Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

Seeing you, being seen, and seeing Him

My friend Tami and I are very different, although we’ve been close friends for years. We are on different ends of the spectrum politically and in many other ways. But the other day I met her for lunch and ended up pouring out my heart—how I feel, what emotions have come to the surface lately, and so on. I told her these things knowing she had different opinions, and she shared a little about where she’s coming from. We could do this because we were in a safe place—we both knew we were loved, differences and all, and we trusted each other to listen with an open heart. It was a really healing moment for me. A reminder that differences don’t have to divide us. One thing Tami and I have always had in common is we hate to be misunderstood. If you want to be mad at me, fine, but only if you’re basing it on the things I actually did or what I actually meant. We can’t rest until we’ve corrected mistaken impressions. A big insight I’ve had lately is along those same lines: We all want to be seen and know that we’re heard. [I promise this isn’t about the election… bear with me. REALLY. I promise. It has a God point and doesn’t take a stand about sides!] I’ve heard analysts say that many thousands of people who supported our President-elect voted in large part because they felt like he understood their plight and was on their side. They supported him because for years they’ve felt overlooked by our government and media and now they feel...

Courage to Say the Tough Stuff

I’ve never called anyone a brood of snakes (Matthew 3:7-8), or compared anyone to white washed tombs, “which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27 NIV). In fact, I’m usually tempted to lean the other way–to keep my mouth closed, to avoid tension, to find ways to maintain peace. And this isn’t only because I hate-hate-hate conflict. It’s also because when those opportunities arise, I find myself in a mental debate, trying to decide whether to speak up or remain quiet. There’s a time for both. And only God knows when that time is. That’s the kicker, right? To be led by the Spirit, not our emotions, our pride, or our desire to be right or change someone else. And to truly “speak the truth in love,” rather than frustration or anger. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17). Although, sometimes God does give us a kick in the pants. I was relatively new to church and extremely immature in my faith. Immature period. My husband and I had been married for maybe four years and were going through a rough patch. You know what happens when we ladies go through something, right? We gather our friends around us and “vent.” Also known as gripe. And complain. And invite everyone within hearing range to join our pity-husband-bashing party. Because that’s real effective, right? And certainly godly. (insert a heavy dose of sarcasm here.) So there I...

Someone Needs You to Be Their People

Once upon a time, Greg and I had five animals…..two hunting dogs and three cats. Over time, all five of them died from an assortment of maladies. With each passing, our hearts were broken in pieces. When Greg’s last dog passed, he said, “No more animals. It is too hard to lose them.” That was in 2010. Fast forward to 2016. Our neighbors have 8 dogs. Yes, I said EIGHT. They are an adorable assortment of beagles and hounds. When we exercise, it is not unusual for a string of them to follow us home. After a few minutes at our house, they all head back to the neighbor’s place. About two months ago, all that changed. I walked home after exercising and several of them followed me. I came into the house and went about my morning. An hour or so later I look out the French doors onto our deck and see a face. A doggie face and a doggie body lounging in the sun on our deck. I thought to myself, “well, it will go home after a bit.” NOPE! A couple of days later I walk back to the neighbor’s house, which is a half mile away and Puppy walks with me. Greg came and picked me up so Puppy would not follow me back. Success! Got that taken care of!! I decided not to walk back toward my neighbor’s house again so the dogs would not follow me home. I did not want the neighbors to think we were stealing their dogs, for heaven’s sake. A week or two later I look out on the deck and...

A Simultaneous God

  HONEST confession alert: I would, apart from Jesus, choose COMFORTABLE every day of the week. I would chose to be COMFORTABLE. Comfortable relationships. Comfortable circumstances. Comfortable conversations. Comfortable ministries. Comfortable community. Comfortable media. Comfortable biases. Comfortable, comfortable, comfortable. But God simply will not have it. HE has heard my honest and sincere heart cries. HE has heard the burdens on my heart. HE knows the people in my life that I care deeply for and love, and HE cares more. HE could care less about COMFORTABLE. We have all the evidence we need in people who have gone before us. People like Daniel, Moses, Abraham, Esther, Ruth, Naomi, Peter, Paul, Jonah, Martha, David and Jesus. “Then God said, Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” Genesis 22:2 •••••••• “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.” Jonah 1:17 •••••••• “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey, except a staff – no bread, no bag, no money in their belts.” Mark 6:7-8 HE. COULD. CARE. LESS. ABOUT. OUR. COMFORT. As I’ve grown in my walk, I’ve learned to see things more and more through HIS lens. That’s grace friends, and all part of this walk as we move towards home. Recently, I’ve found myself...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

