Category Archives: Rising out of Mediocrity

In Everything Give Thanks

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I have a started a half dozen different posts in recent weeks and months that I can’t seem to complete for the simple reason that I can’t seem to express properly how much I am changed. A new woman. Never able to be 100% the same girl I used to be.

And I am grateful to the point of tears that God in His mercy renews us. Renews me. At some point in every day, He uses little things to remind me when I need a shift in perspective, but He loves us too much to only use the little things.

I am one who holds on tightly to the little things. I have spent years applauding anything and anyone who shined a light on the importance of people, moments, and things that don’t seem significant. This will always be a part of who I am, and I don’t want to completely rid myself of this mindset because it truly is the little things that make all the difference in the world.

Those five minutes extra I spend with my kids at bed time, sending that text to say hello to a friend, sharing an evening watching TV with my husband, a hug, a funny video, a clean sink – the little things are things to intentionally keep a part of our lives because they work together to complete our purpose on this earth.

But what about the big things?

They don’t come every day or even every year, but they will come. I’m not referring to the happy kind of big things. I’m talking about the daunting, overwhelming, oppressive, stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of big things. A devastating illness, death, a broken relationship – you’ve already filled in the blank if you’ve faced your big thing.

The truth is, big things will change you. No matter how much you try to convince yourself that they won’t. Anytime you lose the ability to live your life in the same way you were accustomed, something has to change.

The big things make you realize how many happy little things you took for granted before. The big things make you see the little habits that you’ve held onto that you should have purged long ago. The big things tempt you to take on one little negative thought and let your mind run with it until you have a million lies taking you captive.

1 Thessalonians 5:18 says that God’s will for me is to give thanks in everything. That means my big, ugly things as well as my mundane little things. As much as we say that it’s hard to remember to give thanks for the little things, I’m going to propose that perhaps that’s not always the case. Those big things are big. They’re hard. They hurt. They won’t go away and let you go back to the way life was before.

In Everything Give Thanks

And yet, I’m more grateful for my big things than I ever was for the culmination of all the little things I took notice of before. It’s because of my big things that I became aware of my need to change. Before my big things, I took my gratitude for the little things a bit too far and never wanted to step outside the comfy little nest I’d built for myself. When the big things forced me out of my nest, however, I saw that I needed real freedom, genuine change.

For the first time, I have an understanding of what God meant when He said His will was for me to give thanks in everything. Even when I wasn’t able to give thanks for the tough stuff, I realized that I could at least be thankful to God in the middle of the worst days. Eventually, God conquered them, and I could get a peek into why I needed to go through the experience.

So this year, I’m thankful for the many gifts God has given me. Some of them are happy little things that kept me going in while I was grappling with the big things. Others have been beasts that threatened to destroy me. The great thing is, they succeeded in obliterating parts of me that needed to change, and as a result I have been made new because of God’s beautiful grace. They worked together for my good, for my freedom.

What I Learned from Listening to Whining

Mondays happen to all of us once a week.

Profound, huh?

Here’s another deep thought. Some Mondays are great, and others are Monday-type Mondays.

Monday

Around here, today was a Monday-type Monday. You know the kind. Everyone had to get up far earlier than they wanted to. All of those little things that seemed attainable when you thought about them on Sunday night turned into nightmares when you tried to accomplish them. It was too cold outside…again…you’d think it was winter or something! This was the kind of Monday where your children fought naps, your cupboards grew more bare in spite of the fact that your grocery list is still non-existent, and you may or may not have dishes still taunting you from the sink after 10:00 at night. But that’s just a general example. Any truth to the description just described is purely coincidental. 😉

One thing continually grated on my nerves today, and I’m convinced that it is both the primary reason that my day was a Monday-type Monday as well as the very part that is today’s redeeming quality.

It was the fit throwing of my two sweet children. The kind of fits that involve tears, and dramatic body lunges, attempting to somehow injure one’s self in the process for the sake of “proving one’s point” to the offending parties. The fits that are made up of whining, determination to keep it up for the long haul no matter how many times the parents step in to handle things appropriately.

It was quite pleasant, as you can imagine. My nerves were shredded like cabbage for sauerkraut.

It was somewhere in the midst of tragedy number 37 of the day that I really heard what I’d been saying and thinking all day long. “You’re spending so much time crying about how much you don’t want to do this and how hard it is that you are wasting the time you could be enjoying yourself.”

It was during the continued tears and objections of fit number 37 that I stopped inwardly rolling my eyes at how ridiculous it was to cry about picking up a few little toys off the floor while baby sister cried at my audacity to think that putting her down for a nap would somehow make her less tired. Right then, God gently challenged me to apply the phrase I’d had on repeat all day to my own life when it comes to His plans for my life.

