Tag Archives: encouragement

All I Ever Have To Be

21 Oct

On what should have been an hour and a half drive on a weekday afternoon, there was an accident on I-5 that made drive time turn into a 5 hour forced bonding time between myself and a work peer.  To pass the time while sitting there, we talked and after a couple of hours, started trying to entertain one another by playing various games we recalled from childhood family road trips.  My co-worker decided to play a game of “What’s your favorite?”, which led to her knowing much more about me than I would normally divulge to a colleague.  What’s your favorite color?  What’s your favorite movie?  What’s your favorite food?  What’s your favorite song?  I can’t answer that one!  I mean, there are so many, and it depends on what type of music, what mood I’m in, what memory its associated with, how do you pick one child over the other?!  The question actually stressed me out!

So, I say this with great hesitation, but if I had to pick a favorite song (which I’m still not going to commit to), the song “All I Ever Have To Be”, sung by Amy Grant and written by Gary Chapman would have to be on my short list.  This song was released in 1980, when I was still a young girl, however, I can clearly remember listening to the lyrics closely and the beautiful simple melody.  Even at the age of 8, this song resonated with me deeply.  Hard to explain it and I certainly did not realize the degree to which I would need to continue to be reminded of the words of this simple beauty throughout my life.

“All I Ever Have To Be”

When the weight of all my dreams
Is resting heavy on my head
And the thoughtful words of help and hope
Have all been nicely said
But I’m still hurting, wondering if I’ll ever be the one
I think I am – I think I amThen you gently re-remind me
That You’ve made me from the first
And the more I try to be the best
The more I get the worst
And I realize the good in me is only there because of who You are
Who You are…And all I ever have to be is what You’ve made me
Any more or less would be a step out of Your plan
As you daily recreate me help me always keep in mind
That I only have to do what I can find
And all I ever have to be
All I have to be
All I ever have to be is what You’ve made me

 

So dear one, if like me, you struggle with meeting the expectations of others or even more difficult, your own,  If you are tired of striving, If you feel more loved for what you do than who you are, then let me remind you as I remind myself.

  1. God made you, uniquely you on purpose, don’t try to be someone else.
  2. Give yourself some grace, we’re all unfinished.
  3. Never doubt for a minute, that even with your imperfections you are mind-blowingly loved.
  4. We don’t have to pull it off alone.  All the good is because of Him and He wants to handle our tough stuff too.
  5. Stop striving.  A good dose of rest in His love and grace, allows us to be who we were made to be.

Ahhhh, I feel better, how about you?

Be encouraged my friend!

 

 

 

 

Fiery & Faithful

7 Oct

As I sit down to write this post, I am struck with the fact that you won’t be reading or commenting on this one.  I could always count on you to take a couple of minutes to read whatever I was sharing, you only gave a compliment when you meant it, so when I got one, it meant a lot because I knew it was completely sincere.  This is just one of the many things I loved and appreciated about you and there is so much more.

You had strong opinions, not a whole lot of gray area with you.  Spunk and internal fortitude were very natural for you and you had a deep sense of right and wrong.

You would stand up for and defend to the death those you believed in and held dear.  You would speak up, pray on their behalf and even tell us if we needed to shape up.

You were fiercely loyal.  People could count on you.  Your word was always rock solid.

Ever since you were alerted to the fact that I didn’t so much care for amphibians, I think you may have dedicated a percentage of your spare time to tracking down frog memes just for my benefit.  I count it a privilege that you loved me enough to mess with me.

You were always there.  To bring a meal, lend a hand, listen, sit with us, pray for us, cry with us.  You were a loyal friend.

You were family, so many birthdays, Easters, 4th of July’s, Christmases and just because’s spent together.  We love Grandma Edna!

You were the best friend my mom could ever ask for.  You couldn’t be more different from one another and you were so good for each other.  Last year, when my mom was so sick, I called you and you came right away.  Even though my mom was incapacitated, you didn’t hesitate to walk right up to her bedside, hold her hand and start visiting with her and telling her what she needed to do to get better.  There could be no truer friend than you.  Thank you for loving my mom so well.

