Tag Archives: battle

Crybully Epidemic: Hijacked Stories of the #MeToo Movement.

The crybully connection.

I didn’t see it when I first saw #metoo.

I read a few stories. I posted my own #metoo.

It didn’t feel like crybullying–a mess of pitiful tantrums intended to control others with emotional blackmail–no.

It didn’t feel like that.

It felt like a way to participate in a sisterhood. A way to encourage hurting women who felt devalued and attacked. A way to increase awareness of a social problem in our country.

When I was in high school and college, I dealt with some degree of assault several different times.

It was humiliating, and it was terrifying.

I posted my own #metoo.

 

I started waitressing when I was sixteen years old. The first guy that grabbed me was well over fifty. I had absolutely no grid for what was happening in front of the table that I was supposed to be serving, a table of two couples in their thirties. They all stared while he went through his routine. No one said anything. No one stood up for me.

I couldn’t look at my table after he left. I rushed through their table service. Two adult men and two adult women, and not one of them said anything to him or to me, as young as I was. It would have meant a lot if one of those women had said to me, “Me too.” Or if any one of those people would have said just about anything to make me feel like it wasn’t my fault, and I wasn’t being judged. That there were ways I could stand up for myself. That I was worth more than being grabbed by a certain type of man.

When I wrote my #metoo story, I didn’t even mention the waitressing grab. Several other things happened to me over the years, things that were much more serious. I wrote about those. They left me with horror, and with awareness. They left me a little bit cynical and resigned to things that happen to women when they encounter a certain type of man.

A certain type of man.

A couple of months later, the #metoo movement exploded into something unforeseen.

Not long after I posted my story, the Harvey Weinstein stories began to come out. Woman after woman in Hollywood had a story about Harvey.  These stories are awful. Harvey is a “certain type of man.”

A certain type of man.

 

But I watched more and more accusations being made in the media, and the tone suddenly changed. And I started to feel like my #metoo, and many others, had been hijacked and exploited.

A story I shared to encourage others felt like it changed into something else, like it had been snatched up and melded into a tiny part of a huge crybully epidemic.

I started to feel like my #metoo had been hijacked and exploited.

 

I heard accusations against more and more men, made with more and more degrees of uncertainty, and less and less hard evidence. These accusations include a recent one against comedian Ansiz Ansari. If you haven’t heard this #metoo, it’s basically a woman’s account of a really bad date and some unfortunate choices made by both people.

The essence of the woman’s accusation is that Ansari was insensitive. He didn’t order the kind of wine she liked at dinner. He failed to read her mind. But. She wasn’t being forced. She went to his house of her own will. She stayed there. She never said “No.”

When I was attacked, I said, “No.” In fact, I yelled it while I kicked the guy in the nuts.

It is important that people feel heard.

It’s tremendously important that victims of actual crimes see justice and get the help that they need. It’s tremendously important that women are healed.

It is important that people feel heard.

 

At the same time, the #metoo movement seemed to stir up something else.

There is something about the #metoo movement that conflates real abuse with waist grabbing. (One of the actual officially listed accusations against Senator Al Franken. He squeezed someone’s waist during a photo-op.)

This ambiguity is epitomized by the confusion around the emergence of the Aziz Ansari #metoo story. Anyone who says that Ansari doesn’t deserve to be accused of sexual assault is in turn at risk of being accused–by a certain group of so-called feminists–of perpetuating rape culture.

As though a bad date is the equivalent of an actual rape.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse. It devalues the real #metoo stories.

This attitude delegitimizes real abuse.

 

And now, many women are coming forward in the media with more and more unverified accusations against men in the public eye. And these accusations have almost all been treated as complete truth, with one man after another getting fired or stepping down from their jobs, as the innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

There have been very few cases where hard evidence proves that every one of these men is, indeed, a certain type of man.

And even more accusations, particularly by actresses in Hollywood, against abusers that they refuse to name. Actresses, who not long ago, were seen schmoozing with the same perpetrator they gathered to malign, Harvey Weinstein. Actresses who are on record calling known child-molester Roman Polanski a “god.”

Bravery names names. It doesn’t lecture, and virtue-signal, and victim-compete without following through. 

The innocent until proven guilty adage seems to be largely ignored.

