Are You Parenting Your Gifts?

I wanted to write a post last week as we approached Mother’s Day, but life’s circumstances kept me from it.  Life isn’t what it used to be and it seems to be crowding out my passions more and more, but maybe the delay was there to give me time to think a little differently.  Maybe this post needed a “twist”

shutterstock_129320129Many of you who know me or have read my blog for the past few years know that I did not give birth to children of my own.  I used to say I was not “blessed” with children of my own, but I have tried to change the way I look at it.  Children are certainly a blessing from God, but so is every other gift with which God blesses us.  And just like it is the responsibility of a mother or father to nurture, grow and raise his/her child, it is our job to nurture, grow and raise our appointed gifts.  One gift from God is not greater than another and if we are living as we should, we will not treat them as such – in ourselves or in looking at those around us.  God entrusts all of us with specific gifts that require sacrifice, patience, responsibility, passion, love in order to raise them.  Those gifts also often bring us disappointment, frustration, and heartaches as we see them not turning out the way we planned, or when we make mistakes in how we raise them.

We need to start looking at our lives differently.  We need to open our eyes to the world around us and recognize where we are being called to serve.  It’s just so incredibly easy to get lazy and not walk out the path for which we are chosen.  It’s easier to become a lazy parent of our gifts.  It’s easy to feel those gifts tugging at us for attention but simply offer up something to keep them occupied so that we can go on living the lives WE want instead of realizing the importance of doing the hard work that comes with nurturing and growing that which God placed within us.  I admit, I have often found myself the lazy parent of my gifts.  This blog has many times reminded me of it.  The intentions are good but the execution is lacking.  I have made excuses in my mind for all the reasons that keep me from my writing, or working on my books, or doing something with my music, or reaching out to find opportunities to speak.  I’m not saying the distractions aren’t valid, because most of them are, but I am saying that it is easy to give up and stop trying whenever life gets too complicated or too busy.  Just like a parent with a child, sometimes I’m just too tired to put in the effort anymore.  In the long run, that not only makes me feel I’m failing as the parent/steward of my gifts, but it can also have lasting impacts on the effectiveness of those gifts or what they turn out to be.

shutterstock_782571799We really are all gifted in certain ways.  God has given to each of us the abilities and interests we need in order to fulfill what we are called to do.  He has equipped us to walk whatever paths are before us, and He has promised to go with us wherever we go, but there are times those paths (or those gifts) feel like a burden.  I don’t know a parent who hasn’t had times of feeling burdened by the responsibility of raising his/her children.  It doesn’t mean they don’t love their kids, but the reality of day-to-day living is far more challenging than anticipated.  There are discouragements and frustrations that come along that make them question if they are doing the right things or dealing with their kids in the best ways to ensure they grow up to be good people.  The same is true of our other gifts and talents.  We know what we are called to do, or we recognize the gifts within us, but it is a continual learning process as to how we need to nurture them.  We make decisions that involve our gifts and then second guess if that was really the best use of them.  Other times we make obvious mistakes in the direction we go and then beat ourselves up for it.

Living with purpose isn’t easy in the chaos of our busy lives.  Just like parents can become so distracted by everything that is continually pulling at them, we can get distracted by so many things the enemy devises to keep us from nurturing what God has given us.  We can become so overwhelmed by our lives that we no longer even see our gifts, let alone know how to use them.  We end up lost in a sea of fear, doubt, depression or anxiety and then feel like giving up.  Being overloaded with life makes us want to just zone out and not have to consider our never-ending responsibilities.

