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Don’t Go Nuts! Three Ways to Crack the Christmas Crazies.

Christmas Crazies, anyone?

If you caught the Christmas Crazies, you are not alone. Crazy is contagious this time of year.

At Christmas, we can spin between extremes of fantasy and regret, the fun of spending and the crush of debt, the disconnect of feeling alone in the middle of all the social pressure.

No matter what the season, or what the neighbors or the stores or the churches are doing, we have to live our days in a healthy way at a healthy pace that works for us. No manic-panic-sinking-Christmas-Titanic allowed at my house. No pushing for perfect and then screaming at the kids when it doesn’t work out. Been there, done that. Sheesh. Seriously. Those are not the Christmas memories that I’m trying to make.

Below are a few ways to keep the Christmas crazies at bay.

Three ways to Kill the Christmas Crazies

 

1) Fuel your spirit by spending time with God. Hello. This season is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.  Rolling around in glitter is all good, but taking a deep breath and remembering why we are doing it is a key to seasonal peace. Christmas tree fell down? What would Jesus do? Feel sick about spending that much money on that overpriced plastic toy? What would Jesus do? People acting crazy? What would Jesus do?

He came for a reason beyond Christmas. He came to change us, to raise us from the dead in every way. Celebrate Christmas by letting Him change you even in the holiday chaos.

Now, maybe more than any other time of year, I have to focus on who God says I am and what His plans are for me. I’m busier than I’ve ever been–that means I don’t have time to not spend time with God. Spend five minutes every morning in worship, celebrating who God is. Out loud, say every good thing you can think of about God.

 What would Jesus do?

 

Spending time with God can be a challenge. But your thoughts about God and who He is to you are the source of your deep beliefs about what life can be and about yourself. You are made in His image. What you believe about who God is for you is a foundational belief.

The Lord is for me, I will not fear. Ps118:6a

This I know, that God is for me! Ps56:9

I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me. Ps13:6

2) Fuel your soul by thinking healthy thoughts. Thoughts are the source of behaviors, and thoughts come out of the deep core beliefs we hold in our hearts and our minds.  Lifestyle and behaviors are the outward expression of these thoughts and beliefs. To change a life, change the thoughts. To change the thoughts, we have to take them under conscious control and submit them to Jesus. He wants to change the deep wrong beliefs of our minds so that we can live an abundant life.

To change a life, change the thoughts.

 

To take thoughts captive, say “no,” and start speaking a better thought–out loud. I notice myself getting critical and prideful when I get stressed and out of His peace. That is my red flag. When I lose my joy and my ability to give people permission to take the time they need, when I lose my patience and my sense of humor, I need to do a mental inventory–quick–so that I don’t take it out on anyone. I can handle a pretty big to-do list, but even so, it can get heavy at times. I have to know myself well enough to know when to say “no,” when to take a rest, when to stop and refocus my thoughts.

Be prepared by having a verse ready when the crazy tries to come in. Keep a note in your pocket or stuck on your mirror or dashboard with a verse that you can easily see and read out loud.

Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter5:7

A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance. Jn10:10

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jer29:11

Be prepared.

 

3) Fuel your body by choosing health. A healthy body supports a healthy mind. Comfort-eating and drinking or other self-medicating behaviors feel good in the moment, but we pay later. Poverty always focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

Investments don’t always feel good right now–a lot of times, they hurt. Think about exercising or saving money instead of spending it. But in six months, life looks very different for the person living for the whim of now vs. the one investing for tomorrow.

Poverty focuses on the moment. Abundance focuses on investments.

 

So. Take care of your body! It’s your temple; it’s God’s temple. Get good sleep when you can. Drink water. Eat an apple every day, because, you know what they say. Eat well. Go for a walk. At the mall, while you are shopping, sit down and  take a break. Get a salad and water at the food court before you head over to Cinnabon. Hot tea is good, too. Please take care of you. You are part of this human team. We need you.

Christmas is not about working ourselves up to a case of Christmas Crazies. It’s about celebrating the Prince of Peace.

This year, I pray you have a peaceful, wonderful, joyful, beautiful, crazy-free Christmas.

***

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Cor 1:2

Lands Sakes. You Are Not Alone.

Lands sakes.

I don’t even know what that means. I just felt like saying it.

I’m a southerner. We talk like that. Especially when we don’t know what else to say.

I have found myself not knowing what to say a lot this year.

If you follow this blog, you know I had a bike wreck in the spring and hurt my leg. Bad. Sprained every ligament and tendon. Tore my ACL. Broke my leg.

Lands sakes.

When I finally got out of the wheelchair and off crutches, I started to see my way back to a normal life.

It was good.

But suddenly, just as I started walking again without a brace, I had gallbladder problems. I’ll spare you the details, but I’ll just say this:  It was not good.

But I prayed, and I got insight on what to do. I drank half a lemon squeezed in warm water every day. Almost all symptoms gone the first time I tried it.

It was good.

Then. as soon as that passed, I got a wart.

In the middle of my face.

Not kidding.

Not good.

But, again, I prayed, and I got insight. Oregano oil, morning and night. It disappeared within a couple of weeks.

Good.

Ha.

Winning. I can fight these battles. I have God and natural medicine on my side. What can stop me? Whom shall I fear?

And then.

Yes.

Then.

In October, I took my kids to California on vacation, a trip we had  put off for months while I recovered from my knee injury.

We drove for three days. We had big plans to see good friends, the beach, Hollywood, Disneyland.

What can stop me? Whom shall I fear?

On our second day there, my son climbed up on an eight-foot  platform at a church we were visiting. You know. Like you do.

He yelled, “Look, Mom!”