 

The posture of Hollywood contrasts starkly with victims in the recent case of Larry Nassar where women came forward in a courtroom, rather than grandstanding for the media. They saw justice through to the legal fulfillment. They didn’t vaguely allude to abuse and then back down.

Women should have justice.

And.

Men should also have justice.

Lives should not be destroyed, just because they can, by false or unproven accusations.

In many cases, women in Hollywood have been unwilling victims of Harvey and others on the infamous casting couch.

Women should have justice. And. Men should also have justice.

 

The casting couch is sick. It is a disaster. It is a social ill that has been well-documented since the beginnings of Hollywood. And all of us have looked the other way. It’s a good thing to see it being addressed.

But we have to differentiate between rape and ugly consensual agreements between adults.

It is also true that many of these women participated in the casting-couch culture, not unwillingly, but willingly.

It is unfortunate that the casting couch exists. But, it is also something that an actor or actress can walk away from. The casting couch might stand between a person and a high-profile acting job, but it does not stand between a person and every acting job. And it does not stand between a person and a good life.

In many cases, participating in casting-couch culture has been a consensual agreement by all involved.

It is absurd for Hollywood women to lecture us and threaten men that “time’s up” when these same women willingly and knowingly participated in a system that trades sex for jobs. One of the women in the Harvey Weinstein case, when asked why she never came forward, told police, “Harvey said, ‘You’re ready to become a real actress now.’ It’s what you do. You keep silent.”

How many other women were victimized by Harvey after this rape because this woman waited years to speak up, because “silent” is what you do?

These are sad stories.

 

I have seen video of famous women talking about letting famous men into their hotel rooms, but, if they had known that a man was only going to end up a C-list celebrity, they never would have let him in. I have read articles by actresses talking about the distress that they experienced as they did things in front of the camera that they didn’t want to do but did anyway because they didn’t want to lose a role.

These are sad stories.

These women are hurting. They need to know their true value. They need unconditional love and deep healing.

But cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

Many of these women, unlike actual sexual assault victims, were willing participants in a sick and perverted system.

If you did something you wish you hadn’t done, that is regret.

And as the saying goes, regret is not rape.

Cooperating within a corrupt culture does not make them heroes.

 

If you have violent stress symptoms in your body as you anticipate a sexual act that you are about to participate in by your choice without force, but you ignore those symptoms and go on and do that act as part of a job, there is a word for that. It is prostitution.

And if you do it in front of a camera, it is pornography.

Just because these women are famous, and have wealth, and some form of respect, that does not change the nature of what they are participating in, and honestly, what we are all participating in when we pay Hollywood to continue to entertain us at such a high price.

Regret is not rape.

 

I couldn’t help but think as I watched coverage of the last few awards shows, where were these powerful women when child star after child star came forward over the years with stories of pedophile abuse in Hollywood?

The recent documentary, An Open Secret, is well-researched and full of concrete evidence, including recorded confessions, against Hollywood pedophiles in high places. But the film was finally released for free on the internet after seeking and failing to find patrons and distributors for over two years.

Any one of a myriad of Hollywood women could have backed that film. What a statement of actual bravery that would have been.

Bravery does not crybully.

Bravery protects.

The feminist movement constantly accuses culture of infantilizing women.

Allowing women to participate in a known corrupt culture without asking them to also take responsibility for their conscious actions?

There is no worse form of infantilization.

Bravery protects.

 

There is an element of responsibility that mature adults take for themselves and their behavior, independent of others.

When we as women don’t take responsibility for ourselves and our choices, we keep ourselves from fully growing into our potential. And isn’t that really what feminism is all about? Isn’t that what God asks of us, to the best of our ability? Women, and men, actualized and activated in their greatest possible forms?

When we don’t take responsibility for our own power, we risk creating a culture of fear around us. And we risk destroying what every woman who has gone before us worked for us to enjoy.

I don’t want women to be shut out by men professionally or socially because men are afraid of what could happen if some woman chooses to accuse them of any thing at any time.

I won’t be in a hurry to jump on a # bandwagon anytime in the future. I no longer trust the culture with my stories. I’ll tell them in my own way, my own time.

Below are some great quotes from an excellent article entitled “Meet the Women Worried About #metoo.” You can find it at spiked-online.com.