The thing is, God has placed dreams in my heart. I know they’re what He wants for me, and I do want them too, but sometimes I get kind of whiny when it comes time to do the work. Like writing this blog post at 10:42 P.M. when I’d rather be catching up on “The Next Great Baker” on Netflix. However, part of His dream is for me to write, if only for an audience of One. While I oftentimes want to put my thoughts into the written word, there are many times when I whine myself out of the time to get it done.

I want to do it, but I’m too tired to move.”

“After a day like today, I can’t think clearly enough to get anything into a coherent sentence.” (Let the records show that sometimes, this excuse is legitimate, but not as often as I use it.)

I don’t feel inspired enough to write anything worthwhile.”

“No matter what I do to organize quiet time to myself so I can write, one of those munchkins wakes up, refuses to sleep, or needs my attention.

The list grows the longer I whine, and the next thing I know, I lose my chance to do what I love. It’s not because of anyone else; it’s because I chose to not focus on the positives, be creative, and buckle down to do my work.

It’s true that finding something to be thankful for in every circumstance – even Monday-type Mondays – will make your day better. It’s also true that even wailing children and piles of laundry can teach you something about yourself.

So let me ask. What God-given dream are you having a hard time accomplishing because you’ve inadvertently given in to the whine-monster?

Linking up with Jen Ferguson.

Choosing to do it Anyway

As I embark on the fourth Christmas season as a mother, I can see progress. Of course in my son, but also in me. In the beginning, I believed I should be the mom whose kid did every creative project known to man, so I’d have my one year old attempting to make hand print crafts for every holiday.

It turns out he was not that into making his hand prints look like actual hand prints. He’d rather slather the paint all over the paper or ball up his hand or outright refuse to stick his hand in the paint.

I finally accepted that I would not have a hand print calendar with adorable designs for each month of the year. I gave in to letting him mix the colors into the muddy color that forms when every color in the box of paint is mixed together. I didn’t give him lines to color in or outside of, I just gave him a blank piece of paper and let him find joy in creating.

Over these three and a half years together, I have finally stopped hyperventilating when the crafts I prepared are inevitably pushed aside. I actually see his work as something beautiful even if it’s nothing like the vision I had in my head. I can see joy in his earnest little face as he creates his own art. I see progress in his development as he experiments on each occasion with something he refused to do the last time.

Today he painted a hand print Christmas tree on a plate during a play date. I looked at that hand print, and while it technically resembled a frog more than an evergreen, I honestly found it adorable. The progress that both of us have made in this area is great, and I love the peace that accompanies the knowledge that we don’t need to attain perfection because we’re both growing.

I was struck with a realization while I helped my little guy display his newly-completed Christmas plate. I need to work to apply this principle to every aspect of my life – including this tricky world of writing and blogging.

I definitely struggle with finding a balance in the world of blogging.

  • I still don’t “get” the Twitter hype.
  • I forget to link up to other blogs all of the time.
  • I don’t do something blogging related (or even think about blogging-related things) every day.
  • I can’t seem to nail down an exact niche.
  • I don’t have a growing following because I don’t work at it like I should.

I’ve read the “how to” articles on overcoming each of these things, but in the end, I’m just like the one-year-old version of my son attempting to make a distinct hand print with paint. It looks like a goopy mess. Inevitably, I give up on one or all of my problem areas.

Sometimes it’s good to step back from something to allow time for maturing, but giving up altogether is not the answer.

That’s why this mama is giving herself an assignment that does not feel comfortable even though it’s right.

I’m going to keep doing it anyway. It will not miraculously stop looking sloppy overnight. The questions and internal struggles will not go away. My hand prints will continue to look misshapen  at times, shaky at best. But how can I take a stand for my Jesus or leave a legacy for my babies if I don’t choose to purposefully put my hand down and leave a mark?

That’s why even if it’s for an audience of One, I will not stop making hand prints in this place until He tells me otherwise.

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

 

On People Pleasing

There was joy in his leap. He didn’t look around to see who was watching, he simply seized the opportunity to embrace one of the great things about this season, threw his hands in the air, and jumped.

Because I’m a people pleaser by nature, sometimes I miss moments like these. Instead of soaking in the excitement that comes with following my passions, I pine to hear someone tell me that I’ve made them happy or helped them. I let worry gnaw at my stomach when I even think that someone I care about is displeased or unimpressed with me, or perhaps indifferent about something that I’m passionate about.