shutterstock_760829524There is another aspect of parenting that also applies greatly to our gifts: protection.  Parents must protect their children, and we must also protect our gifts.  Our talents, abilities and callings must be protected.  People can be so mean and so incredibly judgmental of what we do with our lives.  They can discourage us, or even try to forbid us from using our gifts when it doesn’t fit their ideas or beliefs about what we should be doing.  People may even belittle the gifts themselves, making them seem meaningless or trivial when compared to the gifts or talents of others.  For example, someone with the ability to be a great musician, speaker, athlete or business-man/woman are often lauded to have great gifts.  It is “respectable” or “honorable” to be a doctor, lawyer, singer, athlete, etc.   On the other hand, the man or woman who is gifted to understand people with disabilities, or to clean homes/buildings, drive a bus, or anything else that isn’t as “shiny,” are viewed as having lesser gifts.  What about people who have the gift of praying or service?  You know them, the ones who are quietly faithful to do whatever it is God has given to them to do, without accolades or applause.  Are their gifts any less valuable?  On the contrary, I’d say they have the greatest gifts of all!   My point is that we don’t know each other’s children as well as know our own, and the moment we start thinking our gifts are better than someone else’s just because they look different, we are treading on very thin ice.

Maybe we don’t think we received the gifts we should have, or the gifts we wanted, but they are chosen for us by the God who spoke the worlds into order and knows everything ahead in our journeys.  That’s a pretty impressive and special thing to consider.  God doesn’t expect us to all be able to do the same things because He didn’t equip us to do the same things.  We need to stop looking at other people’s “children” and comparing them to our own.  What matters is how you raise YOUR gifts!  If you are called to serve, then serve with all your heart.  If you are called to pray, then pray mightily without doubting (as James 1 tells us).  If you are called to encourage, then do it.  If you are called to be a doctor, then be the best doctor you can be!  Whatever it is that you do, it is important because God chose you to do it.  Your prayers, service, cleaning, listening, forgiving, helping are equally as important as the brain or heart surgeries, arguing court cases, landing planes, or anything else.

shutterstock_217599499So today, I hope we will all step back and consider the gravity of parenting our respective gifts.  It is a responsibility, and it can be difficult and disappointing at times, but it can also be a source of great joy!  You are not here by chance, and you are not here to just take up space.  We are here “for such a time as this,” and we need to turn our focus upward.  We need to live according to the love, grace, mercy and forgiveness that has been given to us by our Heavenly Father and extend those things to the world around us.  We need to encourage each other’s gifts, not envy them. We need to support each other, not tear each other down.  We need to recognize the specialness of our own gifts from God and feel honored to be entrusted with raising them.  There may not be a holiday here on earth to commemorate or honor us for the raising of our gifts, but if we do it humbly as we are called to do, there is coming day where we will be honored by our Heavenly Father when we hear the words, “Well done.”

Blessings!

Get Out Of Other People’s Closets And Open Your Own

I recently read a Facebook post from someone I knew from church when I was younger.  We didn’t attend the same church, but we attended church camp and youth events together, and ran in pretty much the same circles.  It was a beautiful post from a beautiful person with a genuine heart for God.  Brandon Beene is my friend and I wish so much that we had gotten to know each other even better when we were younger because we share some very common struggles.   Another of Brandon’s friends shared the entirety of his post on his blog, and it was so impactful that I put a link to it at the bottom of this page because it’s worth reading, especially if you grew up in church.

Something that Brandon talked about in his post was the way he was bullied growing up, much of it coming from the fact he was not a masculine guy.  What Brandon doesn’t realize about me (or hasn’t until he reads this) is that I experienced many of the same things.  Maybe some weren’t to the same degree because I didn’t get beat up physically, but I got beat up in every other way.  shutterstock_184639775The bullying and teasing and humiliation I felt drove me to the point of standing on the edge of a bridge,  picking which car I was going to jump in front of in case the fall itself didn’t kill me.  I understand Brandon better than he probably could have ever dreamed.  We’ve shared very eerie similarities on the opposite side of the same issue.  First of all, I couldn’t agree more with what Brandon said.  His comments about love and what it should be are spot on.  I’ve often written about what love really is and what it means to truly love others.  I’ve written about what God’s love really looks like and how greatly we can affect this world if we would strive to love as God loves.  The problem with loving that way is that it often bothers or even offends most “religious” people today.  It also doesn’t sit well with people who are not religious but who consider themselves to be superior because of their own moral compass.   The interesting thing is that our problems are an epidemic that only genuine love itself can resolve.

