Living An Extra’ordinary’ Life

When Satan convinces we are not enough, God reminds us that we are.

I would love to say that I’ve been on a writing hiatus because life is so incredibly busy and leave it at that…because it is. So that would be true. But it’s not the complete truth.

The truth is that life is incredibly busy…and Satan is incredibly smart.

It’s been 4 months since my last post. 4 months of busy, 4 months of excuses…and 4 months of self-doubt.  And it all started when I let the little voices inside my head take over. No, I’m not crazy. I’m just human.

The nagging thoughts…“What is the point?” “Why are you wasting your time doing this?” “You have much more important things to do.” “You’re not selling anything but truth…and that’s free. So really…what.is.the.point?”

And so I listened. Believed. Fed the lies with my own insecurity and let them take root in my soul.

But thank God, He never lets it stop there. He doesn’t see our struggle and leave us to fight it alone. No, He meets us in our deepest valley and points us to the path that leads us home.

And that’s exactly what He did for me.

Through a series of devotionals and books He dropped in my lap over the summer, I began to see things from a different perspective. One that was less me and more Him. Less my glory and more His glory. Less what can He do for me and more what can I do for Him?

And before you think it was an instant revelation, let me be clear. It was an uphill battle that took every bit of 4 months to gain even the slightest bit of ground at all, and I’m still not there. But it started the journey…and there is power in the journey. There is strength in even the smallest victory. And it gives us the courage to keep going.

Have you ever felt like you really missed the boat somewhere? Like everyone is doing something really fantastic and important, and you are just sitting there doing your best to make sure your kids, pets, and plants are fed and live to see another day? For the first time in my life I’ve successfully kept plants alive for an entire summer, and I’m fairly certain that’s award, if not HGTV, worthy.  (I once had a rock garden, so believe me when I say that this is huge.)

Do you have to hide people on social media or quit it all together because you just can’t bear to see another success, award, or fabulous sunset that isn’t your own? ouch

And in the midst of my struggle, God reminded me that success doesn’t always come wrapped in the same sparkly package.

“Everyone should examine his own conduct; then he will be able to take measure of his own worth; no need to compare himself to others.” Galatians 6:4

Some people are destined for flashy and big. Some have the drive and fortitude it requires to be entrepreneurs, CEO’s, fitness guru’s, professional athletes, and best-selling authors. They were born for it. And that’s ok. Quite amazing, actually.

Some will drive fast cars, own big boats, and live in mansions. Some will be happy, fulfilled, and use their success to help others…

And some will not.

Others are destined for a more subtle life, one that most would consider “small”.

But whether big or small, it’s what we do with that life that matters.

My grandfather worked the same factory job all of his adult life (after serving for a time in the military). By the standards of many, he was not what one would call “successful.” He wasn’t flashy or big and lived in a small two-bedroom home with his wife of over 50 years and a yard the size of a postage stamp. No, he may not have had much in the bank, but I believe he was truly successful in ways that far surpass monetary value. He was faithful, honest, kind. He loved Jesus, led a service down at the mission, and cut the church grass every week. He had that old-fashioned work ethic and loyalty that so many of our grandparents possessed, and everybody loved him. In terms of my 9-year-old son, he was the “G.O.A.T.” (Greatest Of All Time), and I have no doubt God met him at the pearly gates and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

So why do we feel like we don’t measure up unless we make more than 6 figures and/or the whole world knows our name?

Success doesn’t always come with a paycheck. Sometimes it doesn’t come with any earthly reward at all.

If we use the gifts that God has given to us for His glory, to bless others, and to further His Kingdom….then it doesn’t matter what we do for a living or how much money we do or do not make. No matter where we are in life, our goal each day should be to look around us and find a way to help others.

If only we could change our perspective and how we measure success, our sense of purpose would sky-rocket and there is no limit to what we could accomplish.

Satan would love to challenge us on that. Make us feel inferior to those around us. Stop us from doing all that he knows we can do.

But he’s wrong…

And we don’t have to listen to him.