You meant so much to me,  my family and so many others, but yesterday, when I attempted to describe you to someone who didn’t know you in this life, I told her you were fiery and faithful.  I believe that those who know you well would agree and I desire to see in my own life so many of those fiery, faithful attributes I witnessed in watching your life up close over the last 15ish years.

Edna, I am sure you are blissfully busy meeting your savior face to face, catching up with loved ones and taking in all the wonders of heaven, but if you happen to read this, I want you to know that there are a lot of people left behind who will miss you in ways that words can’t express and I personally want you to know that I have a heart full of love, admiration and thankfulness for the most fiery, faithful lady I’ve ever known.  Looking forward to being home with you one day!

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The Joy of Obedience

30 Aug

I like the word joy.  It brings a smile to my face just saying it…go ahead and try …”JOY”…aahhh, sweetness.  Wouldn’t you know it though, obedience doesn’t roll off the tongue quite so smoothly.  I don’t feel like partying when I hear that one!  Who wants more joy in their life?  We all raise our hands.  Who’s interested in becoming more obedient?  Cue the crickets.

When I say obedience, it conjures up the same feelings I tend to get when I hear words like, selflessness, humility, sacrifice or surrender.  No smile appears on my face, rather I often feel a sense of dread, like I need to brace myself, or even fear, wondering what’s this going to cost me?  My self centeredness is showing again.  Anyone out there know what I’m saying?

As a child I had a healthy fear of Dad and I can remember, especially during the summer, he would leave us kids with a fairly lengthy list of chores that needed to be done by the time he got home from work.  Even then, knowing there would be consequences if it wasn’t done, I would delay that obedience until the last hour, when my brother, sister and I would scramble around in a frenzy to do what we had been told and hopefully get it done enough that we avoided punishment.  We got it done, maybe our feet were dragging & it wasn’t our best work but it was just enough to avoid the wrath of dad.  I guess that’s called half-hearted obedience.

Looking back, I can clearly see that although I may have been checking the list by the hair of my chinny, chin, chin, my attitude was missing the mark by a mile.  My heart was in the wrong place, I wanted to do what I wanted to do and only begrudgingly obeyed to avoid discipline.  This may have worked for Dad some days but half-hearted obedience doesn’t work with our Heavenly Father because He cares more about the heart motive than getting the check list complete.

In chronological years, I’ve been an adult for quite a while now and would like to say I have this obedience thing down but truth be told, adult me, still struggles with self centeredness that keeps me from being obedient with the right motivation.

Last weekend, I had a wonderful time at a women’s retreat in beautiful Lake Tahoe, my new sister friend Becky who was attending decided she wanted to follow the Lord in obedience and get baptized.  So awesome!!

For her, this was a brave step and a bit scary, ok, a lot scary!  She didn’t want to be the center of attention, didn’t want people gawking at her, she felt insecure and to be straight up honest, was feeling so anxious that she almost didn’t see her obedience through.

Some prayer and an encouraging friend helped and we waded in to the water. Becky went under the water and I tell you what, she came up out of the water with a mega watt smile brighter than the sun itself.  The joy in her was so evident I thought a heavenly dove was going to descend.  Just looking at her made my heart swell with joy!

There was a whole crowd of ladies on the shore cheering her on and celebrating her public proclamation of faith and we all broke into song and had a great time together praising God.  It was truly a beautiful God moment.  A moment that would not have happened, had Becky let her fear and insecurity speak louder than her desire to please her Heavenly Father by simply obeying.

This is what I am learning but have certainly not mastered.  Obey scared, obey anxious, obey with questions, obey without any assurance of the outcome, but obey.  Obey, because you love Him so.  There may be some pain and discomfort in the obeying, but Becky and I agree there is unspeakable joy on the other side!!