Most of the people who are around me know I’ve never been a girly girl.  I don’t like cooking or sewing.  I don’t like pink.  I hate dolls.  I didn’t like to read love stories.  I didn’t like to watch sappy movies.  I liked watching the creature from the black lagoon, and my favorite author was Edgar Allan Poe.  I burned bugs with magnifying glasses.  I spent all my time outside playing football with the boys.   I participated in all kinds of sports and was good at them.   I even cried when I realized that I wouldn’t be able to play football in high school, because girls weren’t allowed on the team.  I got teased all the time because I was scrawny and gangly, and hadn’t developed physically.  I hate dresses.  I never wore them unless I was forced to.  There were some pastors I encountered that insisted women wear dresses or skirts, and all I could think was how miserable it made me in church.  When I was a kid, probably about 6 or 7, I told a friend at church that I actually WAS a boy.  She pretty much believed it until the day she told me to prove it, and of course I couldn’t and had to pony up to the truth.  My opinion of girls was that they weren’t strong.   They were concerned with makeup, hair, nails and shopping.  Blech!

I got teased and was the brunt of a lot of jokes.  I suffered privately and tried to find other tomboys with which to hang out.  I liked being rough and tumble.  I am glad that in this day and age, it is more acceptable for girls to be that way, but it wasn’t so in my generation.   I even got teased in my family for not cooking or not knowing how to cook.  The truth is that I can cook when I try, and the things I have cooked have turned out well, but I still don’t enjoy it. I go shopping, but I don’t like it.  Another thing Brandon mentioned was that he didn’t really like sports or know the rules of all the different types of sports and I thought, “I know the rules of all the different sports.  Heck, I even know the rules to curling!”  I love sports.  I watch them and play them, and would much rather hang out with a bunch of guys watching a game and having a great time than sitting around the kitchen table with the girls talking about “girly” things.

shutterstock_200320292Brandon also revealed in his post how he was called gay on many occasions and had to endure many times when he was called a fag or faggot.  It was painful to read his experiences.  While I do think that men and boys can be much harsher outwardly than girls with that kind of name-calling, the truth is girls are just as mean and brutal; they just do it behind your back.  Where Brandon had to deal with people calling him those names, I had to deal with the looks and snickering that people thought I didn’t see. I certainly felt the awkwardness of being excluded because I wasn’t a “normal” girl.  I got teased unmercifully for wanting to hunt with all of my cousins and uncles.  I didn’t get called gay or “dike” to my face, but I found out later it was going on all the time behind my back.  I even had an experience where I was called into my school counselor’s office because a friend (who I trusted completely and considered to be one of my closest friends) told a teacher that I was a lesbian.  I’m sure it came from the fact I wrote very expressive poems and writings all the time and shared them with the people I loved.  I loved everyone.  It didn’t matter if it was men or women, or from which walk of life they came.  Unfortunately, that was unacceptable to the people around me.

I would often write how I felt about my friends and my mother even warned me to be careful about what I said to people or wrote to people because they would start to think I was lesbian.  I ignored it and you know what?  It happened.  I really struggled in high school.  I think everyone does.  We struggle with figuring out our true selves.  We struggle with who we are and who we think we should be, and that struggle is made so much worse when we don’t fit the mold of what our family, friends, or religion thinks we should be.  We get sideways glances.  We get rejected.  I had one friend in high school who always understood me as much as anyone possibly could at that age.  She knew that I was just emotional and expressive and was not a girly girl…and she didn’t care one single bit!  I liked to dress odd and funny.  I was a little bit of everything and never really fit into one particular group.  But the rumors apparently continued, and have throughout my life.  Even now, I manage an exceptional team of people on the job and have been successful professionally.  One day a few years ago, we were sitting at the end of a meeting just visiting a bit, and I made a comment about being such a girly-girl and my team all laughed because they all knew I was the opposite.  The newest member of the team made the comment, “Oh, you don’t wanna know what I thought when I first met you.”  She went on to say she thought I was gay.  When I asked why, she said, “ I don’t know.  You just seemed that way.  You are always in a suit and the way you walk….”  I just laughed it off because the truth is I LOVE suits.  I wear them continually and I don’t carry myself in an extremely feminine manner.  I walk heavy.   I’m not one to sit around and say, “Oooooh…aaaah” when babies come into the office.  This woman told me it wasn’t until she saw me with my husband that she realized differently.  She said anyone who sees me with him would know I wasn’t gay.  But me by myself?  Apparently I still give it off.  And you know what?  I’m ok with that.  I had to get to the point where I didn’t care what anyone else thought or I would have to remain captive to their opinions forever.

