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Regrets. Feel the weight? Just reading this simple 7-letter word feels the same as an elephant sitting on my chest. Worse yet, a talking elephant that chastises me while continuing to press the breath out of my body. I’m flattened and wallowing in shame all at once.

I can avoid that elephant for a time. But eventually she catches up to me. Sometimes I even throw her peanuts. And then, I’m really in trouble. Welcoming regrets is definitely something about which I should have regrets.

One of my wise sisters-in-law (I am blessed with many!) lent me a book last week. Chapter 2 suggests I fast from regrets. I love the concept so I’m doing that. Not fully successfully yet. But making progress. Have you ever tried to make an elephant disappear? It’s a bit of a slow process. But not futile. I’m claiming space, as well as my breath.

The biggest revelation so far is understanding what sinking into regrets has done to me.

Self-flagellation.

An idea so foreign and repulsive to me on the surface, yet turning my regrets over in my mind and entering again into the shame and disappointment of them accomplishes pretty much the same thing. Yuck!

That comparison has been an incredible revelation for me. I’m not interested in physical self harm, so why do I engage in the mental version?

Understanding what spending time and brain power in regrets actually does to me is making it easier to stop, but I have it written on my bathroom mirror in red lipstick just in case.

My lipstick is pretty, but the bible always says it best:

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

2 Corinthians 7:10

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Embracing Damage

It’s a season of fixing.

The need to fix, of course, generally means something has been broken. I have a number of things that currently require fixing, such as drywall, tile, and a few clothing items to be mended.

Unfortunately, I also have a few intangible items that need fixing as well. Getting around to these repairs is more difficult to face and follow through on than, say, picking up a wall patch and some paint.

Nevertheless it’s time to get busy fixing. I’ve been pondering a few changes of my own lately and then a conversation last night with Oldest Son veered into a discussion (with a smattering of lecture thrown in) on Living Well. As we chatted, I realized I need to take my own advice and confront the areas where I am not living as well as I know I can.

On facing the necessary fixes, it’s a little daunting but also exciting imagining what the end result might look like. A new coat of paint in the entryway, a kinder/less judgmental view of others as my first, rather than learned, response. Both are extremely appealing and therefore I move forward with anticipation.

The thing about my brain though–a trait shared by Oldest Son–is that I don’t move forward without looking back. As I assess the fixing required, I also dwell a little on the damage done. Broken pieces of wall, tile, self. Mostly self.

Its not that I don’t trust that Jesus is enough to sweep away the mess, fill the cracks. I do. Most days anyway. But I’m always mournful of the time and resources wasted on the mistakes. I hate making mistakes. And, oh, not being right all the time. I hate that too.

This week, though, I’ve seen the beauty in surrendering, rather than reliving, the damage. God was gracious enough to teach me about kintsugi. I’m not an artist. Nor do I have an inclination to seek out things art-related so it truly is a merciful intervention this information was presented to me.

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery or ceramics with lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum. The repair method has been referred to as “embracing the damage.” Words that sweep my heart clean.

The damage was done, yes. But it has been repaired, also yes. And when repaired well, the new look is sometimes more interesting than the original.

While I’m still sorry there is repair work required within me, I can see the damage is not irreparable and is, in fact, transformed into beauty. Jesus again takes my breath away by making all things new.

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Revelation‬ ‭21:5‬ ‭NASB‬‬

Pay Attention!

I’m simultaneously watching the Vikings game, a series on Netflix, and reading, as well as keeping an eye on my smartphone for game and social media alerts. Read: I live a distracted life.

Over the last few months I’ve been pondering my attention to and presence in my day-to-day living. More often than not, I find myself trying to manage too much at once. Not necessarily multi-tasking but more multi-focused. Guess what? It doesn’t work so well.

Last night I was sharing with (possibly lecturing) Oldest Son on recent personal decisions. I questioned whether some of his choices were really driven by his personal character makeup or if they had simply become habits. I was really pleased with my momentary parental wisdom until I realized this morning that I need to ask myself the very same question.

So much of what I do is because I’ve gotten into the habit of doing so. Drinking water and exercising routinely are two I feel pretty good about. Living a distracted life by habitually giving limited attention to a number of things at once is not so great.