Here are a few things that help me when Satan has me feeling like crap and hiding from the world:

  • Listen to worship music…lots of it. It feeds my mind, heart, and soul with constant reminders of God’s goodness and grace.
  • Get in the Word. Satan shrinks when we fight him with Scripture. His lies have no power when we use the Word as a sword & shield.
  • Pray. Talk to Jesus. He’s better than a BFF, because He’s always available and ready to listen. He doesn’t have dinner to make or errands to run. He’s just waiting on us.
  • Read good books. There are so many books that have helped me fight insecurity. Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick, Uninvited by Lisa TerKeurst, Unashamed by Christine Caine, Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer
  • Surround myself with encouraging people. Those people that speak truth and encouragement into my life, cheer on my victories, and pick me up when I fall.
  • Look for ways to serve. Volunteer at church, lead a small group, feed a family going through a tough time, babysit for a friend who needs a break…nothing is too small.
  • Keep fighting the lies. Always. Don’t give up. He may not ever stop trying, but it will become easier with time and practice…and it will be worth it.

“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” ~ Dale Carnegie

Talk Is Cheap…And Meaningful Conversation Is Priceless.

Recently, I was talking with a group of women when a question was asked that stumped us all….

“How often do you have meaningful conversations?”

Crickets

As I glanced around the room, I could see everyone clicking through the days, the memories, the conversations, until one brave soul spoke up and said, “Not often.” Everyone nodded in agreement, and a few offered further explanation…but all confessed that it was definitely not often enough.

But why is that?

It’s not that we don’t communicate at all, far from it. With an abundance of technology and communication devices at our fingertips, we can “reach out and touch someone” clear across the country any time we want. (Some of you millenials may need to google that phrase, but I promise it will make sense when you do.)

But the problem isn’t quantity, it’s quality.

We live in a fast-paced world that teaches us just the opposite of that. More bang for your buck. The bigger the better. Value this, and super-size that!

But just because we can get an entire meal from McDonald’s for less than five bucks doesn’t mean it’s going to nourish our bodies….and just because we comment on a post or like a picture doesn’t mean we’ve actually built relationship with that person.

As much as I love social media for keeping up with friends and family who live far away, I feel like it has all but taken the place of face-to-face conversations, and in many cases it has. Hiding behind our phones, we pat ourselves on the backs for “reaching out” when really we haven’t accomplished much at all.

God didn’t intend for relationships to be built on 140 characters. In fact, he didn’t intend for wifi or a data plan to be necessary at all. 

Do you remember before you had a smart phone? Sure, it was a little harder to keep in touch, but you had to make an effort. You had to write that card and send it in the mail, pick up the phone and hear a voice on the other end, or meet for coffee to catch up on what’s happening in a friend’s life. As a result, conversations happened. 

Now, we are so inundated with technology that we mistake casual contact for building relationship, and it has rendered us useless in common situations. 

How many times have you walked down a hallway at church or an aisle at the store and suddenly pulled out your phone to avoid eye contact, saying hello, or starting a conversation? If we avoid even the smallest of pleasantries, then how can we expect to ever go deeper and engage in meaningful dialogue?

We can’t.

And if we can’t engage in meaningful dialogue, then how can we expect to have healthy relationships with each other or reach others for Jesus?

We can’t.

But technology is not the only thing that hinders us from nurturing the “ships” in our lives (relationship, friendship, worship). We often hinder ourselves by making excuses. We’re too busy. We don’t have time, money, energy. Someday….

I hate to break it to you…but life is not going to slow down. Not.one.bit. And conversation is free. 

We can make all the excuses we want, but the fact of the matter is that we make time for what’s important to us. And what’s more important than making time for the people you love. What’s more important than cultivating the relationships with which God has blessed you. What’s more important than spending time with God period.

Nothing.

So let’s put down the phone a little more and be intentional about building quality relationships. 

Let’s sit as a family around the dinner table.

Let’s make eye contact and give hugs. 

Let’s laugh loudly in rustic coffee shops, and go on double-dates with good friends. 

Let’s join small groups and start supper clubs. 

Let’s FaceTime loved ones across the miles, or better yet, visit.

Let’s talk to God.

Let’s do less typing and more talking. 