shutterstock_266832950Brandon mentioned how he didn’t have a gender identity crisis.  I will echo that statement.  I didn’t/don’t have a gender identity issue.  I had a comfort issue.  I was uncomfortable because I didn’t fit in.  When I was small, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with it, but as I got older, I realized how rejected and judged I was by others.  I knew I was a girl but I didn’t like anything girls liked.  I never owned a Barbie.  To this day, I hate them.  I walk into something girly and just cringe.  I can’t stand baby showers or wedding showers.  I feel like a man when it comes to those things because I have the same reactions to them.  I’d rather do pretty much anything than spend hours at them. Over the years, I’ve had countless people tell me they thought I was a lesbian.  Of course, they never divulged that impression until they had known me a while and figured out I’m just me, that I’m just quirky…but it still hurt.  Feeling like you don’t fit in is one of the worst feelings in the world, and it can drive you to some very dark places.  When you add on top of everything else that I have a form of bipolar disorder, you can see how my brain chemistry issues complicated things for me.  It made me highly creative and highly connected and intense, but this world doesn’t understand that.

I mentioned earlier that I was constantly the brunt of jokes about my lack of traditional femininity.  It was a struggle when I tried to square what society expected me to be vs. who God created me to be.  It was so difficult that when a member of our high school choir touched me in  very inappropriate ways as we sat waiting to go on stage for a performances, I was frozen and didn’t know what to do because the wounded side of me thought, “Well maybe I am ok as a girl because at least I’m not unattractive to him.”  The vast majority of my boyfriends were guys who liked to hang out.  They weren’t terribly romantic and I was fine with it!  I liked to do the kind of stuff they liked to do.  I eventually married someone who is a man’s man but who loves me because I’m not such a girly-girl. He is the perfect partner for me because he loves me exactly as I am and actually embraces it.  He is a gift from God, himself.

I have friends of all walks of life, including friends who are openly gay or lesbian…and I love them dearly.  I love them because God created me to love people – all people – passionately…because HE loves them passionately.  I don’t have to agree with their politics, religion or choices in order to love and appreciate them.  It has nothing to do with that.  It has to do with loving people exactly where they are.  And maybe I’m even more passionate about that fact because it felt like it happened so rarely in my life.

shutterstock_153650339The truth is that God made me this way for a reason.  When Brandon said God doesn’t make mistakes, I couldn’t agree more.  I have said that for most of my life but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized God wired me this way for a reason because there are certain people out there that I can touch as a result.  As a matter of fact, there are some people out there that only we can touch because of who we are and the experiences of our specific individual lives.  We can reach people that others would have a hard time connecting with because they can’t understand their situation or personality.   I’m different.  I’ve always been different.  I’ve also been ridiculed and mocked for it.  I’ve been called all kinds of names for it.  I’ve almost died for it.   On the outside I may have looked like a fun, carefree, and well-liked person, but in my heart I struggled with many of the same things as Brandon did.  It is time for us to get over our fears and live exactly as we are created to be!  Stop judging each other.  Stop labeling each other.  Stop bullying people who aren’t like you and call it something else.  It doesn’t matter how we try to rationalize our behavior, it is still wrong.  Don’t say you are a Christian and then spend your time making the people around you feel less than you.  God doesn’t do that.  Jesus didn’t do that while here on earth, and He certainly doesn’t expect us to do it either!