With each year that I add to my life, I see the holes in this mindset that has drained me dry too many times. For one, people pleasing is one of the easiest ways to stay mediocre. If I listened to every lie that is born of the misconceptions I’ve made about what people think of me or what I have (or haven’t) done, then I would never grow into the strong woman God wants me to be. Why? Because I’m allowing my thoughts and intentions to be defined by others.

In truth, God has called each of us to a unique and beautiful purpose. It won’t always make sense to everyone all of the time. Some may even think were crazy, but the only thing that would actually be crazy is choosing man’s opinion over God’s calling.

People pleasing can also steal joy. It saddens me to look back at times in my life when I decided to chew on a phrase that hurt my feelings when I could have chosen to dwell on the abundance of affirmation and love that comes from God’s Word instead.

Today I choose to go all in without looking over my shoulder. I choose to find joy in the work God has done in my life, removing all pressure off my own shoulders because it is His name that deserves to be glorified, not mine. I choose to embrace the benefits of this season without drawing in unnecessary clouds of worry and wonder. God is good, and pleasing Him is something I daily work to make my primary ambition.

“And I am sure of this, that he who begana good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

 

A Box of Chalk + Giveaway

She has no idea I’m sharing this until she reads it, but I have to tell you that Ashley applied what she talks about in this post to me in many ways last week. First off, she wrote this post for me when I asked for guest posters. She also rearranged our playdate plans and hauled all three of her children to my house when I couldn’t drive because of my injury, AND she showed up with two meals for me to stick in the freezer since I can’t cook much right now. That, my friends, is love in action. Thank you, Ashley, for being a genuine friend that shows the love of Christ to others such as me!

Teachers' Tool
Photo Credit

It was the first week of my first year of teaching and one of the hardest weeks of my life.  I was starting three weeks into the school year; I was commuting 40 minutes to work; and the squirrely 8th graders had already broken in three different teachers when they got me.  They were fully accustomed to considering the language arts period as playtime.  They took one look at 23 year old me and decided it would remain play time.  I had other plans.

I arrived early every day and stayed late.  I went home frustrated over the behavior of the students.  I sent three students to the principal’s office that first week.  I was three weeks behind on the curriculum and trying desperately to get a handle on it.  And to top off all these bigger concerns, the previous teacher had purposely stripped the classroom of all things useful.  I had no supplies.  None.   I remember my shaky knees on those first days as I stood before the class in that drafty old classroom and wrote my name on the board with a piece of chalk the size of my pinky fingernail.  It was terrible.

So you can imagine my feelings when I received a large brown box in the mail from my mother-in-law, Sandy, and opened it up to find every kind of school supply a teacher could need—including two big boxes of white chalk.  I’m pretty sure that I cried over that chalk.

It’s only one occasion of countless times my mother-in-law has shown love through gift giving or acts of service. My husband and I have moved three times in seven years of marriage and each time, she has cleaned our new home from top to bottom before we moved in.  God has uniquely equipped her to show love through gift-giving and service.

1 John 3:18 says, “Let us not love with words or tongue with but with actions and in truth.”

I have to admit, it is easier for me to love with words and tongue. I am a communicator. I write and I speak and language is my love language.  I can speak words of encouragement, write an email, talk one-on-one and these are my favorite ways to show love.  But through my mother-in-law and many people who have shown me love through acts of service or a thoughtful gift, I have learned the value of being loved this way.

The Bible specifically instructs me to love with actions and in truth. This implies that it is possible to speak something with your tongue that is not true enough to show in your actions. Talk is cheap. I know this is sometimes true with me. I say I am so concerned about someone who is in the hospital, but am I concerned enough to visit or drop a meal off for the family? Sometimes I am too busy, too lazy, or too unconcerned. Sometimes I am intimidated or overwhelmed with the needs of my own family.

But I want to grow in loving people this way, even though it does not come as naturally for me.  James chapter 4 also tells me that, Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”  Often I think of a kind action to do for someone or a gift that would bless them, but fail to carry out those good intentions.  Remembering what that box of chalk meant to me is inspiration to bless others as I have been blessed. I’m grateful to my mother-in-law for showing me this kind of love.

Lord, may my actions reflect your Father-love toward others and my gifts reflect your grace.

Giveaway! If you could use 100 free pictures from Shutterfly, please leave a comment then enter your name in the giveaway box below telling us one action you could take or gift you could give this week to show love to someone.  Then go do it!  If you are the winner of the drawing, Kelly will send you the code for the free pictures via email. Thanks!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A believer and a dreamer. A pastor’s wife and a mama to three. A little creative and a little messy. Imperfection guaranteed. By the grace of God, I am who I am and His grace to me has not been without effect. Ashley blogs over at Little Pieces of Ordinary. A place where she shares how God reveals His grace to her through the everyday occurrences of life.