I looked up, and I saw him. And I thought to myself, “Oh. What a terrible idea.”

But I was too far away to yell back. I hurried to get closer so I could tell him to get the heck off that thing.

I watched him edge further and further out on the platform. I watched the back of his shoe catch, ironically, on the safety rail.

And I watched him fall.

Bam. Hands first. On concrete.

Lands sakes.

It’s a thing that takes your breath away to see, your child suspended in air and  plummeting toward the earth.

He looked stunned as he lay there, so still, and my first prayer was that the kid would just raise up his head. Jesus. Let me see him raise his head.

And he did.

I still was too far away from him. But. Raising his head. That is good.

Then I saw him raise his right arm.

Oh, he’s fine. He’s ok.

But.

Wait.

You know how your arm is supposed to bend at certain specific places? Like joints?

He raised his arm, and even from where I was, I could see it bend in the wrong place. Not at the wrist, but about two inches behind it. Ew. Not good at all.

At the hospital later I asked him, “Son. What were you doing on that platform? When you said, ‘Look, Mom,’ what were you going to do?”

In a cloud of shock and morphine, he turned his head toward me, eyes glazed over as he pondered the question.

“When I said ‘Look, Mom’?”

“Look, Mom!”

“Yes. When you said, ‘Look, Mom.’ What were you going to do?”

“Oh, that. . . I was going to do a Batman trick.”

Oh, wonderful.

Well. Thank you, Batman.

We were in the emergency room all night, and doctors’ offices all over Southern California for the next three days. They thought he needed pins in his wrists. One was a clean break, but the other was shattered. He went into surgery to get them set, to get pins to hold his bones together.

My friend Chana and I sat in the waiting room and declared for an hour, “He will not need pins. No pins. No pins.”

He came out of surgery. No pins.

Even in the midst of it all, God’s hand.

It was good.

Then.

On the way home, traveling through Arizona, I got a phone call.

It was my sister. She kept my cat while I was in California. “I’m so, so sorry,” she said, “I hate to tell you this after everything that has happened. But. Hazel is hurt. She broke her leg. The vet is about to call you. So sorry.”

What and how.

A cat with a broken leg. I never even heard of a cat with a broken leg, and my dad is a veterinarian.

Lands sakes.

The vet called. “Hello, ma’am. Here are your cat’s treatment options. We can do surgery on your cat (thousands of dollars). We can do a splint on her leg. Or we can amputate.”

Oh my God.

I stood there. On my own just broken leg, watching my son try to handle his luggage with casts on both arms, imagining the two of us going home to a three-legged cat.

Thank you, Batman.

“Ma’am? Are you there?”

Not sure.

“Um. Uh. Yes. I’m here. What do you recommend?” I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to have this conversation. My poor kitty. My poor son. My leg. Lands sakes.

“Oh, well. It’s up to you, but I think the splint should be fine.”

Just a word to you vets. If you think the splint is fine, then let’s just go with that. Please. We simple folk never need to hear the word “amputate” never again. Just, no. Not ever.

 

 

We made it home.

Then.

Yes.

Then.

About three weeks after we got home, cat, casts, and all, we went to a fall celebration at a friend’s house. A lovely gathering of many families. Kids everywhere, a chili cook-off.

And a bouncy house.

Which my oldest daughter decided to race through at top speed. Backwards.

She took a flying leap, and her ankle bent all wonky, and she somehow landed on the top of her foot instead of the bottom.

It swelled up like a pregnant pig in about five minutes. And, yes. She is still on crutches.

Ummmm.

Lands sakes.

When it all started, I declared that this season would not break me. I do not bow to circumstance.

But circumstances didn’t quit. They just kept piling on.

And somewhere in there, I got ticked.

And I got distracted. Like a tightrope walker or a man of faith, I forgot to keep my eyes up. I looked down. No net. Big waves.

I forgot to keep my eyes up.

 

And I got resentful. I got depressed. And I sunk.

If I have any regrets from this year, even more than a difficult injury that I’m still dealing with, it is how little I laughed through it. How much I cried and felt sorry for myself.

I know we technically have a right to feel a certain way. But I just don’t want to. I want to be deeper than that.

And really. It is kind of funny. Leg, arms, cat, foot. Ridiculous. At some point you have to laugh.

Besides laughter, I have one huge takeaway from all of it.

I kept praying even though I didn’t feel like it. And when I prayed, I heard this, over and over:  You are not alone.

Whatever you go through, you don’t go through it alone.

Sometimes I am perplexed at the way God answers prayer. It’s clear that He’s present and providing for us. But I know what I want. I want my miracle. And I want it now.

And He could do it that way.

But I keep seeing Shadrach. Meshchach. And Abednego. Or as my kids call them, “Radio Shack, My Shack, and A Beanie Go.”

And the fourth man in the fire.

You are not alone.

I kept seeing this story play out in my mind.

You may know it. The king, Nebuchadnezzar, had built a giant golden idol and given the people these instructions:  When the statue is unveiled and you hear the music play, you must fall down and worship it, or be thrown into the fiery furnace.

So, the music played and the people fell down. Worshipipng, I guess. Or just passing time on the ground until the king was satisfied. Either way, there were a few men who did not comply. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were worshippers of the living God. They did not worship idols.

The king’s men reported them. And the king was furious. He was so angry, he told his fire-builders to make the furnace seven times hotter than before. The fire was so hot that the king’s henchmen died as they threw the men into the fire.

They did not worship idols.

But Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego did not die. They did not burn.

The king looked at the furnace and saw the men walking around inside. And he saw another man, a fourth man, and he said, “he looks like a son of the Gods.”

