I AM on the throne. Dare to live thirsty for Living Water, to feast on the Bread of Life, to listen and follow the voice of the Good Shepherd, to walk in the Light, to rest in Me. Dare to live a life worthy.”
When we respond, engage He is glorified. When we trust, when we act, when we don’t know or understand or see – He smiles. When we hide or shrink, He implores and draws us. He wants a relationship with us personally. Longs for us to dare to know we can rely on Him, that He loves us.
A dare confronts us, usually makes us feel uncomfortable, uneasy, vulnerable, insecure, even weak. We feel exposed and unprotected. Dares usually cause us to pause and wonder: who knows about it? Do I have to? What difference will it make? Where can I hide?
But taking on a dare invigorates us. We feel a rush of adrenaline, an anticipation of possibilities, the exhilaration of hope. Its as if a fresh wind blows and we can feel it in the air. Change. New.
I’m inviting you today to a dare.
If you accept, you will be changed. Your perspective altered, your thoughts transformed. If you dare to allow it to, this dare will revolutionize your relationships with your children and your heavenly Father.
Depending on where you are coming from, it may sound daunting, unnecessary or pointless. Dare to do it anyway. Dare to try it. Dare to listen, to consider, to explore. It’s a simple dare really.
You are going to need to take some notes, so keep paper and pen handy.
(Tissues might be in order too.)
So – Download the Dare – Buy The Book – and Dare To Reflect!
Attention: Obsessive-Compulsive, Perfectionist,Control-Freaks
Which one are you?
Before you dive into the questions and self-assessment below, just let me say that I couldn’t have written this if I didn’t suffer from all three! In the past I could have answered “yes” to every question below. And for what it’s worth, I didn’t see a problem with it at the time. At that time, the problem was clear: it was everyone else.
Yes, this is one example in my life where God graciously and powerfully interjected Himself into my circumstances. He was not willing that I continue in my selfish pattern. He loved me enough to allow circumstances and situations to happen which not only shined the light into the darkness of my selfishness, but He walked me into the Light.
This discussion about CHILL OUT is huge. It’s important. It’s timely. It’s liberating. It’s a journey back to joy, back to hope, back to peace. Learning to CHILL OUT is about walking in the Light as He is in the Light. It’s about letting your light shine, about being salt and light about being filled with the Spirit.
If you make the decision to CHILL OUT, you are choosing to put aside lists and image and being right. It means that you are choosing instead to focus on Him who alone is worthy. It means that you lean into Him, His will, His plan, His timing. It means you begin the journey of resting in Him.
It doesn’t mean you become lazy or inefficient or careless. The enemy wants you to fear that if you and don’t maintain the list, the image, and the ‘right’, that everything will fall apart. It won’t. REALLY, it won’t. But I’ll tell you what will happen. Lots more smiles and laughter, more relaxing and resting, more of Him and less of me.
Are you willing to live by faith and let God hold it all together?
You might be Obsessive-Compulsive if…
You like to make lists all the time about everything
A lost list is a serious issue
Marking things off your list gives you great pleasure
Not marking things off your list makes you feel unproductive, no matter how many
Diapers you changed or books read snuggled on the couch, those weren’t on the list
Efficiency is extremely important to you
You equate relaxing with being lazy
Relaxing is actually difficult for you
Relaxing isn’t a priority; it never makes the ‘list’
You are drawn to formulas for parenting and other relationships
You might be a Perfectionist if…
You think about what others will think as the key issue in a situation
Your actions are motivated by what others will think
You are aware of your image and seek to maintain it
You are easily aggravated when others don’t ‘fall in line’ with your plans
Your kids’ behavior (including how they dress and perform) is all part of your image
You expect your kids to play their part well
Others feel incompetent around you and you don’t mind
Much of your happiness is wrapped up in what others think about you
Most all of your actions are careful and intentionally planned, not much spontaneity
You don’t enjoy much peace because other people don’t cooperate
You are not generally aware of other’s feelings, just their contribution to the image
You might be a Control Freak if…
You believe that your way is the best way in every circumstance
In just about all circumstances, you would just rather do it yourself
You often think, “Other people just don’t get it”
Others feel unnecessary around you, like you don’t need them
What other do doesn’t matter to you
You avoid dependence on others
Flexibility is not a virtue you aspire to
You re-do work others have done, not because the task isn’t complete, but because the task wasn’t completed like you would have done it
No matter how you answered the questions, don’t despair! Help is on the way. It is God’s will for each of us to be conformed into the image of His one and only Son Jesus Christ. He is the answer to what is ailing us. We can, by the power of God, overcome these issues and become the woman He has planned for us to be.