“If you love me, keep my commands.” – John 14:15

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He Gets It

9 Apr

Do you ever feel like no one understands what you are going through?  I do!  Like your friends or even your family just don’t get it?  Me, again!

The other morning heading to work I was feeling a little weary, a little hurt, a little angry a little a lot of things, I guess.  I was thinking about someone who I am frustrated with.  I guess I felt let down by this individual and I felt justified in my feelings.  The fact that this individual had not met what I feel are reasonable expectations left me feeling, hurt and a bit rejected during an already difficult period.  I was struggling in that moment to let it go, to forgive, especially absent an apology or acknowledgment of any wrong doing, which I wasn’t holding my breath for.

When I am feeling this way, whatever the circumstances may be, it is my desire to be understood, for my feelings to be heard, for someone to get it!  You know, acknowledge the issue and the fact that my feelings are understandable?!  However, as with many things in life, I often don’t get my way.  Sometimes, the situation isn’t appropriate to share with another so that I can feel validated.  Sometimes, the other person because of their own issues isn’t willing or capable to have the conversation that needs to be had. Sometimes, we don’t get what we want.

In that moment, driving down I-5, feeling un-understood, my mind focused on someone who does understand me and I was reminded of this truth, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.”  – Hebrews 4:15.

When you don’t get the apology you deserve.  When you need help and no one is around. When you feel alone.  When there is conflict.  When people have more important priorities.  When no one wants to listen.  When people say false things about you.  When people hurt you.  When a friend turns their back on you.  When you struggle.  When life is hard.  When you are in pain.  When you are overwhelmed.  When you have been let down.  When you don’t seem to fit in.  When you are tempted.  When you are tired. When no one else gets it.  God gets it!  He knows how it feels, He felt it.

He gets it and you know what His response was and is?  To love anyway. To humble himself anyway.  To forgive anyway.  To lay down His life anyway.

His example challenges me.  I am so far most days from responding the way He does.  It is my desire to grow in the grace He lavishes on me.  I want grace, but how freely am I giving it away to others?

His example convicts me.  How can I withhold from others, what I so desperately need from Him?

His example comforts me.  It is certainly a wonderful feeling to be understood by our friends and family and I am thankful when that is a reality.  But when it’s not, I serve a God who understands me.  He understands my ways, my feelings and He loves me as I am.

So thankful for a God, who gets it!  He gets you too!

 

 

The Love Of God

19 Feb

I’ve been spending a few days away at the ocean and as I sit here looking out at this breathtaking creation, I am reminded of a beautiful old hymn that remains in my mind from somewhere in the recesses of my childhood memory.  You know there is usually a story behind every good lyric and I love the story behind this timeless hymn.

It was 1917 and the author of this song was down on his luck having lost everything in a business venture gone wrong.  His current means of making income was working as a manual laborer in a California packing plant loading lemons and oranges in to crates day in and day out.  While packing the citrus fruit the words of this ageless love song began to drop into his heart and mind and when he got home he hurried to get them down on paper.  He sat at his piano and arranged the words with a melody that fit them just so.  However, he had only two verses and for a great hymn, you need at least three.  Who knew?! 

He struggled to complete the song, but nothing came to him…UNTIL…he remembered an old poem that someone had given him, which he hunted around for and found on a card that he had been using as a bookmark.  He was thrilled as he read and knew he had the completion of this God song in his hand. 

At the bottom of the card was a note that explained where the words were found.  They had been found written on a prisoner’s wall in a mental ward over 200 years before.  It is not known why the prisoner was incarcerated or if the words were original or he had heard them somewhere and decided to put them in a place where he could easily be reminded of the greatness of God’s love.  Whatever the circumstances, he wrote them on the wall of his prison cell, where they were found by the men who had the job of cleaning and repainting his cell after he had died.  These precious words were captured by those men before their paint brushes erased them.