It’s time to be who God called us to be, not who our parents, friends, bosses or churches are trying to call us to be.  I teach this to my Sunday school class all the time.  The things you like, you like for a reason.  The things that don’t interest you, don’t interest you for a reason.  God created us with our likes and dislikes because it’s those likes and dislikes that connect us with others in different ways.

So I’ll close with something that came up for me when Brandon said he can relate to the struggle of Caitlyn Jenner feeling like an outcast.  I thought to myself, “I can’t imagine any man wanting to give it up to become a woman and everything that is supposed to come with it.”  But I can sure identify with the same things about it with which Brandon identifies.  I can identify with hiding mental health issues.  I can identify with hiding suicidal tendencies or attempts.  I can identify with struggling to just be who we are and let God sort it out because NONE of us have a right to stomp on someone else.  Let me just add that Chaz Bono encountered a lot of the same things even though he wasn’t as well-known in his life as Chastity as Caitlyn Jenner was in his life as Bruce.  I could better identify with her struggles because they were closer to mine.  If I were a child today, raised in a more liberal home, I would be “pegged” as having a gender identity issue.  And  if I continually said that I was a boy or wanted to be one, I guess I could more easily become one.  But you know what would be a million times better than labeling a child (or adult) as having a gender identity issue?  It would be saying, “It’s ok that you don’t like all that girly (or boyish) stuff.  It’s ok that you want to do what you like to do.”  Maybe we should sit down with our kids, as well as with our adults who are still struggling and say, “It’s ok to not fit into what our society has defined you to be.  You just be who you were created to be because God loves you just exactly as you are.”

shutterstock_219355915It’s scary to think of how far left of center we have become.  We’ve started labeling people as one thing or another instead of looking within and seeing them as they are.  We have actually started crippling each other by embracing the new politically correct labels instead of dropping the labels all together.   It used to be a shame to be called gay, where now it is embraced by society.  Now it is a shame to be called other things.  In some circles it is a shame to be called a Christian.  It doesn’t matter what era of time we look at, there are always people who did not fit in, who were bullied and mistreated because of their differences.   Society and humanity is cruel because we are continually looking for labels to put people into boxes where we can look down on them and feel better about ourselves.  What an absolute contrast to what God does and what He has asked us to do.  We need to drop the labels and embrace each other.  It doesn’t always mean we will agree, but love goes so much deeper than differences.   It would be so much better if we just simply loved each other.  I realize with an imperfect world and imperfect people it will probably never be that way, but we can hope.  And we can, through the telling of our stories, change the individuals who can eventually change the world.

Blessings!

Brandon Beene Facebook Post

Michael Robison Blog of Brandon’s Post

Living in the Center of His Wheel

shutterstock_164791247Many people of faith are familiar with the story of the potter and the clay found in the Bible (Jeremiah chapter 18).  We’ve heard the account of how the potter was working to create something, but the clay became marred.  Instead of thinking the clay was ruined or worthless, or instead of getting frustrated and giving up, the potter simply started over remaking the clay into a useful vessel.   Often this story is used as an example of how God never gives up on us, and that is a good and proper picture, but I was thinking about a more specific aspect of the work of the potter that stands out for me.  Pressure.

If you’ve ever worked with pottery (and I have), you understand that it takes complete and total focus.  You also understand that one of the most frustrating things is when the clay gets off-center and becomes out of balance.  You are going along, trying to create something beautiful, but the moment it is out of balance, everything starts falling apart.  Sometimes it happens so quickly, and you find yourself with nothing but a lump that is unrecognizable.  Or maybe as the wheel spins, you find a rock or some other hard substance that can’t just be worked around, and you have to stop everything to remove it and then start over from the beginning.  Either of these things can be disappointing or downright maddening because you only have two choices: 1) Get mad, give up and throw the clay away, or 2) form the clay back into a lump, put it back on the wheel and start over.