The king called for the men to come out of the fire. They were not burned. Not a hair on their heads or a thread on their robes was harmed.

And they didnt even smell like smoke.

The king was amazed. He declared his faith in their God and commanded his kingdom to follow God. He promoted Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego to higher positions in his kingdom.

They didnt even smell like smoke.

 

It was a miracle, but it didn’t have to go down like that. God could have saved these guys another way.

He could have whispered a new direction, and Nebuchadnezzar could have spared the men the time in the fire.

But then, it would be a big nothing-story. It had to be just like this. It had to be dramatic. It had to be crazy. It had to be so obvious that it was God, or that day would have been like any other day. The king would have forgotten a still small voice, but who could forget four men walking around inside a fiery furnace?

You will walk through fire in this life. You will. It’s a promise. In this life, you will have trials.

You will walk through the fire, but you will not be burned, and you are not alone.

 

You will walk through the fire, but you will not be burned, and you are not alone.

 

And you never know who is watching, those people who will be encouraged and influenced and then influence others because of your faith, like Nebuchadnezzar watched the men in the fire, astounded, and then called for his people to worship the Living God. Like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s friend Daniel, who needed the memory of this day when he went into the lions’ den.

You never know who is watching you walk through fire and seeing that fourth man standing with you, who sees that you go through the same stuff they go through, but that you don’t go through it alone. Your fiery trials create a platform for The One who shines like a son of the gods, who shines brighter than the fire itself.

You never know who is watching you walk through fire and seeing that fourth man standing with you.

 

I know that I am not the only one who has had a crazy year. It’s been a year of trials for a lot of people.

Lands sakes. For others’ sakes. We can walk through this fire. We are  not alone.

***

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego stepped out of the fire. Then the high officers, officials, governors, and advisers crowded around them and saw that the fire had not touched them. Not a hair on their heads was singed, and their clothing was not scorched. They didn’t even smell of smoke! Dan 3:26b-27

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid. Do not be discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Josh 1:9

For You Are Powerful, Entrusted with Great Things.

This week, my little girl said some really mean words.

To me, to her brother. Really mean.

Then, my oldest did the same. Just harsh.

The beautiful thing about true love is the way it covers. Today, I can’t even remember what they said, just the way it felt. Hurt my heart. How I give them everything, and they give me these words in return.

But they do it because they know I love them. All the feelings they have, they are safe with me. They can ventilate. I will forgive. I will love, even still.

And I’ve done the same to them, I’m sure. We’ve all done it, said something awful that we kind of meant, but, not really, just because it felt twisted-good for one second to give voice to that thing inside us that would not rest.

And then, you see the other person’s face. And it’s not good anymore.

When my kids do things that hurt me, I don’t try to pretend that I’m invincible because I’m the mom. I tell them. To me, they need to know that they have that kind of power.

They need to know that they have that kind of power.

 

Hurt people hurt people. And so do people who think they are invisible, ignored, weak, victimized, powerless, unheard. They overcompensate with reactionary hugeness because they feel so small.

This is what I tell my kids. “You hurt me. Those words you said, that thing you did. You really hurt me. Like, I need a minute. I might cry. Because I love you so much, but also because you have power. You have the power to hurt me like that, to hurt your brother or your sister with your words. With your choices. You are not powerless. You can’t just say or do anything you want, because you are powerful. What kind of family do you want? You have the power to make this family the kind of family you want. Or to make it the kind of family you don’t. You are not weak just because you are young. You have power.”

You are not powerless.

 

They look at me. Then they usually tear up a little. Their hearts, convicted and softened. But it’s not a weakening, it’s an awakening. It’s the kind of cry that shows the birth of strength. I ask them if they remember someone hurting them, someone who had the same kind of power. Of course they do. They don’t want to do that to someone else. They just don’t always realize that they can.

I’m convinced that most people have no idea of the pain they cause in relationships. People have their own pain, and they act out of that place without thinking about how it hurts the other person involved. A lot of times, they don’t have all the information. They don’t know why someone did what they did, and their own insecurity leads them to feelings of rejection, which leads to accusation and judgement of the other. And then, they let them have it. What they deserve. Revenge.

Sigh.

It’s a mess, but I believe it’s most often born out of ignorance.

I’m not excusing it. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have boundaries or never hold someone accountable. I just think that indulging feelings of weakness or victimhood or self-pity are much more dangerous than we realize.

Because. We are not victims. We are not weak. We are not pitiful.

We have power. We are powerful.

And when we wield our weapons recklessly because of our own pain? We become emotional terrorists, holding friends and family hostage with our words and our demands and our emotions.

We are powerful.

 

We have to deal with our junk. We have to deal with our pain.

We have to give up our feeling that we have a right to be offended.

Forgive quickly. Be slow to anger. Love well.

For we are powerful, and we have been entrusted with great things.

***

Today I’m praying that all of us would be healed of anything that keeps us from knowing our power and wielding it well. For we are warriors, priests, and kings. We must learn the weight and joy of power and true love. We must learn how to wear our crowns. And carry our swords.

Laughing. At the Future.

Every September, I ask for a word for the upcoming year.

I usually do it in the fall around the Jewish New Year, give or take a few days. I measure time a little fuzzy.

Last year, the word was “Healed.”

Incidentally, last year, I also tore my ACL, broke my leg, had problems with my gallbladder, and got a wart. On my face.

Needless to say, I felt a tiny bit confused.

As of this writing, I’m happy to announce that all those things are healed now, or at least well on their way to healing. So in that way, I guess the word held true.

Needless to say, I felt a tiny bit confused.

 

But. It was a long way around on a bumpy road.