***

The novelist Kingsley Amis used to say: ‘Women are trouble – keep them out of all institutions.’ He was a misogynist, but such notions will revive if women portray themselves as so fragile that they can’t deal with the small change of everyday life with robust common sense. ~Mary Kenny

 

Girl Power is real. Instead of carrying on about how frightened and degraded we are, maybe it’s time to acknowledge the truth: In 2017, we can destroy almost any man by a single accusation.

With power comes responsibilities. As Wesley Yang said, in the best article yet on the #MeToo frenzy: ‘Feminists should remember something they know well from their own experiences with men:  Nobody is so dangerous, to themselves and others, as a person or collectivity that wields power without acknowledging it.’  ~Christina Hoff Summers

 

The #MeToo campaign is very worrying and will achieve the opposite of what it pretends to want. The hashtag claims to be about empowering women to speak out when actually it is turning women into perpetual victims.

Women who put up with sexual harassment and keep quiet about it for years, protecting the perpetrators, are hailed as heroines and strong, powerful feminists. Yet, bizarrely, women who speak out and deal with sexual harassment forcefully at the time, and then happily move on with their lives as I and millions of other women have done over the years, are derided as ‘victim-blamers’ or even ‘rape apologists’. It’s almost as if a woman is only ‘the right kind of woman’ if she is willing to play the victim. ~Julia Hartley-Brewer

 

My greatest concern is that the #MeToo phenomenon creates a toxic narrative that casts every male as a potential predator and every female as a perpetual victim. This can be enormously damaging for women, particularly young girls who, despite having every advantage and legal protection in the West, grow up believing they face enormous, perhaps insurmountable, barriers. . . .Meanwhile, modern feminism all but ignores the plight of the most oppressed women around the world who are subjugated from the cradle to the grave. ~Rita Panahi

Intimidation. It’s So Intimidating. Or is it?

Intimidation.

We all struggle with intimidation at times, but for some reason, I’m hearing this word more than usual.

“She intimidates me. I am so intimidated around her. He is so intimidating.”

Bullies exist, this is true. And they use all kinds of tactics. Screaming, shouting, lying, gaslighting, threats of all kinds, physical violence, and more.

I’ve been around bullies all my life. When I was young, they did scare me. And I usually did whatever they pressured me to do.

But as I got older, rather than just feeling fearful and going along with the pressure, I gained some awareness of the pattern.

My response to bullying didn’t change right away, but as soon as I realized the way that bullies operate, and I realized the way I reacted, I felt annoyed. And angry with the bullies.  And disappointed with myself.

Every time I let them get away with it, I got weaker. But in another sense, I got stronger too. Like pressure building inside a canister, each incident pushed itself on the one before, and I grew up a little.

I had to make a choice.

Was I going to continue to be passive?

I saw passive-aggression emerging in me, and I didn’t like it. Passivity creates underlying resentment. Passivity also creates a false dichotomy of equating any strong person with every bully. Underlying resentment seethes and waits for opportunities to get back at bullies in sneaky ways, and passive-aggression is born.

Was I going to continue to be passive?

 

In my experience, passive-aggressive people are drawn to true strength for two reasons. One, they lack true strength and want to draw on someone else’s, and, two, they are looking for a safe place to take out their resentment on actual bullies. I did this at times, and I’ve watched other people do it.

The pattern is a vicious cycle. By entering into relationship with true strength and abusing it, the passive-aggressive person never deals with their underlying fear, they only settle for the appearance of courage.

And in the process, they destroy their relationships with healthy people who could help them most and love them best.

As I faced my passive-aggressive tendencies, I prayed for ways to grow in true strength.

I love the verse that says, “Where you are weak, He is strong in you.”

Whenever I felt bullied or dominated by someone who had sniffed out my weakness, I whispered that verse to myself.

Where you are weak, He is strong in you.

 

And over time, I saw myself responding in new ways.

A sentence would pop out of my mouth that I had no idea I was about to say. I heard myself saying “No” a lot more. I gave myself permission to do things like rest, to stay home from parties and holiday celebrations, to protect time at home with my family, to be very particular about the people who were allowed in my closest circles in my most vulnerable times.

People will take everything you have if you let them.

And they often don’t even know they are doing it. True strength sets boundaries so that secret resentment doesn’t grow and lash out at some random time. True strength respects boundaries for the same reason.

