I Like Big “Buts”…

And I cannot lie.  If you’re truthful with yourself, you could probably say the same thing.   Most of us have heard things like “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas!”  Boy, isn’t that the truth?  But where “ifs” come as a result of speculation and wishing, “buts” come from a very different place.  “Buts” come from a place of excuses and self-deception.  For example, we all like to sit around and wish and dream of things being different in our life or in our world (“IF I could just save more money, I’d be less stressed”), but we seldom do anything about it (“BUT I just love to shop.”)  The first part of that sentence is a factual statement about what you would like to do.  The second part, though also factual, is your way of rationalizing behavior that will always prevent your dream from coming true.

shutterstock_211760386“Buts” steal our joy and strength in every area:  emotionally, physically, financially and spiritually and cause us to waste our time always stuck in the world of “ifs.”  And I have news for you; that doesn’t make you a “dreamer,” it simply makes you lazy.  Am I a dreamer? Absolutely!  I love to think about possibilities and ways to make the world better, but if I never take steps to actually MAKE the world better, then I am no longer a dreamer;  I am an “iffer.”  A dreamer can stretch out into the land of possibilities and come back with amazing ways to do accomplish those things; an “iffer” simply lives in the land of possibilities with no intention of coming back and making things different.  We should never degrade the term “dreamer” by making it a costume for our “ifs.”  True dreamers seek ways to bring their dreams to life, where “ffers” simply seek dreams as a way of escaping life.   And that’s where the “buts” come in.

“But” is a conjunction that is used to introduce something contrasting with what has already been mentioned.  From a spiritual standpoint, it can often be said that whatever comes after the “but” is sin.  That’s because we use it in the following mindset (fill in your own blanks):  “I know I should do _____ but ______.”  We make statements regarding things that God has put in black and white (or red and white) that He wants us to do.  How many times have you heard these types of statements come out of your (or someone else’s) mouth?

  • I know I should serve God, but I don’t have the time.
  • I know God wants me to have a relationship with Him but it takes too much energy.
  • I know I should give, but I don’t have enough money.
  • I know I should love my enemies, but they don’t deserve it.

And then there are statements around things that we feel called to do, but cannot get a direct answer written in black and white in God’s word:

  • I believe God wants me to teach, but I don’t speak well.
  • I feel called to join the choir or worship team, but I just don’t have time to practice.
  • I believe God is moving me into another line of work, but I’ll make less money.

There are so many things that we miss out on in life because of the word “but.”   As a person of faith, it is one of the most damaging words we can ever utter.   It is far more damaging than other words we use because it neutralizes us.  It neutralizes our relationship with God, and it neutralizes our witness to others.  It keeps us confined and holds us captive, and yet I have to admit far too often that I like big “buts.”

shutterstock_189351380The truth is, “buts” make me feel better about myself, or at least create the illusion for me that I feel better.  They put a nice-looking coat over the rags of disobedience, unfaithfulness or even fear.  They make me feel better about acting wrongly or making improper decisions.   “Buts” also make me feel validated about things I fear.  Instead of admitting I’m scared to step out on faith, I use the word “but.”  For me personally, I have felt called to preach, teach and minister to others since I was about 10 years old.  Being a woman, there are some (maybe even many) who would try to tell me God reserves the call of any kind of public ministry only to men.  I, however, believe it is up to God to call whoever HE chooses to the service He has actually created them to undertake.  I have believed for over 37 years that God was calling me to a greater depth of service to Him in these areas, but I might lose friends over forging ahead especially when the opportunities may be scarce to do so.  People might criticize my choices, even if I believe I am following God’s call.  Actually there is no “might” about it; people WILL criticize my choices when it doesn’t align with their opinion of what I should do or be.  So instead of leaping completely into what I feel called to do, I dabble in it.  I go through stages of full commitment until the thought of what I might lose by going further scares me.  And that’s when my stutter returns.   “But…but…but…”

We use “but” like some kind of expensive perfume that we can pour over our fears, anger, disobedience, etc. to try and make it smell better.  I say expensive, because it really does cost us so much when we use it.  The truth is if we didn’t like “buts” so much, we wouldn’t use them so often.  It just goes on and on, and then we complain that our lives are full of stress, debt, poor health or poor relationships.  If we could remove the negative use of that word from our vocabulary – if I could remove it from mine –my life would start changing, because what we say becomes reality for us.  We need to start owning our decisions, including the thought process that leads up to them!  Quit making excuses, and start putting a period after the first half of your statements.   If you say, “I believe I need to do ____,” then put a period at the end of that phrase and consider how you can accomplish what you believe you need to do.  If you don’t feel strong enough to move forward yet, then at least call it what it is after the word “but.”  Say “I believe I need to do ____, but I’m too scared” or “but I choose not to.”

shutterstock_199190972I’ll leave you with this: there is a way to redeem the word and use it to EMPOWER you!  Change your thinking.  Start using the word “but” to contrast your negative statements instead of your positive ones.