Frederick M. Lehman went to his piano and put the words he had just found to the melody he had already written and they were a perfect fit!  That verse found on the wall of an insane asylum is now the third verse in the timeless hymn titled, “The Love of God” and it reads like this:

Could we with ink the ocean fill

And were the skies of parchment made,

Were every stalk on earth a quill

And every man a scribe by trade,

To write the love of God above

Would drain the ocean dry,

Nor could the scroll contain the whole

Tho stretched from sky to sky.

O love of God, how rich and pure!

How measureless and strong!

It shall forevermore endure

The saints and angel’s song.

Looking at the ocean today reminds me of this beautiful song and the story behind it encourages me with these truths.

  • God shows up in our less than ideal situations, He speaks to us in the ordinary, in the mundane, in the less than ideal things we go through in life. 
  • God always has a plan, he writes our stories and connects them with others, in ways we can’t imagine and often times don’t even realize. 
  • God’s love is so powerful that it can reach a soul that is imprisoned, near death and battling for their sanity.  God’s love can break through the deepest, darkest pit! 

I am thankful for the awe-inspiring ocean that reminds me of the greatness and vastness of God’s amazing, mind-blowing love for you and I!

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First Responder OR Nuclear Reactor?

11 Feb

Several weeks ago now, I was running late getting out the door for work. It was extra cold that morning and the zipper on my coat was stuck, so I had been wrestling with it for about 10 minutes with my frustration level growing as the clock ticked. I finally gave up and decided, I’d have to just slip the coat over my head and try to wrestle with it some more later. I then went to finish getting ready and my 350 degree flat iron started to fall off the counter. I reacted quickly and grabbed for it! Only problem is, I missed the handle and grabbed the actual iron! Owww!!  The pain caused me to drop it and it fell to the floor where I was then able to pick it up by the handle.

In the following moments while digging through the closet to find some burn cream, God dropped a pretty clear thought into my heart and mind. I don’t know that I appreciated it all that much in the moment, but it would be futile to argue with the truth or God for that matter!

The internal dialogue went something like this…”you seem to be reacting instead of responding to circumstances and situations in your life. It is so much better to respond than to react. You can cause damage and hurt when you react but response can bring correction, growth, healing and even reconciliation.”

Like I said, it wasn’t fun hearing it, the truth stung like the burn I was dealing with, but I knew in that moment, God was asking me to work on being more responsive and less reactive.

It hasn’t taken me too much effort in the days following to see how right God was in His summation of my reactive reflex. It may look something like this in my life or your life:

I’m at work being pulled in what feels like a hundred different directions, there’s more to get done than can ever be done and a staff person walks in my office and says, “do you have a minute?” My reaction may include a rolling of my eyes, a heavy sigh or maybe I don’t even look up and talk while I’m staring at the computer trying to finish the thought I was in the middle of.

I reacted.

Have you read any social media posts lately that have annoyed you? Dare I say, even angered you? If I was going to react, I might make a whole judgmental story in my head about the person who made the post, or I might immediately begin to type back a missive in order to set them straight!! Perhaps engage in some written warfare, whatever it takes to show them the error of their ways.

That would be a reaction.

Parents and others who play a role in shaping the lives of little ones have lots of opportunity to either react or respond. Your child spills their drink at the dinner table and before you realize it, your tone is stern, your voice is raised, “You spilled your juice again! You need to start paying attention to what you are doing! I’m tired of cleaning up after you all the time!” A simple “oops, let’s get a rag and get this cleaned up” would’ve sufficed and left you and them feeling a whole lot better about life.

Sometimes we react.

 
You see even if it’s as little a thing as a stuck coat zipper and a falling flat iron. My reactions are revealing the condition of my heart. It’s a character issue.

If I am reacting based on my emotion, it’s all about me. When I respond I’m taking long enough to consider another’s perspective and choosing actions and words that address the person or situation in a way that builds up. Reaction is instant but responding takes effort.