Over the past 2 months (minus today obviously), I have been forcing myself to try more often to pay attention to the issue of the moment without letting anything else in. It’s been surprisingly difficult. For example, I am a life-long reader. I enjoy everything about books and can’t get enough of them. However, I no longer just read. I read while monitoring my phone and checking one thing leads to another and another until I’ve lost an evening wondering what I even looked at and why. I am most surprised to discover I now have difficulty reading without constant interruption.

Right now I can’t tell you the score of the game, the next suspect in my Netflix drama, or the key moment in my book without “rewinding.” Not a very smart way to go through life.

I’m only making one New Year’s Resolution for 2018 and I am going to start now. I intend to live a focused life attending fully to whatever requires my attention that moment/hour/day. I will hear people when they speak to me and I will respond appropriately (even if that is respectful silence) because I will know what they said and be able to read the emotion on their face.

I suspect I may even lose my coffee cup and phone less frequently simply by paying attention. Cheers to 2018 and getting in better touch with the things and people that matter in life!

Keep your eyes straight ahead; ignore all sideshow distractions. Watch your step and the road will stretch out smooth before you.” Proverbs 4:25-26 (MSG)

Miracle not Merit

Miracles aren’t based on merit.

Everyone has reason to hope.

These words came to me as I was pondering the number of people I know right now who are counting on a miracle. Some for health issues, others for improved finances, and more for a singular difficult life circumstance to be changed.

I am also waiting for something about which I have been praying specifically for a year and a half. I was talking to God about my request again a couple of days ago and shortly after that made a fairly poor life choice. Almost immediately I decided God will never honor my prayer because of my sin.

That’s when he struck my heart with the words above. If a miracle is based on my behavior, it really isn’t much of a miracle. Then life would always be good as long as I am good and I would be controlling everything. And although I really like having control (topic for another day), that would be a ridiculous and exhausting way to live. It also minimizes who God is and the awesomeness of supernatural intervention.

I contemplated those words and as they sunk into my very soul, the very obvious answer that I am not the recipient of a miracle based on my own merit became real to me.

Miracle as defined by dictionary.com is: 1 an effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.

2 such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God.

Supernatural. Meaning I can’t, He can. Also meaning He doesn’t need me to make it happen. I recognize the power of prayer and the important role that so often plays in the result of miracles day after day. I’m simply saying miracles don’t hinge on my own tally of good versus bad behavior.

As with all gifts from God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit, miracles are given by grace alone. As was the greatest gift of all–Christ himself.

Letting that message through to my brain and heart is very freeing. It’s all in God’s hands and there is no better place for a person’s desires to be.

If you are waiting for an answer to prayer or a miraculous intervention, let these words permeate you and live in hopeful expectation.

Wisdom from the Hammock

Lacy pattern of green leaves with deep blue sky filtering in between. That was my view recently when I lay in middle son’s hammock. Above me were branches of three different types of trees (I can name only the popple and oak). I swung quietly and studied them as though I were again a 10-year old with few cares in the world. I had forgotten to grab a blanket but found myself wrapped in the peace of just being. Stopping the noise, chaos, and cares of everyday life to become a part of the beauty surrounding me. I breathed more deeply than I have in a decade.


In that silence and dappled light, thoughts that I’ve been turning over in my head finally had a quiet space to land. Mainly thoughts of perfection and performance. I resist the label perfectionist with a wrestler’s tricks and movement, yet I can’t deny the performance-based foundation I have created for myself in so many ways.

I’m an achiever. Which makes me valuable to others in a lot of areas but also weighs very heavy on me. Nobody can perform THE BEST all the time. And trying to do so is ludicrous. Striving to meet temporary goals is exhausting and leads to disappointment and self-condemnation. It takes away from true life. And quite honestly those to whom those traits are most valuable don’t fit the category of core people in my life. Hmmm. Seems a life change is in order.

True life is that time spent deeply with those I love and who love me back with fierce commitment (the core people!). I am beyond blessed to have a husband, kids, parents, in-laws, and friends who fill that category to overflowing again and again and again. Sometimes I’m a rockstar at showing and giving back that love and time. And sometimes I get distracted because I’m so busy in another area of my life working so hard for that incredibly-best outcome.