Let’s have meaningful conversations

Let’s make time.
 

“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” Matthew 18:20

Goodbye, 2016. Hello, 2017.

As we near the end of each year, we typically begin to reflect upon the past 365 days and contemplate what we would like to change in the year ahead.

Looking back on 2016, it has been an eventful year to say the least. I’ve seen countless memes and posts with the general theme of “2016 sucked.” And I get it. It’s been turbulent with the Presidential Election, racial tension, police attacks & bathroom wars. We’ve lost countless beloved celebrities from our youth. I mean, these people entertained us in our living rooms and cars like they were part of the family! There has been sickness and death in our families and communities. Jobs lost. Marriages broken. So.much.heartache.

And while it is easy to focus on the bad, there is just as much good…if we look for it. My dad reminded me of this on Christmas Day. He sat beside the Christmas tree, Bible in hand, reading the story of Jesus’ birth just as his father had done before him many years ago. And just like Grandpa, he can never make it through the reading without stopping, tears in his eyes and a catch in his voice. We often tease him about this, the fact that he can’t finish a prayer or a Bible reading without tears; but the fact of the matter is, it’s the most precious thing in the world to us. Because he gets it. He looks past the fact that their car broke down on the way to visit us and sees God’s provision throughout the frustrating ordeal. He looks past the turbulent events of the past year and sees the abundant blessings…and he sat there and reminded us of those blessings.

Yes, 2016 was rough in many ways for many people. But in spite of it all, God is so good. The evidence is all around us. We just have to refocus our mind and heart to look for it.

So what about the new year…? How are we going to make 2017 “better”?

I’ve always loved the start of a new year just as I always looked forward to a new school year both as a student and as a teacher. It’s a fresh slate, a new start. A time to drop old habits, start new ones, and to awaken the dormant motivation within us if only for a short time. It’s an exciting time full of endless possibilities.

I’m not a resolutions girl myself. I feel like resolutions were made to be broken. Nothing makes me want to rebel more than if you tell me I can’t do it…or that I have to do it. Most resolutions are usually toast by Valentine’s Day, and then we all feel like failures because of it. My fragile self-esteem can’t take it. 

So I opt for goals. Goals that are just beyond realistic so that I have something to work towards, but I don’t feel like a loser if I don’t make it. I know, I know...it’s cheating. But it works for me.

I usually try to find a word or verse to carry with me into the new year, something to guide me in the goals that I set for myself. But this year is a little different. This year I chose a quote by a woman I had the pleasure of meeting at a writer’s conference back when I was fresh out of high school. She was hilariously funny and such an encouragement, so I have followed her ever since. And it’s like God just dropped this in my lap. This was it. This was what He wanted me to use.

“Pray continually. Wait expectantly. Trust fearlessly.” – Liz Curtis Higgs

This quote captures my heart and soul during this particular season of my life. I don’t know what 2017 holds. Heck, I don’t even know what tomorrow holds. But there is one thing I know and that is that God has a plan for my life and yours. He knows why He gave me a passion for writing and where it will take me. He knows why He gave you the gifts that you possess and how you will use them. He doesn’t make mistakes, and He doesn’t do anything without a purpose.

My goal for 2017 is to find His purpose.

What is His purpose for your life? It can be big or small. It can be public or private.

But whatever it is, may we all enter 2017 praying continually, waiting expectantly, and trusting in God fearlessly. 

He promises to lead the way.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

How Does Birth Order Affect Me As A Parent?

It never ceases to amaze me that we have three children, all the same gender, with vastly different personalities. I mean, completely different. Not even on the same planet different. We wonder if they were switched at birth different.

It’s baffling.

And while I don’t buy into the whole birth order thing 100%, I do think there is some validity to this theory (originally formed by the Austrian psychiatrist, Alfred Adler ). It makes sense….and somewhat explains why our youngest child thinks the world revolves around him. Because in his mind, it does.

But these very differences are what makes them special and unique…what makes life interesting and fun. Each child plays a part in our family and respecting their differences helps them grown into healthy young men.