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.

 

For When It Feels Easier to Just be Swallowed Up

I’d be lying if I said that going from being a somewhat normal woman to a one-handed, more-clumsy-than-usual, completely-dependent-on-others one is no big deal to me. I know it could be so much worse, and I am grateful for the generosity and love that has been shown to me since the unhappy moment when I dropped that silly soap dish. But I feel it. The frustration at being unable to even put my hair in a ponytail. The guilt at putting on a movie for my little guy when we would normally be outside together. Then my sweet friend Sarah encouraged me when she answered my plea for guest posts with these incredibly encouraging words. I love this girl and her beautiful heart! ~Kelly

Photo Credit

I sit, a bit discouraged, at my kitchen table that is “decorated” with baby socks, spelling worksheets, sippy cups, a purse, leftover slices of banana, and this laptop.
To my left on the counter next to the sink are two casserole dishes half full of water, still soaking from supper last night.

In my mind the reminder of deadlines for three articles leave it hard to concentrate. There are laundry baskets with clothes that need put away and a yet-to-be-washed pile of jeans at the foot of the bed.

I wonder why I have not heard back from that job opportunity I thought was heaven-sent. The one that would be perfect, or at least that’s what I think. The response I keep getting from them is that they have their own deadlines they are dealing with, but they promise they do want to work with me on this opportunity.

I am not a patient person.

Today is the last day of preschool and both daughters have school programs tonight. The husband is on duty at the fire station, although he has someone working for him from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m. so that I don’t have to go it alone tonight. Literally, thank God on this one.
Our youngest daughter turns four on Saturday, which means the house will need to be cleaned, beds readied for out-of-town visitors, a cake baked and decorated…oh wait, first I need to buy the stuff to bake the cake and make the frosting…

Then there is the ever-present worry about money. And what am I going to do with the three kids all summer long.

Life has a way of swallowing me up sometimes…if I let it. And sometimes it seems easier just to let it. Sometimes it seems easier to just hunker down and pray that it passes over me. Because life gives us plenty of reasons to want to give up and give in.

But today I take a deep breath in, look outside at the blue sky and know, without a doubt, that God is good. All the time. Not only is He good, He is here for me. Always. He is here to help me find peace…for the little things and the big things.

So friends, can I just remind you today to turn to Him, with all of it? Maybe you are being faced with a huge trial or heartache. Or maybe you are being overwhelmed by the everyday clutter. Maybe you fear that nothing will ever be good again or maybe you fear waking up and facing the day.

No matter what, God is with you and He is there to help you through it.

Fear not, for I am with you;
Be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you,
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
    ~Isaiah 41:10

Sarah is the wife of a professional firefighter and mom of three children under the age of 7. She has been navigating the murky waters of stay-at-home-momhood for over a year now. She relies on her faith in God to see her through it all as she tries to be a faithful servant, share her heart with other women, mother her children and love and respect her husband. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord.” You can follow her over at In Total Disarray.

Doing Ministry Outside the Home When You’ve Got Little Munchkins {Guest Post}

Today I welcome back Desiré to share some ministry opportunities God has given her as she raises her two small children. I pray you are inspired, as I am, to put yourself out there for the cause of Christ. What better way to teach our kids the importance of ministering to others than to let them see us do it first hand?

Eat.  Change baby’s diaper.  Make a potty stop for the other.  Change clothes.  Eat some more.  And, oh wow, another diaper.  Play.  Discipline.  Read.  Eat again.  Sleep (optional).
Repeat.

This about sums up my life for the last few years.

Wednesday I shared how the Lord showed me the ministry within my own home.  Often that’s more than enough to keep me busy.

But is it okay to stop there?

Well, I think that depends.  There may be seasons when it is wise to back off on commitments and learn the wisdom of saying “no” (something I have always struggled with) for the sake of your family.  I have, unfortunately, learned from experience what it means to put my family on the back burner so I can fulfill a commitment I probably never should have made.

BUT, sometimes I’ve used the stresses of caring for little ones as a convenient excuse to not put any extra effort anywhere else.  Period.

My husband and I have led the older kids in a Wednesday night program at our church for the last 5 years or so.  Since we began serving, we’ve had both of our children.  I’ve used those time-consuming little blessings as an excuse more than once for being ill-prepared to teach when I show up on Wednesdays.  Sometimes it’s been legit.  Other times it’s more a reflection of poor time management, too much Facebook, and a complete lack of motivation.