We have to help each other take care of ourselves.

True strength sets boundaries. And true strength respects boundaries.

 

Passive-aggression does the opposite. It does not respect boundaries or personal limits, it makes demands on them. And in this way, many people who were bullied become bullies, pressuring and manipulating strong people, just to see if they can, to make themselves feel strong.

Crybullies are born this way, people who use their pain and weakness to pressure others to cave to their every whim, emotion, and feeling.

It doesn’t matter if someone is screaming at you or crying at you to get their way, or if you use these tactics to get your way with someone else–bullying is bullying.

And intimidation is intimidation.

Or is it?

You can’t control what bullies do. But you can control your own behavior and your response to their demands and pressure.

Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the word intimidate:

Intimidate:  To make timid or fearful. To frighten. To compel or deter as if by threats.

I take a little issue with this definition.

Intimidation is not an automatic guarantee that someone is creating a feeling of fear. No.

Intimidation is an attempt to create a feeling of fear.

Early on in my journey I heard a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I didn’t exactly understand it when I first heard it, and I am still growing in this, but I’m getting there.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Knowing who we are in Christ is paramount. When you understand who God is, the King of the Universe, Maker of All Things, the Ultimate Good, and you know what He calls you?

Fully absorbing the identity God has for you changes everything.

He calls you beautiful. He calls you fearfully and wonderfully made. He calls you kings and priests. He calls you His. And when you are weak, He is strong in you.

Identity is first.

Fully absorbing the identity God has for you changes everything.

 

Actions are born out of identity.

Passive-aggressive behavior and bullying behavior are born out of an identity that says, “All life is a power struggle, and I’m afraid I’m going to fail, so I am going to take power for myself any way I can get it.”

But true strength is born out of an identity that says, “God is strong. I am His. Where I am weak, He is strong in me.” True strength doesn’t pretend to not have weaknesses, but it lets the goodness of God trump the temptation to enter into power struggles with bullies. It refuses to allow their words and actions to speak more loudly into our lives than the power of God.

I see myself changing. I see myself speaking up where I once was silent. I see myself standing up for those who are weaker than I am now. I see changes in myself that I could never have brought about on my own. I’m so thankful for the gentle invitation of God to constantly seek a better way.

His ways are higher, and they work.

Don’t let someone intimidate you.

If you hear yourself saying, “That person intimidates me,” take it back. Quick.

If a person is truly a bully, ask God how to handle it. Don’t give in to things that are wrong out of fear.

If a person is simply strong, and, in comparison, you feel weak, don’t falsely accuse them of being a bully and then distance yourself with passive-aggressive behavior. Draw near to them, and share your struggle. Ask them how they grew in strength. Most people aren’t just born strong. Like muscles, emotional strength is gained with effort over time.

Every time you resist intimidation, you get stronger. Every time you resist withdrawing and criticizing someone strong because you feel weak, you get stronger. Every time you choose action over passive-aggression, you get stronger.

We have a choice on how we respond to the stuff that people throw at us. Resisting intimidation, real or imagined, makes us stronger every time.

***

Father, I ask you to heal us from the places inside us that say “yes” to intimidation. Heal us from the places in our hearts that have been wounded by bullies and are stuck in an old pattern. Help us to value true strength in relationships. To not abuse it, and to grow in strength in ourselves. Remind us of Your strength in us wherever we feel weak. Grow us in the ability to stand up for what is right, to resist intimidation in every form. Make us stronger. In Jesus.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Simple Way to Stay in Joy

This post originated on Facebook as an encouragement for the holidays. I’m putting it here so it’s easier to find. We have challenging people in our lives year-round. Staying in joy!

You are an atmosphere changer. You change the quality of the air around you wherever you go.

But when you battle a heavy atmosphere, you may not always feel the change you are creating.

Sometimes the heaviness can feel more intense as you stand against it. It is not floating downstream, but swimming upstream that makes you feel the force of the current.

One time, I asked the Lord, “How do I keep my joy in the face of insults, anger, and competition? How do I show grace when I feel like arguing or defending myself? Or when I just feel like crying and giving up?”

I heard Him say, “Smile at me. Just look up, and smile at me. You love because of me, you’re doing this for me–smile at me!”

