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

5 Reasons I Love “This Is Us”…Even Though It Wrecks Me Every Time.

Once in awhile, a show comes along that speaks to our hearts…and immediately sucks us in. This is that show.

It’s been a couple weeks since the “This Is Us” season finale, and I’m still mourning the thought of an entire summer without it.

It’s devastating…and all of America is devastated with me.

But why?

What makes a show like this come out of nowhere and hit the ground running? What makes people stop life and rush home when it comes on? Threaten anyone who dares interrupt with a dirty scowl, upheld hand, or an exaggerated SHUSH? Finish watching an episode with tears streaming down our faces and ready to come back for more? What makes people turn to mush at the mention of its name? Girls (and guys!) gush about its goodness and even become a little misty-eyed as they do?

We know every episode is going to rip our hearts wide open and leave us raw for days to come…but we love it. We welcome it. We live for it.

But why?

I’ve given it some thought, and I think this is why This is Us wrecks me every time….yet like a glutton for punishment, I always come back ready to be wrecked again.

1. Women love to cry.

It’s a fact. We love to feel emotion of any kind, but especially emotion that guts us. As the only human female in our home, I’m a mystery to the males with which I live. They look at me like I’m crazy and ask why do I do this to myself?!

I don’t even know.

It’s like a train wreck. I can see it coming. I know they are going to throw a catastrophe in there somewhere. I know it’s going to destroy me.

But I can’t look away.

To my family, this is insane. It makes no sense. But to me, it doesn’t have to…. I just know I love every ugly-crying second, and that’s good enough for me.

2. The writers are genius.

I’m very picky with what I spend my free time watching, and there are few shows that  have been written well enough to rock my world on a weekly basis. Parenthood was one of them…and I haven’t seen one that rivals that until now.

These writers know people. They get us. 

They keep us on the roller coaster of emotions and know that we are going to love every second. The highs, the lows….the present, the past. They know when we’ve laughed so hard our sides hurt that we are ready for the 100-foot drop that sends us spiraling down into the depths of despair and questioning what is life?!?!

They know the trials we face and the seasons we walk, and they package it all up in an beautiful hour of laughter, nastolgia, heartbreak, and tears.

It’s brilliant…and we love it.

3. Everybody wants to be like Jack.

He’s amazing! I don’t even know how he does it.

He takes seemingly traumatic events and turns them into adventures and fun. Ruined holidays and birthday parties become precious memories…traditions that are carried into adulthood and long after he’s gone. When one of his children or wife struggles, he speaks to their struggle in the way that they need most…without losing it first!

He makes me totally question my parenting skills…yet inspires me to do better.

We can’t even be mad that he sometimes has a drinking problem. We can’t fault him for his flaws. He’s so full of goodness and love that we want to face each day like he does and love our people with the same fervency.

And then when he does mess up (as all humans do), he turns around, says a few words that might as well be poetry, and we end up begging him not to walk out that door.

Because if someone as good as he is has flaws…then maybe there is hope for us yet.

4. The characters are relatable.

While the characters may seem so very different in every way, we can find even the smallest piece of us or someone we know in every last one. Something we find relatable. A situation…a feeling. A moment that connects us on a deeper level.

Jack’s secret demons, struggle with his alcoholic father, or the exhaustion of trying to make ends meet and provide a good life for his family while providing for their emotional needs as well.

Rebecca’s suppressed gifts and dreams, her struggle to juggle her love for music with being a responsible mother and present wife without becoming bitter in the process. Her unconditional love for a child and need to protect him….but not always doing it in the right way.

Randall’s constant battle to fit in, overachieving to prove he deserves to be a part of the family, sibling rivalry, and search for what made him who he is. He wants to be the best…and we want that for him too. The loss of both fathers…

Kevin’s jealousy over his brother’s position in the family, attention and success, trying to fix bad decisions made out of selfishness, and realizing it’s not all about him. Searching for happiness and finding it wasn’t where he thought it would be.

Kate’s struggle with her weight and self-worth, the feeling that she doesn’t deserve love and the fear of sharing too much of her pain, making herself vulnerable and open to more hurt. Pushing those who love her away in self-preservation.

Beth’s quiet strength, love and support of her husband throughout his family issues and search for his place in life. And when she gets that postcard in the mail…..we all feel validated. Recognized. Loved.

Toby’s unconditional love for Kate but need for more. Comic relief and overall love-ability. He makes us all feel a little bit of Jack….and I wonder if maybe that’s what maybe Kate feels too.

And William….I didn’t want to love William. I didn’t want him to come in and take Jack’s place. It wasn’t fair to me. But then he waltzed in with his calm demeanor and aged wisdom…and I couldn’t help but adore this man. I wanted to take him home and be his friend. I wanted to sit and talk with him and listen to his stories. I wanted him to stay in the “This is Us” bubble forever. And when he didn’t…I cried like a baby and didn’t care who saw.