This year, I considered not asking for a word. Maybe I just don’t want to know.

I held off for a month.

Lord, have mercy. Keep that word to yourself.

Physical pain and sickness and injury–these things mess with your mind. Pain is a head game. You win if you don’t let it get in your head, if you choose to live every moment like the world isn’t falling apart. It’s a kind of personal terrorism. You can’t give in, or the injury wins.

As my physical therapist says, “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

I should know this by now. A body goes through a lot in forty years.

Maybe the most disappointing thing about hurting my leg in the spring was the way I lost my joy. Fast. And it stayed gone. I could reach and grasp and drag it back, but it was a shallow thing. The tiniest upset caused me to lose it again.

I thought I had more joy. I needed to know this about myself.

The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength. The joy of the Lord is my strength.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

 

That’s my verse. My life’s motto. How could I let it go so easily through the greatest challenges?

I’ve listened to hours and hours of instruction on healing this year. I’ve talked to my friends and listened to their advice. I’ve had hours of prayer.

The thing that keeps emerging for me is joy.

I heard Bill Johnson share the many ways that healing comes. Of course, it can come through prayer, but he has seen so many people healed. Some have been healed just by walking in the door during worship. Others spontaneously felt heat or tingling. Others were healed sometime during a service but didn’t even know it until later when they realized they were doing an activity that they hadn’t been able to do for years, lifting a box or moving a table.

One story he shared stood out to me as confirmation of joy. A man was given four months to live. His doctor laid down the files and paperwork and said, “Do you want to know what I would do if I were you?”

The man said, “Yes, of course.”

The doctor said, “If I were you, if they told me I had four months to live? I would go home and rent every funny movie I could find. I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.”

So the man did. The next time they tested him, the disease had gone. No evidence of that disease anywhere. He was cured by laughing, cured by joy.

I would start to laugh, and I would not stop.

 

Sometimes we are so darn serious. It’s such a drag, and there is no breakthrough because our own heaviness holds us down in one tiny spot.

So many things happened this year. And I struggled to hold on to joy.

Every person I talk to starts to laugh as I tell them the crazy things that have happened. Because, for some reason, one terrible thing is not funny. It’s just terrible.

But a whole bunch of terrible things piled up on top of each other? Hilarious.

I think it’s the absurdity of it. Like, that’s not real, right? You have to be joking.

No. I’m not. But maybe life is.

I finally got up the courage to ask for my word for the year.

The Spirit had been holding his breath, waiting for me to ask. Almost even before I finished the prayer I heard my word.

“Laughter.”

Great. Sigh. I’m not going to ponder on what that means.

You have to be joking.

 

I keep thinking about the Proverbs 31 woman. How the scripture says, “She laughs, without fear of the future.”

I’ve always read that passage a certain way. Like, it’s a defiant laugh. Like, “Haha, Future! You can’t catch me!!!”

But lately, I think she’s actually sincerely laughing. Like she sees things that are funny. She’s cracking up, enjoying life. She is overwhelmed sometimes by all that she manages. That lady is no joke, but her life kind of sounds like one. Every person I know that manages that much stuff feels crazy at times. The ones that don’t quit are the ones who know how to laugh at the craziness. How to take it all in stride. How to make the messes and the unresolved areas and the failures, because she surely had all of that, how to make it all a joke.

I’m praying for more laughter. I’m watching videos and playing more. I already feel better. I’ll get to the future, but right now I’m laughing at the past, this year of “Are you kidding me, Lord?”

I think He is.

Lol.

Laughter. It’s the word for the year.

***

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. Prov 31:25

 

Suffering and Victory: Your Epic Story.

Sometimes, I don’t have anything nice to say.

Like, nothing. Can’t think of one nice thing.

So I don’t say anything at all.

Yes, Grandma, I was listening.

A month ago, I wrote a blog post. I’ve been quiet since then for various reasons. I’ll write more about it when I can laugh about it. One thing I know about myself, is that when I’m down, I’m DOWN. No need to take you all down with me.

Seems like one thing after another some days, doesn’t it?

 

I have an un-prayer I pray when I don’t know what the heck is going on. I say, “Ummmm, ok God, I know I’m not supposed to ask ‘why. . . .'”

And then I kind of wait a minute and see if anything comes through. “I’ll try not to ask ‘why,’ but if You want to tell me anything, Jesus, I’m all ears.”

I don’t usually get a straight answer to that question.

What I do get is more of an impression, an invitation to trust. To wait and see. To watch it play out. To believe that there is more going on than meets the eye.

It’s nice and all but easier said than done.

And I don’t fully see it yet, although I do see my heart growing stronger in the meantime.

But here’s what I do know.

People connect with your suffering before they connect with your victory.

 

Epic stories are epic, not because of the finish line or the end of the journey, but because of what the hero had to go through to get there.

What the hero had to go through to get there.

That is what makes the story epic.

You are a part of an epic tale. Your suffering speaks. Your life tells a story.

Wait and see. It’s not over yet.

And people are watching. Like a movie, you have an audience, and they are waiting to see what you do next.

And just like a movie, there will always be some who don’t support you, no matter what. But most of them are rooting for you. Because your suffering makes them know that they are not alone in theirs. And when you have victory, they know they can have it too.

Your suffering is not wasted. Victory is around the corner. Hold on. Wait and see.

***

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28

Note:  My email subscription service has not been working correctly since sometime in the spring. I’ve done a couple of things to try to fix it, but nothing has worked so far. I think I know what the problem is now, and will hopefully have it fixed in the next couple of weeks. Thanks so much for subscribing, and thank you for your patience! <3

It’s Yours. Go and Take It! How to Let Struggle Work in Your Favor.