For instance, take the first born…

  • reliable
  • conscientious
  • organized
  • cautious
  • controlling
  • achieving
  • high self esteem

In other words, our 15-year-old son.

He was practically born into this world a miniature adult, and that was reinforced by the fact that the early years of his life were spent around grownups. (Most of our friends were still single…and hungry. So they came where they knew there would be food.) Because of this, he has never known a stranger and can talk to adults even more comfortably than he can his own age. Firstborns may seem to mature faster because this.

True to his birth order, he’s smart, a natural born leader, hard worker,  an over-achiever…and I totally expect him to make the big bucks and take care of his parents someday. (it’s the least he could do)

Now…sometimes his leadership skills could use some work. Barking orders at his younger brothers and clothes-lining them when they pass will not take him far in life. However, he wants to be an entrepreneur…so maybe it will work for him.

His cautious nature weighs the consequneces of his actions; and if he says he’s going to do something, you can count on the fact that he will. He’s an all around good kid who is going to go far in life.

“Hey! Did you know you can start a snapchat streak with yourself? It’s awesome. I’m smart…I’m funny…I’m super handsome…and I respond pretty fast!” – Xander

And then we have the second born (middle child)….

  • people pleasing
  • somewhat rebellious
  • good friend
  • peacemaker
  • social
  • lower self esteem

This one gets a little tricky. Our 12-year-old son is not necessarily rebellious…or social. However, he is also an introvert, so personality traits definitely play into this theory. But the rest is spot on. I even worried about him being a middle child when he was born, so we gave him my husband’s first name to make him feel special. (My textbook middle child brother-in-law had me paranoid.) 

Because he is also an introvert, he doesn’t have a large number of friends like his brothers, but the ones he has are treasured. Loyal to a fault, he will stand by his buddies even if he doesn’t see them very often

A peacemaker and people pleaser, he hates conflict and will even allow his brothers to have the object of dispute if it means avoiding a fight. (most of the time) And rest assured he will remind us all of such slights and use it to further confirm that we are all against him.

The middle child often gets a bum rap; but, in my opinion, the most wonderful thing about the middle child is the fact that they are, in every way, the middle child. His sweet disposition and quiet charm are the perfect balance to my ambitious firstborn and the last wild one. And let me tell you, we need the break.

Cade: Everyone drinks my drinks. Nothing is sacred.
Hayes: I didn’t see your name on it.
Cade: (writes name on new bottle)
Hayes: I’m still drinking it.
Cade: You suck. I’m sleeping with this tonight.

Finally…last, but certainly not least, we have the third born or baby…

  • fun-loving
  • manipulative
  • outgoing
  • attention seeking
  • self-centered
  • risk taker

This could not more accurately describe our 8-year-old if I had formulated the list myself. He’s the life of the party, the class clown, the star athlete.

With lofty goals of becoming an NFL wide receiver, he hasn’t even considered the fact that it may not happen. He wants to see his name in lights, all eyes on him as he runs his victory lap in this thing called life.

Quick-witted and funny, he often manipulates his way out of trouble, an art his brothers both detest and admire. It’s everything I can do sometimes to suppress a grin…and it completely derails my stern intentions. And.he.knows.it. 

As frustrating as all this may be at times, I love his passion, his fire. He’s a dreamer and puts feet to those dreams. He makes me believe, and I love that.

When the Pastor is telling a story about Abraham and the “good son” (the chosen one with promise), and Hayes gets a big grin on his face…points to himself…and says in a loud whisper, “The other two were mistakes.” 

So what does this all mean to me as a parent?

For a long time, I tried to steer them all in the same direction…treat them all the same. They were all boys, right? That in itself was a mystery to me. Throw in a variety of personalities, temperaments, and interests…and it’s like interpreting hieroglyphics.

But once I started responding to them in a language they understood, motivated them in a way that spoke to their personalities…they started thriving like never before. And, believe me, I’m still learning.

What works for one child (regardless of gender) may not work for another. We know that. But knowing it and applying it are two different things. It takes constant effort, consistency, and prayer.

May I be more mindful as they grow older not only to respond to them in a language they understand but to stay engaged in their lives so that my language shifts with their ever-changing seasons.