Join me next week for the first letter in our acrostic, “C”. Each week there will be a vlog post and a PDF downloadable study to accompany it. Let’s not shy away from these issues and give the common excuse of: “That’s just the way I am.” No, let’s dare to submit to the Potter’s hands and allow Him to mold us into the image of His Son.
Challenge: Write a Letter
Back in the day, before email, before texting or Facebook or Twitter.
Back before there were blogs or the Internet or digital anything, people wrote letters.
In my opinion it was a glorious time.
Back then, people took the time – the time – to sit down and write letters, often very long letters, to one another.
Not all of them were love letters, some were merely letters between family members who were separated by hundreds or even thousands of miles, time zones, oceans or continents. They were filled with news that would be old by the time it was read, but news just the same. They were filled with encouragement and dreams and hopes.
But people don’t write those kinds of letters anymore. In fact people don’t write letters at all anymore. It seems that we have settled for practically meaningless, punctuation-less, abbreviated and often flippant texts or emails instead. It’s the new, innovative, modern method of communication.
In our rush to get to the next thing we miss the value of investing in others. Letters were treasured, bundled, guarded. Read and reread. Cherished. They were physical evidence of love and endearment. They documented trials, challenges, struggles and victories. Men wrote home from war, missionaries from foreign lands, daughters to mothers separated for the first time.
There’s nothing like getting a letter or a note. Often I will read and reread them. I have a file full of letter and notes of encouragement I have received over the years. In moments when I wonder about this homeschooling journey I pull out a note from one of the kids, written in crayon, in all of its beautiful crookedness, misspellings not withstanding: “your the besth mom evur!”
Now having launched three of my kids and being a mother-in-law to boot, I’m resolved to write more. Sure we email and text and that’s fine and good. But I want to take time to send along something more, something lasting, something worth reading and rereading.
I’m grateful God gave us His love letter, the Bible. I’m glad it wasn’t just a text or an email, but that He inspired over 40 men over 1600 years with the message of His love for His people, His glorious plan of salvation, of His grace available to all who would receive Him as Lord.
Why not take time today to write a note or a letter. Why not push the pause button on the craziness of it all, pour a cup of tea, and steal away to invest in someone else. By doing so, we receive the blessing of encouraging someone else, knowing we will brighten their day. The possibilities are endless, your pastor, a friend, your son or daughter, your husband, a neighbor, your parents, if you’re blessed to still have them here, your grandparents. Whose mailbox might your note brighten?
Blow the dust off our address books.
Find a notecard or make one – nothing fancy, just paper and an envelope.
Scrounge around in our desks and find a stamp.
Get a pen and share our hearts.
Seal up our thoughtfulness with a smile.
Walk it to the mailbox.
Know that someone is going to get a little unexpected sunshine, Special Delivery!
“The generous will prosper;
Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.”
(As I’m planning our school studies for the year I am going to be focusing on this special ministry of letter writing with my kids. Why not join us?)
Answered Prayers in Kenya
Many have said that God was going to show me something personally while I was in Kenya since Molly wasn’t able to go. I cannot report anything specific. Believe me, I wish I could. But I do believe it was an opportunity for both Molly and me to choose to trust God even when the situation didn’t make sense, even when we didn’t like it, even when He didn’t change it.
At the first meeting we attended for the Kenya team the leader said something that I didn’t remember until I was in Kenya without Molly. He said that he wanted us to not have any expectations. Okay, I thought, no problem. I think I was able to keep expectations at bay about Tenwek, about the service we would do, about the children’s rally. But there was a foundational expectation that I had from the beginning—that Molly and I would go together, have time together, bond together.