Finding joy. Finding strength.

It’s not easy. Not for any of us.

And so often, those who do this hard work of fighting for life and fighting for power are given what is possibly the most condescending response ever. “It’s easy for you. It’s harder for me than it is for you. You have something I don’t have. You have the gift of joy.”

But.

Here’s the thing.

Joy is not a gift.

Galatians 5.

Joy is a fruit.

That means it is something that must be cultivated.

Fruit comes after ownership–owning our territory, and owning our part in the growing. It comes after plotting, tilling, planting, and much care.

Joy is not a gift of the Spirit, nor is it a gift of circumstance. Some of the most emotionally challenged people that I know have had it the “easiest” in terms of visible circumstances.

Joy is not a gift.

 

Those who have not known ease can assume that if they only had a different circumstance, they would also have a different level of joy.

But happiness studies from around the world show that this simply is not true.

Joy and circumstance are not related to the degree that people assume that they are.

Joy is not a gift, but sometimes struggle is.

Struggle works in our favor when we realize that it leads us in to our identity. Struggle and work make us feel our own power when we engage wholeheartedly and watch the fruit come.

Good parents see struggle as part of health.

 

Infants struggle to be born, and then they wriggle and struggle to hold up their own heads.

Babies struggle to crawl. Toddlers struggle to walk, falling down a million times and never giving up.

Good parents see this struggle as part of health. Like weight-lifting or training for a marathon, it’s hard in the moment, but no one gets stronger being carried everywhere.

In fact, I recently heard of a mother who was so protective of her child, never wanting to see him struggle, that she did carry him everywhere for almost two years. The child could not walk. He never had a chance to struggle and learn. There was no normal, healthy development in his legs. Child services came in to insist that the child be allowed to struggle to gain strength.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

And even in Eden, there was work to be done.

There is a consciousness to joy. A conscious choice for cultivation. This consciousness exists with all the fruits of the spirit.

Even in Eden, there was work to be done.

 

There is nothing easier than criticizing a joyful, loving person. Nothing easier than tearing down a soft target. And there is something about a joyful person that can make an angry person angrier and meaner, especially if he is determined to stay in his state of mind.

It is not only that the joyful are a soft target.

A joyful person is a challenge.

The mere presence of a well-adjusted person is an inherent challenge to those who don’t have it figured out yet. And when that same well-adjusted person is also flourishing and strong, the challenge is even louder. And those who have not fought in the same way can sometimes assume the way was easy for those who have already won their battles.

A joyful person is a challenge.

 

I have fought this temptation too. The temptation to see someone who is living well and bearing good fruit as someone who just had it easy and has no real clue about life.

But then, after years of struggle, I started to wonder if, maybe, those people knew something I didn’t.

It can feel good in a twisted way to fall into self pity, to sit and tell myself how hard my life is. To vindicate the waves of emotion that, at forty-two years old, I still have not learned to entirely control.

“I deserve it! I want chocolate! I want to complain! I want to watch myself cry in the mirror! I want to quit!”

Self-pity gives us all the excuses we need to not try harder, to not go out and do the hard work of pursuing our destiny. It makes us feel exempt from the struggle for excellence in our own minds, where the battle is the thickest. We can redefine “excellence” in our pain, saying, “Well, at least I’m still here, well at least I’m this, at least I’m not that.”

At least.

But I don’t want “at least.” I want “at most.”

I want the best there is.

And I know you do too.

And God wants the best for us. He already has it planned out.

Very often, the thing that looks like struggle is the thing that builds your strength.

 

When the Israelites were “given” their inheritance from God, He also told them to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Ruth went to Boaz for charity, it was there, but she still had to work for it. She still had to GO AND TAKE IT.

When Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He told the man, “Get up. Take up your mat, and walk.” The man had to take responsibility for himself and TAKE his healing. He had a choice.

GO AND TAKE IT

 

It’s time for us to GO AND TAKE the inheritance, the blessings, the joy, the healing that God wants to pour out in our lives. God does many, many things by grace, just giving us blessings because He loves us. But even with a gift, we have to stretch out our own hands to receive.

But other times, like a good father who wants to see his child grow healthy, He stands out a little way from us, holding out His arms and saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! I know you can do it!”

The way to let struggle work in our favor, and incidentally, one way to cultivate joy, is to count the struggle as joy. 

Don’t know how to do that? Me either, sometimes. Ask God to help you reframe it. And you will see Him standing before you with arms outstretched, cheering you on.

***

Reckon it nothing but joy, my brethren, whenever you find yourselves hedged in by various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith leads to power of endurance. Jas 1:2-3

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” John 5:8

So Ruth worked alongside the women in Boaz’s fields and gathered grain with them until the end of the barley harvest. Then she continued working with them through the wheat harvest in early summer. Ruth 2:23ab

See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land. Deut 1:8a

What have you been putting off because of self-pity or fear? What do you need to GO AND TAKE today? What is one thing you can do to move forward in claiming your inheritance?

Father, thank You that You allow us the good kind of struggle that brings strength in us! Thank You that You stand before us with Your arms out, saying, “Come on! Come on! Come on! You can do it! Come to me! I’ve got you!” Thank You that You know how much we can be, and You believe in us! Thank You that You never leave us or forsake us, and You are our greatest Helper, our greatest cheering section, our greatest encourager!

I pray for anyone reading this to hear Your voice in greater measure today and every day, cheering them on to claim their inheritance! To hear You say in their hearts–there it is! That thing I have for you! I’m shining a light on it, I’m cheering you on! Now! GO AND TAKE IT!