  • I’m afraid to step out on faith, but God said He would always be with me.
  • I’m worried about my finances, but He has promised to take care of me if I seek Him first.
  • Someone hurt me, but I will not let them keep me from loving others.
  • I have wasted so much of my life, but today is a new day.
  • I haven’t fulfilled my dreams yet, BUT nothing is going to stop me now!

“But,” in itself, is neutral.  It’s what we do with it that makes it positive or negative.   It’s my prayer that we can all start living the life of which we’ve always dreamed.   It’s time to let go of the past and move forward.  It’s time to get off our “buts!”

Blessings!

Revelation and Fragility

Lately I’ve been immersed in a process of revelation.  I just completed writing a book that details the journey I took with my best friend, Annette, over the years as she eventually lost her battle with brain cancer.  It has been an intense and emotional process and one that has put in me yet another position of vulnerability and revelation.  Doing anything creative opens us up for all kinds of judgments (and even ridicule).  When we reveal the truth of our journeys, and the truth of what we experience and feel, the risks are so great that we often shrink back behind the veil of what we think we should look like to the world around us.

Throughout the process of writing and editing the book, I was taken to new places of reflection and realization.  At times it was a painful process as I stripped away the final layers of my protective covering, but it reminded me of how beautiful life truly is when we are wiling to risk judgment for revelation.  Annette and I trusted each other and refused to let society dictate to us how we would treat each other or express our love and care for each other.  As a result, we risked all kinds of ridicule and misperceptions but we didn’t care because we found something that far surpassed the fear of rejection and ridicule:  the strength of being understood and loved without condition. 

Love maskThe revealing of ourselves is often a painful experience.  Whether it is due to the revelation of traits we are not proud of or simply the revelation of our emotions in their most raw state, the result often brings us pain.  We don’t like to be vulnerable, and we don’t like our relationships to get out of balance between give and take…or revelation and reticence.  Even in our most difficult emotional moments, it is often hard to let down our guard or know that we need to reach out to someone who we know loves and cares about us.  We would rather curl up into a corner by ourselves and bear our burdens alone instead of “troubling” someone else with our struggles or let them see us in our fragile state.  Not only that, we don’t want to BE fragile with someone else because it opens us up to more hurt if we are not embraced in our fragility, or worse, judged for it. 

Recently I had the amazing blessing of being able to help someone I love get through a difficult time.  Interestingly, it happened at a time when I was struggling with my own internal issues, but the moment she became vulnerable, nothing could have stopped me from being there to support her.  All the things I was struggling with suddenly paled in comparison to the love and care I felt for another person.  It was an honor to have someone lay their heart in my hands for a short while and to be trusted to not injure it.  It was humbling to be allowed to care for someone who needed to be cared for in that moment.  lost and aloneAnd it was beautiful to see the openness and vulnerability of another’s spirit – even if it was something they would have fought to hide under normal circumstances.  It strengthened and comforted me far more than any strength or comfort I provided for her.  It was as a result of this experience that I remembered why honesty matters so much in our relationships and in our lives.   It reminded me why I had been willing to pour intimate details of my life into a book for all to read.  It whispered to me, “Without revelation and fragility you will never experience true acceptance and strength.”

Helping HandsIt was that experience that gave me courage to keep moving forward in the midst of my own struggles.  It strengthened me to know life is full of relationships that help us grow and it made me proud of my own revelations I shared within the book I just finished.  It reduced my fears of being judged or rejected for the exposure of my own heart.  Revealing ourselves, or becoming openly fragile for a while, allows us the opportunity to see love manifested in the ways someone else cares for us.  But beyond that, it also allows us the opportunity to strengthen those same people in ways we can’t even understand.  We need to stop being so worried about those who will reject us if we reveal our true selves and focus on those who embrace us more purely and love us because we reveal our true selves.  And as I say that, I can’t help but think, “Annette would be so proud.”

 Blessings!

“Out Of the Closet” Isn’t Always What You Think

I recently shared some personal information about myself with my family and, subsequently, with the rest of my friends. It was something that up until now just wasn’t openly discussed. There have been a few people in my family with whom I talked about it in the past and I have had some amazing friends who have known and supported me for many years. Unfortunately because the stigma attached to mental health and brain chemistry issues is so great, it is a subject that required careful silence. My revelation: I have lived with bipolar disorder my entire life and was officially diagnosed in April 1994.

shutterstock_93702475We all have things in our respective “closets” that we are afraid of revealing. We are afraid it will so drastically change our world that we would rather live in hiding than risk upsetting what we already have. We are worried our families will struggle with the corners of our reality. We worry we will lose respect of the people in our professional lives. We fear that society will suddenly frame us in a different light and begin to judge us solely within that frame. WHY then would we ever want to come out into the light and fully show ourselves? Why would we want to open the door to areas within us that may cause people to walk away?