As many of you know we re-launched my blog this last March. In January I resolved to live like God is actually on the throne. When it came time to adopt a byline for the blog, I chose ‘Living Before the Throne.’ I believe that we are given opportunities each day to think, speak, and act like we really believe He is the King of kings. It’s not enough for it to merely be a Sunday conviction or a judgment we place on others. Each of us is called to live out our faith.
Throughout this year I have had countless opportunities to choose if I was going to panic or blame or despair or scream. When my parents retired, when one of the kids became seriously ill, when scholarships for college were falling short, when workshops weren’t well attended. In just these few examples, I’m tempted to doubt that He knows or cares or both. I wonder, if only for a second, if He’s able or worthy.
Our enemy wants me to think that I don’t matter, that I’m not making a difference, that I’m a failure. He wants to convince me that I cannot count on God when things don’t go as I hoped or planned or anticipated. When things don’t go as promised, that’s when the enemy swoops in to plant seeds of doubt, when he tries to dethrone God.
Over and over I have been faced with circumstances that God could change: relationships broken, problems unsolved, overwhelming challenges. But He didn’t. He could, but He didn’t. The God who parted the Red Sea, who put the stars in the sky, who spoke light into existence, who walked on water, and calmed the sea. This one true God didn’t intervene, didn’t swoop in, didn’t. Could have, but didn’t.
In every circumstance I’ve had a choice. Every time I’ve had a decision to make. How am I going to respond? In resentment or worship? In lots of relentless questions or quiet rest? In rebellion or rejoicing? I choose to worship Him who alone is Worthy. I choose to rest in Him who is Able. I choose to rejoice in my Salvation. Through tears and confusion, through frustration and disappointment, through thick fog and hard rain, when I cannot see my hand in front of my face, when nothing makes sense, when tempted to blame, I choose to believe.
I choose to believe that He knows. I choose to believe that He cares. I choose to believe that He has a plan. I choose to believe that He doesn’t waste anything, that though I feel broadsided, He’s not surprised. I choose to believe in the Great Redeemer.
Molly and I had the same choice. We grew in our relationship with God and each other through this. We didn’t talk on the phone until the Monday night of the trip. Neither of us could speak at first and even still tears drip off my chin as I remember it. We cried and cried as we both stated our trust in God, our determination to trust Him though we didn’t understand.
Here’s the deal, although my expectations went unmet, my prayer didn’t. I had prayed that Molly would come to see God’s hand and trust Him more. I had prayed that we would grow closer together as a mother and daughter and even though we were thousands of miles away He did that too. So my prayers were answered, but in a completely different way than I had expected.
God is on the throne, and I praise Him. I’m grateful that I know He is always in the business of glorifying Himself and growing me. I’m grateful that He has a plan that cannot be foiled.
What about you? You have the same choice moment my moment, day by day. What choice will you make? Will you choose to believe in His love and grace for you? Will you choose to believe that He knows what He’s doing, that He has a plan, that He is Able and Worthy? Lay out before Him those things you are tempted to hold on to because you don’t trust Him. Worship Him acknowledging His goodness, faithfulness, patience, mercy, sovereignty, and love. Rejoice in the joy of our salvation. Remember He’s coming back to take us all home! Then stand firm and allow the ‘Joy of the Lord’ to be your strength. Choose well. Choose Him.
Reflecting on Kenya – Part 2
This post is the continuation of Reflecting on Kenya – Part 1. If you haven’t read it please begin there.
We had five and a half hours in Detroit before our overnight flight to Amsterdam. That’s a long time in the best of circumstances, longer in not-so-good ones. I continued to lap the walking sidewalk intermittently praying and singing through my favorite hymns. It was the only way I knew to keep my mind from spinning out of control. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling; I didn’t try too. Though surrounded by crowds of people hurrying to various destinations, I didn’t see them; they didn’t see me.