I am certain that becoming more of a responder and less of a reactor will be a life long journey. It has to be if I want to be a person who leaves people, places and situations better. If I desire to be a life giver.

I want to be a first responder not a nuclear reactor. If you feel the same, below is a prayer from my heart to His, feel free to pray it along with me.

“Lord, people and situations can be so frustrating and so daily! I find myself reacting in ways that are less than ideal, less than what I know you desire. Less than how I see you model and demonstrate in Your Word. Please forgive me for the many times I have reacted in ways that make others feel less than, for the times I have made a situation worse because of my unwillingness to seek you before reacting. I need your help, I need your wisdom so that I can be someone who interacts with people and situations in a way that brings life and ultimately gives You glory. Thank you for caring enough to correct me, thank you for being gracious and loving to me even when the discipline stings. I want to reflect Your heart to others and respond to tough circumstances with the same love and grace you consistently show me. Change my heart and help me to be a responder not a reactor. In Jesus Name, Amen!”

Turtle Like Tendencies

7 Jan

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the old adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”  I get the heart of this message and agree with it, truly this world does not need another voice joining the chorus of negativity, whining, complaining or insult throwing.  Beyond that, I try to be a person that if I am speaking I am hoping it is to add to the equation and not subtract. 

A couple of months of dealing with serious family health struggles left me physically and emotionally tired, dealing with my own feelings of shame for failing at making desired progress in my life, for not being able to do everything well, add in my own physical crisis and all the issues that can make one consider left me in a place that I’d been before, back in my shell.  It’s dark and lonely there and deceptively “safe”.

What happens when life overwhelms and you’re trying to survive and feel a bit like an empty shell hoping that if you keep hanging on, the winds will shift and you’ll be able to sail again?  I can tell you what happens to me.  I don’t want to but I will.  I follow my inclination to become turtle like, I tuck inside my shell.  Radio silence. 

I mean, what is there to say?  What do I have to offer at this juncture?  Nothing you probably want.  So I go with my propensity for solitary confinement.  There’s nothing cute to talk about and I’m out of wise tips and quips so I’m quiet.  No need to meet up for coffee, I’m not good company these days.  I even stop writing so I don’t have to deal with my own internal conversations.  It’s rough when you annoy yourself!

Maybe, I’m the only one that follows this custom, but I kinda doubt it.  It seems there is likely to be a few who will read this and admit at least to themselves that they go with the train of thought that “I’ll get through this on my own”, “No one’s knocking down my door anyway”, “If they really knew what was going on with me, I’d be even more alone”, “I don’t want to be a pain or a drain”….on and on, it’s easy to believe lies when you’ve pushed anyone away who could speak truth.

My shell-like tendencies that I have often struggled with have not served me or others well.  They ensure that I stay in the pain and shame.  They cut me off from life and whisper the same old sad song. 

I want to be the kind of person who can listen to others when it’s not convenient or fun.  I want to be a person who talks with Jesus even when I don’t feel like He is answering because I hold tightly to the truth that He is for me even when my faith is faltering.  I want to be vulnerable enough to say something when it’s not cute or clever.  I want to be humble enough to admit my need and accept help.  I want to be brave enough to speak, even if it makes me feel weak and needy, because truth be told I am.  Truth is we all are. 

I’m peeking out from the shell and don’t want to retreat any longer.  If I cling to my turtle like tendencies I am fighting against the very way God intended me to operate.  He created you and I to share life, to do life together.  Sorry, but I need you and you need me!  I have recently placed some on purpose accountability in my life in different areas.  I have asked people to check in with me and check up on me.  To knock on the shell and drag me out if necessary. 

I pray that anyone reading this who may also struggle with turtle like tendencies will also choose to stick their neck out and invite others to walk this journey with them.  I’ll admit it, it’s a little scary coming out from under that shell but what is scarier is not living the lives we were meant to live because we are too busy hunkered down trying to survive. 

Be encouraged my friend!