I want to be joyful and happy, but I seriously do not always feel like smiling at people. And they don’t always make it easy.

But just hearing Him say it made me smile, and I thought, “Ok, I’ll try it.”

There are studies about what happens when we smile, endorphins released, etc, but I had never thought about smiling at the Lord as a way to hold on to joy.

I had a dinner meeting with a group of people soon after that prayer. By the time we sat down to eat, I was already annoyed and battling insults and offense. I excused myself to ‘check on something,’ and as I stepped away, I gritted my teeth in a huge forced grin, and I looked up, and I started talking. “Here I am! I’m SMILING! See me SMILING?!? I’m smiling at You! I love You! I’m here for You! You make me smile! No one else has to make me smile because YOU MAKE ME SMILE!!!”

It was mad smiling, a little forced, but it made me laugh. It was truly a sacrifice of praise in that moment, but it was funny. It was something you would do with a best friend.

Just look up, and smile at me!

 

It reminded me that I wasn’t there alone. He was smiling back.

He gets how hard people can be. And He loves them too. And He and I, we are tag-teaming it. And He’s smiling and winking back at me, “You got this!!!”

I started sneaking off to get a dose of joy from my Father about every fifteen minutes. Just off to the side, wherever, and I would just look up and smile.

Truth? Those people didn’t act the best that day.

But, it’s actually a great memory for me. God shows Himself real when we let Him. I had a blast that day with my Daddy in Heaven, my best friend.

As we have parties and dinners and meetings and gatherings with people who may be hard to love, I pray we remember to SMILE at God! It plugs us in to the huge source of all joy.

And that joy, the  joy of the Lord, it makes us strong.

***

Do not sorrow, for the joy of the Lord is your strength. Neh 8:10b

 

Don’t Try to be Something You’re Not. What Does that Even Mean?

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

I heard adults say this phrase over and over throughout my childhood.

But it’s hard not to try to be something you’re not when you’re not even  sure what it is that you are.

Identity is a subject that is talked about all the time. In cultural circles, it is one of the hottest topics of our day.

Don’t try to be something you’re not.

 

A week ago, I was getting ready for church.

I used to try to have all the little details of my life perfect, especially when my family was going somewhere in public. My clothes laid out, the kids’ clothes laid out, my hair perfect, their hair perfect. Everyone’s nails clipped and filed, mine perfectly manicured. Coordinating hair bows, loose strings cut, sweaters lint-rolled till they shined. You get it.

Our culture tells us “Don’t be something you’re not, but, oh by the way, be perfect!” All at the same time. And we buy into it.

Because, what will happen if we don’t?

I make choices daily about how I use my time. Having all the little details perfect back then meant that I spent a lot of time on those details, shining shoes, ironing, micromanaging the kids on little things.

And we buy into it.

 

I still care about those things. I’m not saying that I have become a slob. In fact, I’ve learned how to work smarter and not harder in a lot of areas. “Lord, help me work smarter, not harder!” One of my favorite prayers. Everyday wisdom. Jesus. Oh, how we need it.

I still care about those things, but I don’t care about them nearly as much as I used to because I no longer take my identity from them. 

“Identity” was a word that used to infuriate me when I first came back to the church. The women in the weekly Bible study I attended said “identity” to each other, their eyes meeting, knowing looks, head nodding. Identity.  Girl. Mmmhmm. Like it was a world in a word. And it is. But their extreme confidence in something I did not understand frustrated me to the point of rage.

Lord, help me work smarter, not harder.

 

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

I wanted to know what they knew. I started to pray into this word. “Identity. Identity in Christ. What does that even mean, God? I want to know.”

I started to see what Jesus died for. What He wanted for us, for me. Redeemed. All the junk that I thought was a lost cause in me, all the areas of damage, all the areas of failure. He died so that I could have a different identity. I was not what I did. I was what He did. I was what He died for.

Christianese is only helpful if we translate.

 

It’s a walking out. What we know as identity will continue to grow as we grow closer to Him.

You become like the people you spend the most time with. I want to be more like Jesus. I’m spending more time with Him than I am on all the little details. And I’m spending more time trying to follow Him where I think He’s leading me. I do think He cares about the way we take care of ourselves, but those things can become idols. We can go overboard on anything if we don’t understand that identity comes from Him, His life, His death, His vision for us.