shutterstock_97981301It is interesting to consider the change in the amount of pressure a potter must use in order to make the clay into something recognizable, useful and beautiful.  In the beginning, even if the clay has been placed in the very center of the wheel, it starts to become out of balance when the spinning begins.  The potter uses water to make the clay easier to mold, then wraps his hands around it and puts strong pressure in a confined manner to guide it into balance.  A vessel cannot be created until the clay is balanced and centered, but once that happens, the true artwork begins.  Throughout the process, pressure is continually applied in one way or another or to one degree or another.  It is pressure that creates the beautiful intricacies or restores the balance.  But this one thing is for certain: the potter must keep working until the vessel is complete.  There is no stopping in the middle and coming back to it later.  It must either be completed or abandoned.  And the pressure, whether great or barely noticeable, is continually necessary because even with the most masterful artist, the clay can become out of balance at the slightest touch.  When that happens, he must stop creating and spend a little time applying just the right pressure in just the right way to bring everything back into balance.  The same is so true in our lives.

We all endure pressure in life.  It may come in the form of circumstances beyond our control or as a result of poor decisions we make, but it WILL come.  When we feel the pressure, our human nature causes us to become out of balance.  We worry and fret over what we should do.  We get angry over how we have been mistreated.  We get depressed over our lack of ability to change or fix something.  We spin and spin and eventually realize how out of balance we really are.  If only we would realize that God is the master potter and we really are the clay.  He isn’t some mean ogre who is trying to make things difficult for us or punish us.  He actually said He came so that we could have life abundantly!  This world is full of situations and circumstances that will wear us down if we focus on them, but God has promised over and over that if we will simply seek Him first, He will take care of everything else.  That doesn’t mean our lives will be free of trouble, but it means we have a loving Father who is masterfully, patiently and continually creating something amazing, no matter how many times He has to start over.

shutterstock_130134731Pressure in our lives never feels good.  We try to avoid it any time we can but maybe we just need to change the way we think about it.  When we start feeling pressure in our lives, it isn’t time for us to stiffen up and fight against it.  It’s time for us to relax into the potter’s hands and let Him use that pressure for our good.   The most difficult and challenging times for us may be exactly the pressure we need to restore our balance.  The bad decisions we may have made in our lives don’t render us useless or of no value.  Our circumstances don’t destroy us because the Potter has promised to never abandon us.  (“I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  Hebrews 13:5) He has also promised to finish what He starts!  (“He who began a good work in you is faithful and just to complete it.”  Philippians 1:6).

It is important for us to remember God doesn’t cause problems or imbalance in our lives; He simply applies loving pressure when necessary to RESTORE balance.  He continually has us in His loving hands, purposely working all things out for our ultimate good.  Whatever any of us are going through right now may not feel good.  The pressure may feel unbearable and no matter how we try, we can’t seem to find a way to make things work out. We spend our energy focusing on all that’s wrong or what we don’t have and then wonder why we are fatigued and depressed.  If only we could realize the only job of the clay is to be moldable. If only we were more willing to relax, the pressure wouldn’t seem so unbearable.  If only we would spend more of our time being grateful for the fact we are in our Father’s hands, and realize He is working to make our lives amazing and abundant, we would find it so much easier to breathe.   After all, being in the center of His will really means being in the center of His “wheel.”

And the sooner we soften under the Potter’s touch, the sooner our lives shift from becoming a work of restoration to becoming a work of art.

Blessings!

Are You Recovering or Relapsing?

shutterstock_178294598Recently I was reminded of a statement I heard years ago: “If you’re not recovering, you are relapsing.”  Although this statement often applies to those who have had issues with addiction of some kind, whether drugs, alcohol, food or any other substance, I believe it also applies to many other things we struggle to change in our lives.  It might be relationships with other people.  It might be aspects of your spiritual walk or relationship with God.  Whatever it is, we can all relate to having things we want or need to change.