God has pressed convictingly on my heart in 2017 about this issue. The choice is unbelievably simple. All those I love ask is that I be present. What has been an ongoing internal wrestling match is starting to become a natural choice. I now clearly see that where I felt conflict, I, in truth, have created my own conflict. 

I woke this morning a little heavy of heart. But this time, before my mind started ticking about how to positively control everything for an excellent outcome, I heard God ask me, “How would you feel right now if you weren’t immersed in A, B, and C?” And I smiled. Jesus fixed A, B, and C for me long before I took my first breath. It’s gonna be a good day. And I’m living some of it from the hammock.

An Open Letter to my Readers

I’m working on a blog post right now that I am finding supremely difficult. Basically it’s about harmony with the larger body of Christ—the worldwide set of those who believe in Jesus Christ as the risen Son of God. It shouldn’t be so difficult. Jesus says love each other and Paul later reinforces that message in his letters to the various new churches. Lots of material and wise words to reference.

To be honest, I’m struggling with personalizing the message. Personalization is key to making valid points and engaging whoever happens to come across my wee little blog. To me that means sometimes sharing my own shortcomings and hopefully providing some encouragement that our bad attitudes and general failures can be overcome.unnamed

I am so grateful to those of you who encourage me in my writing and let me know when and where it touches you. I am also grateful to those of you who tell me I am too hard on myself and that I’m “not that bad.” But for those of you in the second group, please hear me: My point isn’t to publicly self-condemn. It really is about sharing the “me too” moments of this life walk. What better way for us to connect than when and where we find the “I get it; I get you” connections. That’s where I put the sweat of my words. Maybe in some small way, I am contributing to the oneness of the body of Christ by sharing what I can do better by following Him. And I thank you for the privilege of sharing that with you.

Undone

I’m simply undone. The church I attend semi-regularly has a first Sunday of the month evening worship service that I say I really love but haven’t made a priority in several months. Tonight I pulled myself together 20 minutes before the start and headed out.

I asked God for an answer to a specific prayer on the 5-minute drive. It’s a prayer I’ve been asking off and on (more off than on) for the past 5+ years. I haven’t really been serious about receiving a response from Him because to get one requires something of me. And I’ve been really reluctant to know the outcome of this one. Anyway, question asked on the drive and kind of forgotten as I took my seat.

Sunday night typically has really good worship music. Tonight was no exception, but none of the music was really impacting me. In fact, I had to mentally remind myself several times about where my focus belongs. At some point during the service, I mentioned to God that if He were looking to get a hold of me tonight, the music was going to have to be something really meaningful to me. And I suggested in my heart that it should be something I really like and probably as moving as The Agnus Dei.

The night proceeded. I was touched by the readings, the prayers, the fellowship, and by the music (a little). At the close, the attendees were reminded this was the last Sunday evening service ever. And the worship team closed. With . . . The Agnus Dei.

Total heart silence on my part. Barely able to sing the words. And then I realized God was answering my 5+ year prayer. With the last song. Likely chosen by the worship team days before. On a night when I didn’t even anticipate going to church. Bam. That’s just how God is. I am not random. You are not random. We are forever in His thoughts and He loves us through words and songs and every individual way imaginable.

The answer He shared with me tonight is not one I am thrilled with. In fact, I wrestled with Him a little on the way home, lightly arguing that I meant I wanted better music and that part really wasn’t about answering my prayer. I gave up pretty quickly though. It’s not remotely arguable. He reached out and touched me without a doubt.

What’s next? A whole lot of trust. Because this step isn’t going down without my leaning on him for every footfall. It requires mental, physical, and spiritual commitment of more than I can put forth on my own. Good thing He’s God and I belong to Him. He told me so on a quiet Sunday night in a small town church during their last Sunday evening service.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zTgUVugjcWI

 

 

The P Word (and its evil twin)

Perfectionism. I am not a fan. The first 7 letters are enough to cause me instant angst. Perfect. Nobody has managed that in over 2,000 years. And yet, we strive and reach and make ourselves crazy. I have a friend who is very pleased to call herself a perfectionist. I’m quite worried about her actually. You can’t possibly be a perfectionist and enjoy the little things in life at the same time. So as I ponder how to share with her that I think her attitude is akin to walking the plank, I’m jolted by a realization of my own.