Thank You for helping us and planning out our best lives and making a way for us to find what You have! In Jesus’ name, we GO! Amen!

Pitiful or Powerful? One More Question to Ask After You Choose.

You can’t be pitiful and powerful.

You have to choose.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about my choice and my journey from pitiful to. . . well, at least more powerful than before.

But what happens after we choose?

We start to live it. We wrangle and wrestle with old things. We learn what we need to let go, what still fits. How to live in our choice.

How to own it.

And then, we have to ask, how do we love each other well, whatever we choose? When we choose to be powerful? When we choose to be pitiful?

A few weeks ago, I sat with a friend. I listened and felt my soul shrinking back and dragging down as the same dark narrative was repeated over and over and over. This thought occurred to me:  She is hypnotized by negativity. She didn’t even hear herself. She had no idea that she was telling me the same story, again and again and again, a story that could easily be spun a different way.

And years ago, I remember listening to people older and wiser than I was, but I couldn’t imagine what made them think they knew so much. They were only people, like me. Sometimes I would leave those conversations filled with rage and resentment, missing so much if the wisdom that I could have gleaned from their sharing.

Emotion comes in and wraps itself around us if we let it. We can’t see ourselves, and we can’t hear ourselves, if we allow emotion to be a block to what we really want.

When I want to be powerful, but the person next to me wants to be pitiful, how do I show compassion and patience? How do I sit with their negativity and repeated sob stories without sacrificing my own hard-won positive focus?

When I want to be pitiful, but I sit next to someone who has found their power, how do I really love and learn from them when my natural response is to roll my eyes and stick out my tongue and say, “YEAH, RIGHT!  WELL, GOOD FOR YOU! ACTUALLY, YOU KNOW WHAT–I THINK YOU ARE FULL OF IT!!!”

I’m not sure that we have learned this yet as a culture.

How do we love each other well?

 

How do we know when to grieve? There is a scripture that says to mourn with those who mourn, but what if all they ever do is mourn? Even scripture puts a limit on mourning–God gives His people thirty days to devote to grief–even for the most tragic things. And then it’s time to put down the sackcloth and ashes and begin fighting our way back in to life.

Finding balance.

Letting ourselves rest. Being ok with where we are in our process and where others are in theirs, even if we know we are still kind of pitiful sometimes. Seeking our power and deciding not to be quitters. Finding our power and looking at someone else who hasn’t yet, learning how to encourage them forward without trying to push them where they aren’t ready to go.

It’s not easy for any of us.

Heidi Baker talks about asking God, “What does love look like in this situation right now?”

What does love look like in this situation right now?

 

As you grow in the powerful, as you face down the pitiful, if you struggle with knowing what love looks like in any moment, if you feel those tendrils of impatience or those talons of resentment trying to drag you down, just take a deep breath, and ask silently, “God, what does love look like, with this person, right now?”

He will show you.

***

Father, we are on a journey to fearless, a journey to powerful. We ask in every moment, that You would show us what love looks like. Eyes to see Your answer, ears to hear Your guidance, hearts that understand what You are asking us to do, and the grace to obey.

We want to grow in our own strength and still love well, wherever we are in our process. You are Love. You live inside us. We trust You to guide us and make Yourself known, even in the most challenging relationships, in the most challenging moments. We give every loved one, every family member, every stranger, every co-worker, every neighbor, every friend, every ex-friend, every attacker. Every person who has ever touched our lives. We forgive those who have trespassed against us. We forgive ourselves for our own trespasses, and we give others permission to forgive us. We look to You to take us higher within ourselves and in every relationship. We look for You to show us what love looks like in every moment. In Jesus, Amen.

 

Your Where Before Your What. And You Need a Who.

Your where comes before your what.

In other words, moving forward with an idea will help you know what to do next. Sometimes we try to wait until we know every detail until we move forward on a dream. But it doesn’t work like that. It’s often impossible to know everything that we will encounter along the way.

Like generals looking down from mountains, we have to sometimes change our position to gain insight on our strategy.

When we get an idea or a vision, it’s all fun and games until we try to see it through. I can get caught up in things that either don’t matter at all or don’t matter yet. Getting the vision in order makes a huge difference. And teamwork helps.

Your where comes before your what.

 

The other day I went shopping with my friend.

We used to have a great thrift shop in our town, but when I went to the old location, it was gone. There were no signs directing customers to a new location, so I assumed they had gone out of business.

When we pulled out of the parking lot, my friend pointed and said, “There it is!”

“Where?” I said, looking everywhere.

“Right there! Across the street! Don’t you see the sign?”

I looked across the street. I could only see the old sign directing traffic to the old location.

I said, “Oh yes, I see it. But that’s the old sign. I think they must have closed.”

“No,” she said, “across the street! With a huge red and white banner that says, ‘Now Open!'”

“Um, I see the sign? But I don’t see a red and white banner?”

I looked sideways at her. “Lord,” I prayed silently, “is she having some kind of vision? What are you trying to say?”

“Are you messing with me?” I laughed. I could only see the old sign from before.

“No!!” She laughed and looked at me like I was crazy. “A huge red and white sign? You seriously don’t see that?!?”

The light turned green, and I pulled out in traffic and looked all around. As I moved forward, I was able to take in more of my surroundings, and, finally, I saw it. Across the street. A huge new sign declaring the name of the store and the fact that it was NOW OPEN!

open sign

A car lot had used that building before. It never occurred to me to look there, even when my friend was pointing right at it. I thought I knew what was going to be there. I expected to see a car lot. So much so, that I could not see the new thing that had come in, even though I was looking.

What made the difference?

Moving forward. And moving forward with someone who saw it with fresh eyes and brought a different perspective.

