Monthly Archives: July 2014

That Post Where I Focus on the Exceptionally Wonderful Little Things That Make my Life Full

These two great posts by my friends Jen & Ashley reflect perfectly on what I was working on writing this week! Expectations. Gratitude. Space. Intentionality. They make for an epic battle of finding peace and balance. Here are a few of my reflections on letting go of expectations while choosing gratitude and joy in the exceptionally average.

Expectations are a vicious beast. They can change something that is good in a person’s mind into vile, wrong, and completely dysfunctional in a matter of minutes.

I could list one personal example after the next of how I’ve let expectations ruin my day, annihilate my confidence, and completely change how I did things as a parent, housekeeper, wife, and woman.

One example that appropriately fits since I’m sharing this on a blog is my views of how I blog. I’m sure I’ve shared it a few dozen times on here before that how I deal with writing (which does involve blogging quite a bit for me) is a parallel to how I’m working my way through life.

When I first started blogging five years ago, I went into it with no expectations or preconceived ideas of what makes a blog a good one. I thought it would be the easiest way to share updates and pictures with family who lived far away. As I got into it, I found so much joy in reflecting over the little and big things that made up my days with my family. I began to work through my feelings by having an outlet to write about them.

My expectations for blogging started to change when I began reading more blogs by people who made something impressive out of their corners of the Internet. After a while, I decided that no one really wanted to read about every single trip to the park that Dash and I made any more than I wanted to post about the same old same old again. Sometimes in motherhood, – make that life in general – the things that become mundane after weeks turn into months which turn into years don’t seem as noteworthy. And the joy that once came with recounting the little things can be forgotten and replaced with the need to take on bigger things.

I don’t think this is a completely terrible thing. It’s really not necessary to retell every detail of a trip to the zoo to enjoy the trip to the zoo. It’s obnoxious to hear someone constantly promote how they cleaned their house, potty trained their child, or found success in dating their spouse better than I ever could because of their flawless, printable and pinnable 10-step plan.

But sometimes, it’s good to revisit the little things that used to bring myself and others joy to share. Expectations of what other people might want to see when they choose to open up my blog space or what I expected the space should look like by now need to be put aside and replaced with what inspires me to this day. I have changed immensely in five years, but I still love and prioritize my family, which has both gained and lost smiling faces in the meantime.

They inspire me to be better.

They make me rethink my expectations and choose to embrace them with their current strengths and flaws.

They make me laugh and cry within a five minute span.

They make me better and do a great deal to shape who I am.

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They make me work hard every day to overcome the lies in my head that I’m not pretty enough, worthy enough, or together enough to deserve them. Because they will catch whatever mindset I choose and adopt it for themselves. And they are, just as I am, created just right in God’s image.

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They make me step outside my comfort zone and try things I’ve never tried before. They cheer me on!

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They can make summer days in the back yard the perfect mixture of laughter, playing, relaxing, and going crazy.

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They are my people. The ones who wake me morning or night, smother me or sometimes push me away, the ones who God hand selected to gift me with so that I could be who He intends me to become. I love them with all of my heart.

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How to not Fail When a Relationship Does

One of life’s questions that plagued me for a long time is, “How can God be honored after a failed relationship?” I’m not referring to the relationships that are blatantly bad or unhealthy.What I find myself agonizing over are the relationships I’ve lost a few painful times in my life that I believe made one or both of us better. Things were normal and wonderful one day, and out of nowhere, rubble was all that remained after lies, misunderstandings, or betrayal blasted shrapnel. No matter how much I tried or believed that everything would work out once the truth was clearly presented, they didn’t. And what was once good was gone.

How to not fail

I read an article recently that told a story which moved me greatly. The headline itself gripped me:

Missionary died thinking he was a failure; 84 years later thriving churches found hidden in the jungle

(You can read the entire article here, and if you are currently struggling with feeling defeated, I encourage you to do so.) A quick synopsis is that a medical missionary named Dr. William Lewis spent 17 years educating and serving several villages in the modern-day Congo. There was a relational falling out with some of the tribal leaders, and they asked him to not come back. So he didn’t. He returned home discouraged and believing that he failed to make a big difference. He died decades before a missionary team went to the same area and discovered a network of thriving churches in the very same community. The team who discovered them were in awe of how well these churches were flourishing in spite of not having a Bible in their native language there (they only had a French Bible). Though the original people exposed to Dr. Lewis’ ministry were no longer living, the current generations knew when the church originated, and that was under Dr. Lewis’ ministry.

As a people pleaser, I can empathize with this man who undoubtedly beat himself up over letting something like a conflict that couldn’t be resolved bring the good He was doing to an end. No matter how he felt about the falling out, God continued to work for generations to come.

I’ve also been encouraged when I studied the falling out between Paul and Barnabas. The Bible study I’m currently doing brought to light what a doozy that one was. (See Acts 15:36-41) These two were doing incredible things for God together. They traveled the known world sharing the gospel in between standing up for grace and truth when the church, steeped in tradition and legalism, brought opposition.

And then the falling out happened. The Bible never gives us an indication that they spoke to each other again. However, they each went and did separate yet effective ministries. They didn’t stop following God even after they couldn’t work out their personal issues.

God has used both of these accounts to help me come to peace about the fact that just because relationships fail, life afterward is far from worthless. In fact, I can testify from personal experience that it can, indeed, get richer because of the insights gained from what happened.

A relationship doesn’t have to continue forever in order for it to make a difference. Maybe sometimes we just aren’t supposed to know, this side of heaven, some of the ways we made a difference by living out our faith in the aftermath of a mistake we made or wrong we were handed by someone we loved.