I may not welcome perfectionism into my heart, but I am surely well-acquainted with her sister, “Performance-based Worth.” Ah. The dagger strikes. I can feel as smug as I like over disdaining perfectionism, but my performance meter is drumming up a party beat.

It’s been an extensive battle. And battle is really the only word to describe it. For the first four decades of my life, I felt like a failure unless I was the very best at whatever was the flavor of the day. Academics, athletics, best friending, work, etc. The problem with this, of course, is that no one can be the best at absolutely everything. So I felt pretty rotten a lot of the time.

In my forties, I started to realize I had really wasted a ton of time measuring myself not only by what I was doing but also by how well I was doing it. Safe to say God had been trying to get my attention for a really long time but I was just too deep into weighing, measuring, and groaning to expand my view to match His. As I began to open myself to the thought that I maybe had some personal thought processes messed up, God showed me quite clearly that nobody thinks about me nearly as much as I think about myself and certainly no one else is assessing my every move to figure out if I’m worthy of their time and attention. This concept was freeing.

 A couple of years ago, I lost track of God’s wise teaching  and ended up not really liking much of anything and finding every day really hard to get through. Life was good all around in general, but I was only counting the failures. God clearly spoke to me that it was time for a serious change. No more worth based on performance.

What is a girl to do when the framework she has spent nearly 50 years developing needs dismantling? Get on her knees, that’s what. And as always, God came through. Wholely and completely. He led me to His own words over and over again of how much He loves me and finds me worthy simply because I Am His. So simple; so amazing and awesome.

I wouldn’t say I’m 100% cured, but I surely am aware of when I find myself trying to earn, rather than accept, my place. And I know to let go and surrender the “I can do everything myself” attitude before it gets entirely out of hand.

There is more than one reward to living this way. Peace. The supernatural kind that only Christ can give to any of us who stop flailing around long enough to receive it. I have a new P word in my life and it’s the best reward I’ve experienced yet.

Victory and (Momentary) Defeat

I’ve spent the last several weeks in Joshua and Judges, courtesy of the fanastic first5 ministry. Today was the video wrap up of both chapters from the historic old testament.

 

Joshua is a book bursting with the 12 tribes of Israel claiming victory after victory against the immoral people who occupied the land God had promised to his chosen people. Again and again, Joshua leads the Israeli soldiers as they slay armies and capture cities. Inheriting the promised land is less about sitting down to receive a gift promised and more about downright bloody work.

Unfortunately, God’s people make the poor choice of not entirely cleaning up the land. They allow some of their enemies to live counter to God’s directive. It isn’t long before Israel begins to engage in the corrupt practices of the people who held the land before them. Many of them turn their backs on God entirely, ultimately serving false gods they have created with their own hands.

While God opens His own hands again and again for us, many times without us having to do anything, the stories of Israel’s conquests portrayed in Joshua is a reminder that obedience toward God leads us into claiming and living in his promises. Not long after, Judges reminds us that disobedience can lead to disaster.

Krista Williams themed this weekend’s first5 message on being a woman of conquest rather than a woman of compromise. I too desire conquest over compromise and can see the relevance of Israel’s victorious conquering of nations and then sliding into complacency and compromise as a parallel to my own life.

Following God means being fully obedient and when I am not, understanding there are consequences. That doesn’t mean God isn’t still good and, in particular, good to me–just that I have some unpleasantness to live through based on my own deliberate poor choices. I am unfortunately in a season of repercussion at this moment and feeling the pain of the people of Israel who sat on their laurels a little too long after victory.

The good news for me is the Word of God clearly shows the hope that exists for me, not just in the future but also today, this very moment, as a believer and follower of Jesus Christ. God sees my restored heart, rather than the messy outside visible to the rest of the world.  And He clearly shows me through Joshua and Judges when it is necessary for me to pick up my sword and when I need to be still.

Joshua 1 9.jpg

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