5. They’ve become our family.

They’ve stolen our hearts and become like family to us. We sit around the next day talking about what happened the night before like we were there in the flesh.

We laugh when they laugh and cry when they cry. We feel their injustice and success as if it were our own.

My boys often make the comment “it’s just a show”…and I know it is. Believe me, I do.

But it’s a rare breath of fresh air in the world of crappy television that warms my heart and makes me smile….and as long as it is (and I hope it does), I will keep coming back for more.

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

What If I Don’t Always Love Being A Mom?

When we are afraid to admit it isn’t always that great……

March marks two important anniversaries for me…

The day I became a mom and the day I gave birth for the very last time.

As you may know, we have three children (four, if you count their father…and sometimes I do); and two of the three have birthdays this month, the oldest and the youngest. Like bookends, they mark the beginning and end of a bittersweet season in my life as a mother.

And just as birthdays often do, they’ve made me a sappy mess. Lingering a little longer at bedtime, looking at pictures of days gone by, and crying over silly things that shouldn’t make me cry, I once again reflect on those early years of motherhood when everything was new and exciting, yet terrifying just the same.

I’m not going to pretend I enjoyed pregnancy or giving birth, because I didn’t. And for a long time, I thought that made me inadequate for the job. I didn’t glow and gush like other moms I knew; so obviously, I had taken the initiation test and failed.

But then I realized it wasn’t a prerequisite to motherhood. One didn’t have to love the gestational period to actually love her children or be a good mom (and my husband seemed to love it enough for the both of us). So I embraced “not loving” the process because I knew that I would adore the result.

And I did.

But not every second…or even every other second. In fact, there have been many seconds I haven’t loved. And just as I felt like a failure for not loving the swelling, bloating, peeing, sickness, moodiness, and  exhaustion, I once again felt shame and defeat for not loving every dirty diaper, spit-up stain, and sleepless night.

Because what good mother doesn’t savor every precious moment?

I felt like I had to be the only one who struggled with forming sentences after another exhausting night and frantically searched for a shirt that didn’t bear the mark of an upset stomach or snotty nose. And certainly, I was the only one who blindly tossed crackers in the back seat to stop the blood curdling wail or drove around the block a few more times to prolong a much-needed nap (the kid’s…not mine). I had no doubt I was the only one who struggled with breastfeeding. And for sure, I was the only one who cried…a lot.

So I felt guilty.

I felt guilty for not loving it all in spite of the mess.

I felt guilty because I had experienced the heartbreak of losing a sweet, precious life before meeting him…or her. (So shouldn’t I just be thankful to have a healthy child to wreak havoc on my life and heart?)

I felt guilty because there are other women who cannot have children yet so desperately want them.

I felt guilty because there are moms who have experienced the joy and pain of childbirth only to lose that same child shortly after or far too soon.

I felt guilty.

And that little sentence pretty much sums up motherhood.

We feel guilty….

For all of the seconds we don’t love.

For all of the moments we miss because we have to work.

For all of the lost tempers, forgotten promises, and “not right nows”…

For all of the unhealthy meals served simply out of convenience.

For all of the things we said we’d never do as parents.

For pretty much everything.

And while I wish we had a magic pill that could take away that guilt, we don’t. But there are no perfect parents who love all the moments either. We are not alone; and the more we share our struggles, our frustrations and fears, the more we will realize just how “not alone” we are.

Thank the good Lord, some precious women came into my life that helped me see this. Had it not been for their “realness” and transparency, I don’t know what I would have done during those early years of motherhood. And He continues to send just the right people to encourage me throughout each new and challenging season.

But it starts with having the courage to share what we feel is unsharable. Instead of pretending we have it all together and are loving every second, let’s admit we don’t and ask for help. When we strip away the stigma that struggle means failure, we open up the pathway to healing and strength.

Satan would love nothing more than to convince us that we are a mess. He wants us to quit before we even start. He tells us that what we see on social media is everyone else #winning….except us.

But he’s wrong.

All we see is what everyone else wants us to see. The highlight reel of their lives. The beautiful, “perfect” moments…..that took 537 pictures to get it right. Nobody posts the wet bed, the gum in the dog’s hair, the sassy mouth, or the knock-down-drag-out they had on the way to church. The hundreds of moments we absolutely do not love.

Nobody.

And that’s ok. But we have to remind ourselves that what we are seeing is not the full picture and to stop comparing.

God doesn’t want us to live a life full of shame and self-loathing. He made no mistake when He made us the moms of the children we have. But oh, how precious it is when He blesses us with those little special moments….the ones that remind us why we do it all.

Our job isn’t to be perfect parents and create perfect children. Our job isn’t to make others think we are amazing.

Our job is to lean on Jesus and do our best, plain and simple. And if we can help others along the way by sharing our struggle and unloveable moments? That would be pretty awesome too.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in my weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10