This summer, I will have been in “recovery” from an eating disorder for 25 years.  I say recovery because for the most part, I have been extremely successful.  That being said, there have also been relapses here and there along the way.  Even recently, it reared its ugly head and manifested itself in an entirely new way I would have never expected.  I was caught completely off guard, though it eventually started becoming clear what triggered the downward progression.  Like most people who don’t want to admit something has gotten the better of them – even if only momentarily – I initially denied, then rationalized my behavior.  “But I’m not doing it the same way most people do,” I said.  “I am in complete control and know full-well what the risks are.  I’m not stupid!”  I kept saying it to others, and to myself, but eventually it reached a point where I could no longer deny it and started making serious steps to get a handle on it once again.

shutterstock_65434666My experience with this made me think about all the other mindsets and ways of thinking we all have about things in our lives.  It might be an actual addiction to a substance or it might be an addiction to a particular behavior or routine.  Sometimes our addictions involve the old tapes playing in our heads that are easier to leave playing than to make an effort to turn them off.  We get used to the familiar even if we know it is bad for us.  We gravitate to old coping mechanisms and techniques even though we know the end result will actually make it more difficult for us to actually cope!

We all have these ways of thinking and if someone tries to tell you they have never been touched by “addiction,” they are lying.  It may not look like what many people think of when they hear that word, but an addiction is defined by Webster’s dictionary as “a strong and harmful need to regularly have something or do something.”   Maybe you overeat or under-eat because you are doing it out of emotion.  Maybe you constantly gravitate to people who do not treat you well because you’ve been convinced you don’t deserve anything better.   We spend money we don’t have or over commit to projects or people because it’s been beaten into our heads that saying “no” somehow makes us bad or selfish.  We go to church because someone told us that God will be mad at us if we don’t.  We wear elaborate masks because we think it’s easier than looking in the mirror and facing the truth.   We turn over a new leaf and make a commitment to ourselves (and even to those around us) that we are going to change but eventually find ourselves right back in the same boat again and again.

shutterstock_147867770We relapse!  Yes…I said “WE” relapse…all of us.  Sometimes we relapse because we are lazy.  Sometimes we relapse because we become too confident in ourselves or our abilities.  Sometimes we relapse simply because we are human.  We are imperfect people in an imperfect world.  That fact does NOT excuse us or our behaviors, but I have learned that it doesn’t do any good to beat ourselves up when we fail.  We have a God who loves us and forgives us completely when we simply ask.  Are there consequences of our behaviors?  Most certainly, but He has even promised to give us the grace and strength to endure the consequences as long as we lean on Him and trust Him to do so.  That is where our recovery begins.

Recovery is not easy…not from any behavior we seem to struggle with.  New habits are hard to form, and we are impatient creatures!  Recovery is sometimes very slow and methodical even though we want things to change right now!  Once we truly realize how warped our thinking or behavior is, we want it to be different but we don’t want to spend the time (and sometimes pain) it takes to get there.  Unfortunately things do not just happen on their own!  It takes effort.  It takes us being continually aware and making conscious choices to do things differently.  It is a life-long “recovery” process!

It’s been said that life is all about how we move forward.  I like to think of that a little differently.  I believe life is all about how we move forward AFTER we have fallen backwards.  If I am continually striving for perfection, I will continually be a failure in my own mind.  If I believe I am a failure when I stumble in life, then I will become fearful of getting back up.  And when I believe it is safer or easier to just stay where I am than to get up and risk falling at some point in the future, then I am choosing to become a slave to “relapse.”  I am choosing to give control of my future to the very things or people that want nothing more than to steal that future from me.  On the other hand, if I believe life is all about an ebb and flow, falling and soaring, then I know it is possible that success may lie in the very next step that I take forward.  That is what drives me on toward the next breath sometimes when I am struggling under the weight of my all-too-familiar weaknesses or faulty thinking.  Recovery is a choice.  It is believing that falling does not make me a failure and stumbling doesn’t mean I will never succeed in changing the things I want to change.  It isn’t about sitting on the shore to avoid being knocked down by the waves; it is about learning to recognize the tide so that when we lose our footing and fall down, we are not pulled into the depths of the sea.

shutterstock_155808656Relapse or recovery?  Whichever you find yourself in today, or at this time in your life, take heart in knowing you are not alone.  We are all moving one direction or the other when it comes to our “addictions.”  No matter how big or small the change you are trying to make may be, just remember this:  If you are not moving away from those negative things or behavior, then you are moving toward them.  The beautiful reality of it all is that every breath is a new beginning and every heartbeat is a chance to start again.  That is what life is all about.