Then there’s ministry outside the church.  Most options are out of the question:  organizing food pantries with toddlers is like trying to brush your teeth with an oreo, street evangelism downtown seems less than responsible, and last time I checked, most organizations look for volunteers who can take care of their potty needs themselves.  One of the few options left is ministering to the neighbors on my street.

Um.  But that’s kind of awkward.  I see them all the time.  I don’t want to be the weird girl.

I’ve used the fact that I have a 3 year old and an almost 2 year old as an excuse to stay inside out of sheer terror of what it might mean to try to do ministry with them in tow.  Terror that their behavior might be less than desirable, yes.  But mostly terror that people will think I’m nuts.

So, I try to embrace the “it’s just the season of my life” mentality and tell myself that it’s okay that I don’t engage with my neighbors or any unbelievers in a meaningful way.  I really want that to be okay.  But I have this gnawing, unsettled feeling.  Mostly because, even though I know it’s perfectly valid for some, I’m using it as an excuse.  I know my own heart and it’s not pretty.

But the Lord fans the small flame that’s left.  Ministry is not just for the professionals.  Ministry is not just for those who have tons of spare time on their hands.  Ministry is a lifestyle.  And I began to realize my “lifestyle” ended when I left my house.

I began falling asleep at night with prayers and ideas of how I could reach those the Lord has placed in my life.

Suddenly Wednesday nights weren’t something I dreaded as a burdensome obligation anymore.

What can I teach these kids at church that will matter for a lifetime?  What do I wish I’d known at their age?  And as thoughts flood my mind, the passion to help them understand Scripture and the beauty of the gospel transforms my heart and my teaching.  I feel passion once again as I prepare and lead.  My heart overflows as I see them “getting it.”

And the neighbors that I’m terrified will think I’m nuts?  Suddenly I have a longing for them to know the Jesus I know.

So the boys and I bake cookies for a new neighbor and share some with old ones too.  Cookies aren’t so crazy, right?  It might seem small to most, but it was monumental for me.  I’ve made stuff for them before and never delivered it because for some reason, I’m gripped by fear.  But I do it.  The boys come with me.  They’re cranky and I have a meeting I have to leave for in half an hour.  But I do it.

The result?

I’m now going on regular walks with the covered Muslim woman that I’ve lived next to for over 5 years and rarely spoken to. She has had trouble finding someone home during the day who likes to exercise.  I pack up a bag with lots of snacks and she and I take turns pushing the stroller for 4 miles.

While my boys are climbing all over her deck, my other neighbor asks if I’d want to plan a block party with her so we could get to know more of our neighbors better so we can feel more like a community.

And it’s ridiculous, but I’m stunned.  Five years I’ve missed out on getting to know these incredible ladies who need a Savior.  I wonder what the future holds…

I don’t say all of this to guilt you into doing more.  We are all too easily guilted into adding things to that “to do” list that hangs ominously over our heads.  I say this because God showed me that there was ministry right. in. front. of. me. and out of laziness and fear, I was missing out on INCREDIBLE opportunities.  Maybe part of that rings true for you?

Oddly enough, I’ve found it to be so refreshing to be a part of things outside of my home too.  Though it takes more effort, I’m actually finding it to be energizing!  If you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, consider asking God to show you someone you can minister to either within your church or community.  Your ministry doesn’t have to just consist of what happens within your four walls.  Consider taking your “lifestyle” outside your home and see what God does!

Desiré went from working full-time in Children’s Ministry in the church setting to full-time Children’s Ministry at home.  While her two boys keep her busy, she still loves being an active part of the Children’s Ministry at her church and currently helps lead the 3rd-6th grade AWANA group there.  She also blogs with her dear friend, Jen, at When You Rise, a site dedicated to providing fun and meaningful ways to teach kids the Bible and encouraging others on this journey of parenting.  When she’s not doing something kid-related, she loves reading, running, eating chocolate and hanging out with her family.

Missed the Other Posts in the Series on Overcoming Mediocrity in Ministry? Check them out!

Rising from the Pit of Mediocrity
What is my Ministry?
What If I Minister?
Hi. I’m  Mom and I Work in Full-Time Ministry

If you’re new to this site, thanks so much for stopping by! I would love to have you as a part of this humble little community of women who want to find the exceptional power of God in our otherwise average lives. If you would like to receive updates when I add new posts, you can like my Facebook page, subscribe to my RSS feed, or receive new posts by email. You can also find all of these options easily by going to my home page and clicking on the appropriate icon located in the right side bar.