Finally it was time to board the plane that would take me across the pond, thousands of miles away from my daughter’s side. We were supposed to be together, experiencing this mission trip together, laughing, bonding. I thought about not continuing on the trip, of just going home. I really just wanted to go home.
The two men leading the group must have heard my thoughts. They encouraged me to stay with the group, to go with the team to Kenya. “God has a plan,” they said. So instead of booking a flight home, I gathered my carry-on luggage, stood in line, and took my seat. I was headed to Kenya without my daughter for reasons I didn’t understand. My mind, tempted to place blame, unable to make sense out of the days events, exhausted from it all, kept singing, “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go….”
I sat down on the plane and begin softly crying again. A stranger sat in Molly’s seat beside me. This is going to be a long flight, I thought, longer than I could have anticipated. Sleep didn’t visit me. Unable to read or journal or watch a movie, I continued to pray intermittently, trying to intentionally put my trust in God, setting my mind on things above.
Jumping ahead, we arrived safely in Kenya. The first two days without Molly were the hardest ones. A rush of emotion surprised me when we were walking into the main compound. I began to cry. I missed Molly being with me, being my roomie.
The hardest day was when we finally talked on the phone. I was in Kenya and she wasn’t coming. After getting an initial name spoken, I couldn’t say anything else, only sobs. Here, all of the pent-up emotion broke loose. I cried in Kenya. She cried at our house. Separately but together we cried. The main thing I wanted her to know I could only say slowly, “I never would have continued the trip if I hadn’t thought you were going to join me.”
“I know,” she whispered. “I miss you so much.”
In that conversation we encouraged each other. It was good to just hear her voice, to hear how God was growing her through this great disappointment. I reminded us both that God didn’t owe us an explanation and that we must not demand one, but rather that we had been given an opportunity to trust Him in our brokenness. I told her that I believe that our old enemy had been successful in stealing our time together, but that didn’t mean that we had to allow him to steal our joy or our determination to put our hope in God.
After my conversation with Molly, it was time for me to give myself permission to enjoy my time in Kenya. Before we talked I hadn’t allowed myself to enjoy anything because Molly wasn’t with me. Every time I caught myself relaxing or even smiling, I scolded myself for being insensitive to my daughter’s hurt.
Now it was time to lean into God, to enjoy and yes, even relax, to exhale. So I did. I took in the countryside, the scenery, the hospital, the patients, the smiles and waves, the songbirds, butterflies, and flowers. Nehemiah 8:10 says, “The joy of the Lord is your strength.” I couldn’t expect to make it through the trip, to contribute, to learn, or grow until I choose to focus on the joy of the Lord and allowed Him to be my strength.
Molly and I were finally reunited at the airport in Charlotte. She courageously came to welcome the team home. There were more tears, but actually more smiles and laughter. The reunion was sweet. Together again, we compared notes about all that God did. I showed her all the pictures and we exchanged stories of God’s faithfulness. Stay tuned for a summary of those next week.
In the meantime, remember this:
He is on His throne.
He is in control.
He is never surprised.
He is working on our behalf.
He is Faithful.
He alone is Worthy.
He is the Great Redeemer.
Praise His name!
Reflecting on Kenya – Part 1
I have taken a few weeks to decompress from my trip to Kenya. I’m sure you can understand the importance of exhaling upon returning from a trip half-way around the world. Your patience with this follow-up post has been appreciated.
At one of the meetings in preparation for the mission, a leader encouraged us to ‘not have any expectations.’ It was actually the first thing he said after introducing himself as the new point man for our trip. Having done a fair amount of international travel, including several mission trips, I thought it was good advice. However, I didn’t really think about it much. Besides, the only expectation I had was that I was going to have time to bond with my daughter Molly.
You see, I hadn’t signed up for the trip. I had signed up to go with Molly. I hadn’t really cared where we went, just that we went together. I had gone with my oldest daughter, Anne, to China. Now it was time to go on a mission with Molly. She had originally wanted to go to India, and we tried to find a mission trip to that country, but our efforts had failed. So we were going together to Kenya.