Sitting where I was, I could not see the sign. But the light in front of me turned green, and I had to do something.

It was when I moved forward that I was able to take in a more accurate view of my surroundings. And because of my friend, I knew where to look.

What made the difference?

Moving forward.

 

Lately God has been sending me this message in a lot of ways.

Since I moved into my house, I have wanted to plant a secret garden to the side of my porch, but I have been a little overwhelmed by landscaping. It’s all so big, and the sky is literally the limit.

I start obsessing about plants.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my sister to come over and look at the space with me again. It occurred to me that, if I knew where I wanted to put the garden, it would help me choose the plants. My sister and I walked out to a spot in the yard and turned around and looked. In my mind I was envisioning all kinds of plants, rose arbors, pencil hollies, big grasses.

I started getting overwhelmed. Started thinking about calling landscapers.

“I can’t tell what I need to do,” I thought, “because I’m not standing in the right place.” I felt too close to the patio. I needed to be farther into the yard and more at an angle.

stephanie-krist-41061

Trying again.

We went back to the porch and dragged some chairs out in the yard. That was better.

We moved the chairs again. And one more time.

Aha! There. That’s where it needs to be.

First things first.

When I tried to plan it before, I had it backwards. I sat on the patio obsessing about plants, when what I needed to do was step out into the yard and plan the foundation. I needed to stop thinking about it and mulling it over and over. I needed to stand up and move forward.

I needed to do something.

Imagining possibilities energizes us.  Dreams and visions delight our minds.

But there are a few things that can derail these dreams before they ever get going.

Three Things that Can Derail Your Dreams and What to Do Instead

 

1.  “Mulling” ideas over and over. It’s good to give our plans some thought, but, that word. Mulling. It comes from the process of mulling cider, to heat and sweeten a drink. But we are not a cider. Too much mulling makes us weak, stagnant and depressed. Like a flabby orange peel boiled too long. Stop mulling already, and do something.

2.   Too many details. Instead of focusing on all the details at once, which can be overwhelming and discouraging, just start with your where. When I needed to do my garden, I had to know where to put it before any other planning would make sense. Whether you are planning a garden, or building a house, or a website, or a business out of your home, you have to have a location before anything else can fall into place. Even if you just start with putting all your plans in a notebook. Your dream needs a where. It needs a physical place to live and grow. You know the saying, “You have to start somewhere”? It doesn’t say “You have to start somewhat or someone.” It says somewhere.

3.  Doing everything alone. It helps to have a who. But it can’t just be any who. I had a book when I was very young called “Whobody There?” It described the contrast between the safe people who get you and the cold and indifferent people who don’t. Your who needs to be a whobody. Don’t share your dreams, and especially your insecurities or questions about your dreams, with anybody but a whobody. But find a whobody, an encouraging friend who believes in you and will help you see your where when you get bogged down in details. And, your best whobody is the Holy Spirit.  Ask Him along the way, “What’s next? Where do I need to look? Where do I need to move?” He will show you.

Dreaming brings vision, but it is action that brings vision into reality.

walk into the light

What dreams are you holding onto in your heart? What visions do you have for your life? Where are you stuck?

Write down the dream. Write down the vision. Write down the top three places where you are stuck and want to move forward. Pray, and ask God, “What’s the first thing I need to do to move forward toward this vision?”

You may hear something very clear. You may see exactly what you need to do next. Or it may be fuzzy. Like my friend pointing to a sign right in front of me–I had to move forward to see it.

You may have to start on the project, just start. Move forward in some small way to better see your surroundings. You can’t know what you’re dealing with until you deal with it.

Pray, and ask God, “What’s the first thing I need to do to move forward toward this vision?”

 

Like my garden, I had to step out. I had to actually get out there and start moving chairs. It was very unclear when I started, but the more I walked into it, the more I could see what needed to happen next. Now that I know the location, I know that I need to go pick out paving stones to create the space. I was obsessing about how hard it would be to choose plants, when I hadn’t even laid the foundation yet. And I can already tell that choosing the plants is going to be much more obvious once I get the stones in place.

One thing at a time. First things first. Move forward.

Now.

Now, you can see it.

***

Father, thank you for the dreams and visions that make life exciting every day. Thank you for the direction and the confidence and peace we find in You that help us move forward. pray for the where that births the what. I pray for the whobodies to come alongside and offer perspective and encouragement. I pray for Your people to step out toward their goals, one little step today toward the calling and the blessings You have for them. I pray for the willingness to take a little risk, to shoot for the moon, to try, try again. For resilience and for steadfastness. For forward movement in all things that You have planned. Starting now. In Jesus.

Heavenly Utilities: Power and Light. Shine, You City, Shine. Shine Bright.

Self-pity and power.

They can not coexist.

One naturally devours the other. Self-pity devours power. Power devours self-pity.

And it seems like a daily choice that adds up over time, more than one big ceremonial decision that changes everything all at once.

Some days I feel the power of God on my life, increasing, swelling, calling, inviting. And on those days, it is the obvious choice. On those days, I choose power.

Power devours self-pity.

 

And it feels big. It usually feels really good for a minute. And then, sometimes, scary. Like a heavy weapon, it would be easy to lay it down.

And some days, I do lay it down. Some days, I choose pitiful.

I don’t mean to do it. I don’t usually even realize I’m doing it.

Well, maybe I realize it a little bit.

Self-pity and power can not coexist.

 

I remember one day crying in the bathroom in college, undoubtedly over some terrible hardship, aka, some drama that I had singlehandedly created.  I was good at that.

I remember watching my mascara run, watercolor black tracks dripping down my cheeks.