This isn’t to say there shouldn’t be a time of grief and feeling the depth of the tragic loss. The real tragedy, however, would be if we stopped striving to make a difference simply because we didn’t see the shiny results we wanted. No, we may never again have an active influence with the person or people we wanted to, but if we’ve planted good seeds in the past, rest assured that they will continue to grow years after we’ve moved on. (I am compelled to acknowledge here the importance and effectiveness of prayer. Change CAN happen as a result even if contact with the other party is impossible.)

Wherever you find yourself in the journey of a broken relationship that you wanted to be whole forever, find hope in the fact that God is never done using any of us who follow Him. He can bring restoration that seems impossible, or He can work to teach us obedience to trust Him even if we don’t understand. There’s not one person who isn’t flawed, but God is always, without ceasing, completely good, and a genuine relationship with Him cannot end no matter what.

(As a funny post script, I was looking at old posts on the blog and found this one I wrote exactly two years ago. Apparently July 17th is a day where I share my thoughts on working through relationship issues. 🙂 )

Looking Outside my Bubble

Fact: Having a five-year-old requires me to know my faith. It’s a wonderful, challenging, intimidating task to explain why I believe what I believe and live my life the way I do.

One thing I find equally refreshing and terrifying about children is their unabashed willingness to ask “why.” When it comes to God, prayer, and the Bible, life and death, heaven and hell, and mean people, bedtime conversations can leave me more than a little exhausted.

At the same time, I’m incredibly grateful for the chance to voice my beliefs. I’ve become painfully aware recently how much I’ve put my focus on those who claim to already be a part of my faith. When I think of pleasing people, I tend to worry about not saying something that might cause fellow Christians to be disappointed, judge me, or shake their heads because they already had figured out what I was just coming to realize.

I have found that I often put all of my energy into encouraging those who are already in the faith. This is not completely a bad thing! Living out the life of a disciple of Jesus is extremely difficult, and every last one of us is, on any given day, in need of encouragement. I do not regret nor do I plan to stop investing into the encouragement of fellow believers because the Bible commands me to do it, and I can personally testify to its importance.

What I am working to remedy in my own life is my outlook. Instead of shying away from neighbors, getting so wrapped up in my to-do list, or always embracing my desire to be a bit of a recluse, the time has come for me to notice the world around me.

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The fact is, I have two precious children who live right inside my home and heart who have yet to come into their faith. And one of them is growing into the age of curiosity about this faith thing that Mom and Dad are always talking about and striving to live out.

So when I tell him that I believe the Bible and the Bible says to “be kind to one another,” “forgive one another,” “love one another,” “be brave,” and “pray without ceasing,” he won’t buy into it if I’m not doing it.

Is this a new concept I’m just now realizing for the first time? Nope, but now it really means something to me.

My love for his sweet, searching soul has awakened an awareness in me about the many sweet, searching souls I encounter as I live life. I’m over the idea I’ve seen attempted in multiple settings of “clean Christianity.” It doesn’t exist, and I can tell you from giving it a try that it’s exhausting and imprisoning. Messy things happen when people are involved, no matter who they are or what they believe.

What the world needs from me is more than a church smile. Never once does the Bible say I should do that. Instead, it tells me to put on the armor of God and stand. (Ephesians 6:10-18) It tells me to love the LORD my God with all my heart, soul, and mind, and to love my neighbor as myself. (Matthew 22:37-40)

This is what my corner of the world needs just as much as yours does. It’s overwhelming to try to grasp the need once we see it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to remedy the problem one step at a time. Some difference made is better than no difference made, and I personally can’t live with knowing the cost of not trying for those who are precious to me.

For When You Don’t Understand

Circumstances are rarely smooth sailing for long, in case you haven’t noticed. My heart has been hurting as I’ve been praying over several different situations that dear friends of mine are faced with right now. I wish with all of my heart that I could reach through text messages and hug the hurts away or say that perfect thing that will make their lives more bearable.

But I can’t.

Because sometimes words and hugs don’t cut it. What we all want to understand, at least a little, is what God is doing.

When fatigue overpowers, loved ones hurt, and loss is excruciatingly real, answers can easily become buried in the oppressive, swirling, confusing thoughts that are desperately grasping to make sense of it all.

What if, however, in the abyss of confusion we fought against the urge to understand? I know it sounds crazy, especially to this reflective mind who is constantly trying to understand the “why” behind everything I do.

My wise daddy made it a point as I grew up to squelch that urge that I have when my understanding wasn’t the answer with a sound piece of advice: “It’s not our job to understand; it’s just our job to trust.”

If anyone would know that fact to be true, it would be him. Having lost his wife and son and being a widower before 30 brought about some days of doubting and questioning as he grieved the life that he had but didn’t get to finish out with those he loved.

He has told me that when he got to the place where he stopped trying to understand the “why” behind everything he was able to move forward.

I recently heard the testimony of well-known author Anne Rice. She renounced her faith and left the church at 18. Decades later, as she was researching for a new novel, she came across some historical facts from the time when Jesus was on earth and ended up pursuing a search for the Truth. She found herself believing in God, but wasn’t sure what to do about following Him given all of the confusing and controversial issues in this world.

Here is the conclusion that gave her peace, “Well, what happened to me on that Sunday that I returned to faith was this: I received a glimpse into what I can only call the Infinite Mercy of God. It worked something like this. I realized that none of my theological or social questions really made any difference. I didn’t have to know the answers to these questions precisely because God did.

He was the God who made the Universe in which I existed.” Source

Anne Rice came to faith when she accepted that she didn’t have to understand.

These are only a couple of examples that prove an incredibly powerful scripture that unfortunately may have become less potent in the ears of those who are familiar with popular Bible verses.

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“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

These verses are game changers in how we live and view the difficulties we face in life.

Let go of understanding. Just trust in the LORD.

And remember that He will never leave or forsake you. (Deut. 31:6)