You become like the people you spend the most time with.

 

Our lives are not our own.

Instead of making lists that are set in stone and making everyone miserable as I try to check them off, I’m asking more questions. “How did You make me? What is on Your list for me today? What am I in You?” I’m able to walk out in more confidence when my to-do list comes from One so much bigger than I am, One who loves so well.

So. Back to getting ready for church.

I had gone to an event the night before and gotten home late. I didn’t take a lot of time to get ready for the morning before I went to bed. I know how I am when I don’t get enough sleep. Sleep is a priority. The details have to come later. I chose rest.

And, again in the morning, I chose rest. I slept as long as I could, and I got up with about 45 minutes to get ready.

What is on Your list for me today?

 

I knew  I wasn’t going to be super dressy, no time for that. So I picked up a pair of jeans. Fine. Jeans are fine.

Then, I started going through my drawers. I felt a little stressed and rushed. I picked up a sweater that is pretty, but I don’t love it on me. I started going through the drawer again, looking for something that I felt better about wearing.

And I heard that old phrase, “Don’t try to be something that you’re not.”

And I felt offended.

“What, Lord? I’m not doing that. I enjoy clothes. I enjoy dressing up and putting different pieces together. I’m not ‘trying too hard’ or ‘trying to be something I’m not!’ What are you talking about?”

I am learning that when I am offended by the Holy Spirit, I like to throw a little fit. And then when I get it out, He’s still there, waiting. And then I say, “Ok. Fine. I don’t understand because I don’t think that I am that/do that/think that. But whatever. Please. Show me what you mean.” That’s just how it goes. Every time.

And He does.

I felt that He was saying, “Just stop a minute. Be honest with yourself about what you are right now.”

Please. Show me what you mean.

 

And I got it.

What I am right now. What I was, right then.

I was someone who chose sleep over details that day. I was someone who chose blogging over ironing that week. I was someone who chose time with my kids over shining shoes and cutting threads. I was someone who chose to put a party together for my friends instead of dying my hair.

I do all those self care things–again, I don’t want to sound like those things don’t matter. They do matter. I’m not all holier than thou. Trust me. I like my hair done.  I like when my boots are tall and my makeup is on point. It’s just that, the reality of what I was in that moment was not someone who had made those things a priority. I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes. I wasn’t going to be able to make up for a week of putting other things first by tearing through a drawer trying to find the perfect sweater. I wasn’t going to be able to get ready for church and be on time by trying to be something I wasn’t.

I wasn’t going to be able to fix it in 45 minutes.

 

I felt relief. Permission to move forward. Perfect is just not going to happen today. Maybe never. I put on the less-than-perfect sweater. I didn’t even try to fix my hair. I brushed it and put on a hat. I grabbed the first jewelry I saw. I did simple makeup. I have no idea what the kids wore, but they got themselves ready for church on time with no prodding. To me, that’s success. Two teens and a tween in the van, on their own, on time, with no pushing from mom. Thank You, Lord.

It’s a journey, this identity thing. But one thing I know. I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am. Rushed? Tired? Frustrated? Disappointed? I don’t have to wallow in it, but I don’t need to be in denial about it either, in the name of perfectionism, or optimism.

Or even in the name of faith.

I have permission to stop trying to be something I’m not. That means being honest in every moment about what I am.

 

Real faith doesn’t have to lie about circumstances. Real faith is honest about the mess and brings it to God and says, “Ok, God. It’s Your mess. Now what?”

And here’s the funny thing. I got so many compliments that morning on my jewelry, on my hat. I had to take a picture. Not because I think I look like a rock star, but because I know how I felt, and He showed me that He can still put us together in the middle of our mess, in the middle of our less-than-perfect. He can help us work smarter not harder. Don’t try to be something you’re not.

He will work it out.

And someone will just love your hat.

If they only knew.

Less than perfect. And I’m showing you my messy kitchen too. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Lol! <3

***

What are you, right now? What do you need to be honest about, and just let God have it? Frustrated? Disappointed? Rushed? Lord, we give it to you. Show us how to walk this out without trying to force something that is never going to happen. Show us how to stop trying to be something we are not and just rest in You.

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

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Cor 5:17

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Gal 2:20

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

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.