Blessings!

“I Have No Life!”

shutterstock_79823446How many times have you found yourself uttering those words?  I must admit, even though I have been blessed greatly, there are days I feel like I life I have no life.  My husband and I weren’t able to have children so we haven’t ever had the camaraderie that exists between couples who attend their kid’s events, etc.  We’ve had friends who have children but over time it ended up that we were always the ones making concessions on what to do, or where to do it since it was easier for us to pick up and go somewhere than it was for others to pack up the kids and then be constantly watching the time so the kids weren’t out too late.  You would think as we got older some of this would subside but it really didn’t because it wasn’t long before our friends started having grandkids.  Once that happens, all bets are off.  Then there are the friends who seem to constantly be on the run with activities or dealing with the drama in the lives of those around them.  Whatever the circumstances, I look around me and think, “I have no life.”

It’s hard when you spend your life always trying to cater to the people around you.  Even if you do it by choice out of sincere love for them, there are days when it can wear on you.  For me, I have this thing about not being a burden to others or infringing on their time and such.  I want the people around me to enjoy life to the fullest and, as a result, don’t want to interrupt their busy days or keep them from doing something else they have planned.  Of course, then I sit at home by myself and start feeling sad because it seems more and more that I don’t fit into their schedules…even though they would normally welcome the “interruption” and be glad to connect.  It may sound like I’m whining, but hang with me for a few more minutes.girlfriends

When you look at other people and it seems they are living life to the fullest, it can be difficult to realize that it also feels as though you are not important enough for them to make time for you.  Whether it is the truth or not doesn’t really matter because perception can be a powerful thing in our lives.  Is it really that they don’t have time for us or is it simply that we keep trying so hard to not be demanding or selfish that we fall over ourselves in order to feel totally alone?  It seems so counterproductive!  So what is it that makes us look at others and think they don’t care enough about us to initiate conversations or activities?  These are the times we need to stop and look within.  I’m not saying there aren’t people who will take advantage of you or take everything you are willing to give them without ever giving it a second thought, but more often than not, the problem rests within us and not with them.

For most women, we are taught that we should not get angry or upset.  We are taught to be agreeable and always put others first.  We are also taught this as Christians.  (“Prefer one another.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.”) silence Everywhere we look we seem to get the message that wanting or needing something for ourselves is selfish.  We are taught that standing up for what is right for us is selfish.  We are taught that our needs are less important than the needs of others.  This thinking is hammered into our brains over and over in life and then we wonder why we feel so drained.  We find ourselves feeling unimportant or even used by the people in our lives.  The truth is that our wants and needs are important too!  It doesn’t make you a bad person if you choose to pursue the things in life that make you happy.  It doesn’t make you a terrible Christian if you say “no”sometimes to people or activities that deplete your energy.  It doesn’t make you selfish to stand up for yourself and be who you are created to be, which includes respecting your own needs and desires!  It doesn’t mean you are the center of the universe, but it does mean that in order for you to be the best you can be, you have to learn to feed yourself.

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day.  Teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”  We’ve all heard that quote but look at it from this perspective:  If you constantly rely on someone else to make you feel loved, then you will feel loved only for a short while.  If you learn to love yourself and be kind and gentle with yourself first, then you will feel loved for a lifetime.  We need to stop looking to the world around us to make us feel like we “have a life.”  We need to simply step up to the plate and CREATE the life we desire.

If that means burning the old tapes repeatedly playing in our heads that tell us we are selfish for taking care of ourselves, then strike a match and let’s watch them burn!

fire

Blessings!