It wasn’t until I heard Joyce Meyer talk about doing the same thing many years later that I realized how much self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself. How I wasn’t the only one that took some sick enjoyment from digging eye drops out of my purse and patting my puffy face, gently, with concealer, but in a hurry, like actresses huffing through soap operas, as if I had somewhere I needed to go.

At the time of her story, Joyce’s ministry was just taking off, and she was crying her way through some struggle.

In front of a mirror.

Because, as she says, women (and men) in a certain mood love to watch themselves cry to see just how pitiful they really can be.

Self-pity loves to creep in and celebrate itself.

 

Ouch. Déja vu.

And at that moment, she heard in her spirit, “You can’t be pitiful and powerful.”

You have to choose.

I was taken advantage of very young. I was forced to do things that I went along with because the culture seemed to reward it. I was bullied at school, by teachers and students. I grew up in American poverty. I remember running out of food. I remember no heat in the winter. I didn’t have the advantages that many around me had. I was embarrassed a lot. I was ashamed a lot. I felt self-hatred a lot. I was attacked in college, but I would have gladly pretended it didn’t happen. I was so embarrassed by it that I was already dismissing it until I realized my hair was coming out in clumps, and I was bleeding.

And as an adult, I have felt that, many times, as soon as I won one battle, another came in to take its place. My marriage was a disaster until we got it figured out, and about the time we did, I got desperately sick.

One battle after another.

And through it all, my emotions were a pendulum, swinging back and forth. Pitiful. Powerful. Pitiful. Powerful.

You have to choose.

 

I had days when I felt like fighting.

But for a while, I had more days when I thought about things from the past. Why did they happen the way that they did? What was wrong with me? Why did God bless everyone but me? On and on.

And the more I wallowed, the old pitiful feelings came on stronger and stronger. I didn’t know what deliverance was, but I knew that there were people around me who did life better than I did. I went to them for their thoughts about my situation. I paid for counseling when I didn’t have the money because I didn’t know what else to do. Talking to wise people was my way of not giving up at the time. It was the way that I knew how to fight.

I’m thankful to those who listened for hours, who shared their stories, who encouraged me, and held me accountable.

Fighting for life doesn’t always look like choosing ultimate victory, whatever that is.

Fighting to choose life when you are in a pit is in the little things. Choosing to open your eyes in the morning. Choosing to get out of bed. Choosing to force a smile for your children. Choosing to call someone who can help. That’s what I did.

I was seeking.

And in the seeking, I got some of the best advice from a counselor that I’ve ever gotten:

Press into scripture. Find the scriptures that speak to your worst problem, and write them down. Say them out loud every day, three times a day. Focus on God’s peace, when it comes, when it goes. And then follow that peace wherever it leads.

So, I did it. I read the Bible. I copied scriptures. I read them out loud. It took time, but my life changed.

Fighting to choose life is in the little things.

 

I still have to choose life daily. It looks different now. It was not easy in the beginning, but it has gotten easier over time.

I don’t cry in the bathroom mirror anymore. I don’t miss it. I’m thankful for the life that God provided for me. I’m thankful that He helped me choose it.

I’m thankful for the people He put around me that challenged me with their beautiful lives. I’m thankful that they invited me to join them.

***

You never know who is watching you live well. You have the power to help another person choose life for themselves. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.

Keep choosing power.

You are showing others how it is done.

I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life. Deut 30:19b

You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Matt 5:14-15

Prayer for Troubles and Cares

Occasionally I am asked to blog a piece of writing that appeared elsewhere on social media. Thanks to my friend Lynn for honoring me with the request for this post. 

A Prayer for Troubles and Cares.

Your troubles are heavy. You feel burdened and tired of trying.

Father says, “Pray for their troubles.”

So, today I’m praying for your troubles. For any trouble in your life to lift, dissolve, dissipate, fall away, now in the name of Jesus.

Worry, go in the name of Jesus.

Doubt, stress, anxiety, and fear, leave now in the name of Jesus!

Peace come in, peace like a gentle river, flow in and wash these spirits, souls, and bodies with refreshing. Encouragement come in and cast these troubles in a fresh light. No more troubles, now you are trading in troubles for situations where God can work. No more are these things “your troubles” or “problems or issues.” These things are opportunities for God to show off in your life. He says, “Let me carry it.”

Heaviness and oppression, fall away now. His yoke is easy. His burden is light.

There are times when you ask so many questions. You feel plagued by questions. The how, the why, the what to do next. Almost an unstoppable flood of questions, but there are no answers.

These questions are not a mark of responsibility, though they feel like it at times.

I proclaim an end to the plague of pointless questions.

When they start to swirl in your mind, and you become tense, and your heart starts to race, I pray you tell them to STOP in the name of Jesus! And take a deep breath. And see Jesus in front of you, carrying all of it.

I pray for simple strategies from Heaven for you to deal with every little thing. Situations coming into order, God’s perfect order and beauty filling every place in your heart and mind, and tangibly, visibly, in all situations in your life.

And for great, great peace.

Peace that passes understanding as you face whatever the world has thrown at you. Your feet planted on the rock. Your heart in His hands. He is good, all the time, and He has the solutions in safekeeping for the perfect time for His perfect purpose.

I hear Him say, “You have not failed. You are not a failure. Watch me as I take your efforts and multiply them all around you. You don’t see it all now, but one day you will know the fruit of all the seeds you have planted.”

Something bigger than you is happening, and you get to be a part of it. Your troubles are becoming a testimony. One day soon you will testify to God’s goodness in this situation. He will show Himself strong in you as you stand strong in Him.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.

***

Cast your cares on Him because He cares for you. 1Peter 5:7