We signed up, turned in our paperwork, got our shots and meds, attended meetings, planned, shopped, and packed. Oh and we prayed. I prayed for the other members of the group—none of whom I knew. Mainly I prayed for my time with Molly—that God would show off to her, that we would grow closer to each other and to God. Basically I prayed that this would be a bonding time for us as we approached her senior year.
Early on Thursday, July 30 Molly and I did our final pack and prepared ourselves for the 17 hours of travel we faced. We prepared snacks, sandwiches, and activities for the long plane rides. Once in the car, still in the driveway, Davis helped us think through everything we had packed to help us make sure we hadn’t forgotten anything. Passports? Check. Medicines? Check. Journals? Check. And on down the list—it seemed we had everything.
We set out for the airport full of excitement and yes, expectations. We laughed and anticipated our time together in Kenya. Davis assured us that he would be praying for us and that he was already looking forward to our return and all the stories we would have to share. When we arrived at the airport, he prayed for us before helping us to unload our bags, saying final goodbyes, and heading back to the house to start his busy day.
Molly and I were the first to arrive at the airport. We sat and waited for the rest of the team giddy with excitement. We took pictures and posted them on Facebook: “Here we go!” As the team members arrived, introductions were made. I was so glad for Molly and the other six students to have this experience together. More laughter and anxious tears. And more prayers.
Finally we all got into the line to check in. Apparently the reservations were made at different times as the tickets were batched. It was a little crazy at first. Although Molly and I have traveled extensively, most of the students hadn’t. Molly and I weren’t in the same group, no problem. I checked in fine and printed out my boarding passes. Molly was having trouble with the check in and had to see an agent.
This is the part where the room started spinning: Molly was being told that she could not go to Kenya because her passport only had four months left on it. What? She had been issued a Visa for Kenya, this doesn’t make sense. One of the leaders was shaking his head, “He’s right. She needs at least 6 months on her passport.”
We spoke with an airline agent. He said that there wasn’t anything he could do. The airline had programed the ticket issuance based on the date on the passport and the country destination. There was no way to override it. Molly’s laughter fell silent, now tears were falling. She sat down in defeat with the other students who were holding their boarding passes.
The three leaders for the mission took me aside and offered a solution. Apparently there is an express passport office in Atlanta. One of the them volunteered to stay back with Molly suggesting that Davis take Molly that day or the next to Atlanta, get an express passport overnight and then the two of them would join us a couple of days later. I pulled Molly aside and asked her what she wanted to do. With tears dripping off her chin she said, “I want to go to Kenya.”
Okay, then. With that I called Davis who was almost home. I told him the problem and the possible solution. Additionally I communicated Molly’s desire to try and make this work. He agreed to the plan and headed back to the terminal. Unfortunately, the clock hadn’t stood still for all of this. Time was marching on and the team had to get through security and to our gate so we could board the plane for the first leg of our journey.
I had only a few moments to talk with Molly, say I was looking forward to seeing her in a couple of days, before I had to let her go and wait for Davis. I couldn’t wait to see his arrival. The other team leader waited for Davis with Molly after I left.
On the other side of security, I couldn’t talk. What had just happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen? With my mind racing I sat at the gate trying to make sense of it all. We boarded the first leg of the trip to Detroit. No one knew what to say and I was speechless, but hopeful.
In Detroit the remaining two leaders let me know that things weren’t looking good. Even if Davis and Molly were successful in getting her an express passport, they were having problems finding flights. The earliest ones wouldn’t get them to Nairobi until Thursday with only 3 days left in the trip. A decision had to be made and we made it. Molly would not be joining me.
After making the decision, I walked and walked in a circle around a moving sidewalk at the airport. The same questions that had accosted me in the Charlotte airport were stalking me in Detroit. What had just happened? How did it happen? Why did it happen?
But it got worse. I started being overcome with tragic thoughts, dark thoughts. Plane crashes, terrorist attacks, illness, car accidents all went through my mind, I couldn’t breathe and I started to panic. I texted Davis and told him how my mind was under attack. He prayed for me, which didn’t immediately calm me, but it did begin to.
Join me next Monday for Part 2 of Reflecting on Kenya