Living in the Tension

Tension:  The state of being stretched tight or mental or emotional strain. That definition sums up what I feel about my life most days; a constant state of being stretched beyond what I feel like is humanly possible. As a wife, I live in the tension of being the best spouse possible by meeting my husbands needs without losing myself in the process. As a mother, I live in the tension of loving these little people so fiercely that I want to protect them from harm at all costs and knowing that my job is to prepare them to live in this broken world, where they are almost guaranteed to feel pain.  As a Christian, I live in the tension of walking out what I say I believe on a daily basis. As a friend, I live in the tension of finding time to nourish friendships with a schedule that is borderline chaotic. As a woman, I live in the tension of finding the time to tend to my body, soul, & spirit without feeling guilty. As a student of life, I live in the tension of questioning what and why I believe what I believe about God, people, relationships & myself, while being open (and teachable) to new information. I am constantly being stretched…but it is in the tension of the stretching that I find myself. I love being a wife. My husband is amazing. We spend a lot of time and energy taking care of each others needs spiritually, physically, and emotionally. This is our relationship today… In the past our relationship has been extremely unhealthy. We...

“Shower the People You Love With Love”

Last month I wrote about Tyler, who was killed in a car accident in August. We buried him on a Monday. On Tuesday, a childhood friend took his own life. On Wednesday, my friend Jane lost her battle with congestive heart failure. That was a hard week. My heart still hurts. My heart hurts because Tyler felt unloved and unpopular while he was living. He wasn’t here to see the outpouring of love in the days after his death. I wish he’d known how many people loved him. Jane and I worked together for almost fifteen years. She was proud to be a Jesus follower and always ready to share her faith. The day she died, our office was filled with stories about her strong faith and infectious laugh.  She was an encourager, helpful and dependable. She was a tremendous asset to our office. Many of my coworkers said they wish they’d let her know these things. Now they can’t. Riley took his life. This absolutely wrecks my soul. What hopelessness he must have felt to think that death was the only way to soothe his heart. And I wonder… did he know Jesus? That question steals my breath. His family’s social media is full of memories of Riley’s smile, of his sweetness, of the mark he left on people’s lives, and of how very much he will be missed. Did he know that so many people loved him? We spend so much time looking at what needs to be fixed in people. We focus on how they disappoint us or let us down. Too many times, it isn’t until someone dies that we realize their value, their strengths, their gifts, and how...

The Difference Between “Us” and “Them”

In my high school Persuasion and Control class, the teacher quietly distributed sheets of paper, then instructed us to work on our own to answer the questions on it: Who is “we”? Who is “they”? We (and probably they) use those words often, but what do they mean? There were a few other questions on the assignment, but they all stemmed from these two. After several minutes of personal reflection, we began discussing, and it was one of the most animated, perspective-changing, convicting class times I remember from high school. Our world was small at the time, but it didn’t seem that way. We had groups in high school, as I assume most do, and the open discussions about what we thought about ourselves, what we thought about others, and what we thought about what others thought about us surprised and unsettled us. The internet was just beginning to creep into our daily lives, so we didn’t have access to as many viewpoints as people do now. But I’m not sure that would have mattered. After all, we have access to a lot of information now; we can easily get to know people around the world or around the corner who are very different from us. Yet we still separate ourselves. Separation helps us feel protected, worthy, and justified. It helps us determine our identity, as we often deteriorate others’. “We” still define “us” and “them.” So now, may my Lord’s power be magnified just as You have spoken: The Lord is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave...

Get Over Yourself

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51:10 ESV Listen, I know when you first read the title you were probably taken aback a bit, but I hope you hear my heart on this–sometimes we really do just need to get over ourselves. We live in a world where it’s all about ourselves and what makes “me” happy. The problem starts when we live a life that is only focused on ourselves then we can become entitled, self-righteous, judgmental and sometimes downright ugly. When our thoughts and lives are filled with only thoughts about us and our needs/wants, then the rest of our relationships become strained or even nonexistent. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone who only thinks about themselves. So, what’s a person to do who is struggling with this? First, I’d say get a copy of Tim Keller’s book, “The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness”. It has radically changed my thoughts on this whole concept. In his book he talks about a gospel-humility that takes thinking of ourselves right off the table. How do we even do that? Through lots of prayer, lots of patience and lots of practice. I read this book over a year ago and it’s still been something I wrestle with daily, but something that I intend to keep on wrestling with and working through. We spend our days scurrying around trying to fill our lives with more of stuff to make us happy, but the reality is that the “stuff” we long for isn’t really going to bring us the fulfillment we...