I have a faithful friend who, when I shared the news of my revealing with her, responded with a note filled with beautiful words. In it, she said something that resonated deeply within me. “Being open does not give other people power over you. It gives you power over you.” There exists such a wonderful truth in that statement. Coming out into the light of your truth will liberate and empower you. It will give you the ability to breathe more deeply because you aren’t constantly wasting your energy trying to shove things further into the dark. It will also allow you to more clearly recognize those beautiful people in your life who truly accept and love you as you are. It is not easy to come out of the closets in our lives, no matter what those particular closets might be. There is an endless list of things you might be hiding but there is one solution to it all. Turn on the light and throw open the door. Walk bravely out into the open and look around. You just may find there are many of your friends and family who embrace you in all your uniqueness. You already have the key. The question is whether or not you will use it.

shutterstock_110895386“Coming out” is a term that applies to much more than simply the one thing with which we commonly hear it associated. Revealing our true selves is a process of steps. We first show our truth to one or two people (or maybe even a few) that we know we can trust completely. We lean on them and use their support and acceptance to help us grow stronger. Then we begin to carefully unravel the layers of our selves to others in our world. We may come out to friends but not to our coworkers. We may come out to coworkers but not our families. We may come out to our families but not to others. It just depends on the situations in which we find ourselves. You see, there IS risk in revealing the things in our lives that we (or we assume others) consider to be unattractive, embarrassing or negative and it is not always appropriate to run wildly into the open shouting our truths. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when we cannot help but do so but we must remember there are also consequences we may face as a result. If I had revealed the truth of my bipolar brain chemistry in my professional world years ago, it would have become an albatross from which I might not have been able to escape. My position (and my particular division) was one that was not conducive to such revelations. My successes would have been eclipsed by the glaring judgments of many of my colleagues which would have undermined my ability to continue to be viewed as productive and successful. It is sometimes a difficult dance to maintain and the sad thing is it is a dance you will dance alone. The same holds true for any other realm (family, friends, etc). Depending on what your closet holds, you may find yourself dancing alone in the midst, trying to find a balance between revealing and surviving.

I have been overwhelmed by the positive and encouraging responses of the people in my life and am grateful beyond belief but there are still areas that have not been fully breached. It is a process but I will take it as it comes. For now, it is an unspeakable feeling of liberation and I am excited to see what God is doing and what path He is clearing before me.

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Often times, we THINK we are ready to walk the path before us but we continue to be faced with obstacle after obstacle. They are not here by chance. They are here to help us come to the place where we begin to see that the only requirement to being all we are created to be is to let go of who everyone else thinks we are. When we relinquish our need to always be in control, we will find there is a much greater power than ourselves clearing the path at exactly the right time, in exactly the right way. Honesty, truth, kindness and love…these are the great purifiers in our lives and refiners of our paths. Trust yourself. Embrace the truth and let the rest fall where it may. It is the only way to truly live.

Blessings!

To help fight the stigma of brain disorders, please visit any of the following links:

Settling For What?

Life is an amazing adventure but it was never meant to be one we simply speed through, grabbing all we can get. At the same time, there is a fine line between grabbing all we can get and settling for less than we deserve. When we “settle,” we miss out on the very essence of the beauty and power of our lives. This isn’t to say your life cannot still have a tremendous effect on those around you but it will certainly never have the full effect it was meant to have. When you settle, you not only rob yourself of blessings but you will rob all of the people whose journeys you cross in this life. There are people all around us, including ourselves, that are guilty of settling. shutterstock_71521108Each of us is unique, with unique talents and abilities. We all have dreams that we believe in our hearts we can achieve. What is it that makes us stop pursuing them? For some, there is a mix of priorities that change the course of their journeys. There are some who may have individual dreams that are overshadowed by the dreams of home and family. Please don’t misunderstand; I am in no way saying that those individuals who choose to have families cannot follow their dreams. The two can co-exist, there is just so much more to consider. What I am saying is that each turn of our journey brings new adventures and sometimes those turns prevent us from reaching particular goals. When this happens, it isn’t necessarily “settling” because as we grow and change so do our goals in life.

Settling is a reference to those times on our journey when we know we are capable of so much more but we stop short because of the critics in our lives. We give up on the things that the truest part of our spirit needs in order to thrive because someone has told us that to pursue our dreams, or our ideas of what is reasonable to have, is selfish and should be abandoned so that others can achieve theirs. Let me ask you a question. If that were a truth that should be adhered to, wouldn’t every single person be giving up what their heart desires in order that someone else could have the right to also give up their own? We would all be sacrificing for each other in vain because no one would be able to achieve the desires of their heart. What a ridiculous and futile process that would be.shutterstock_111760601 It is not selfish to pursue your dreams. It is not selfish to believe that your life can be more than it is at this moment. It isn’t wrong to follow what your spirit knows to be true. You are here for a purpose. I believe, in the quiet moments of our lives, we know what we are supposed to be doing, where we are supposed to be and with whom we are supposed to share it. Instead of following those truths, we settle for jobs that make us miserable because it pays the bills. We settle for relationships that stunt our growth because it’s easier than letting go. We settle for things far less than what our Heavenly Father intended for us to have and to be. I am not advocating pursuing our dreams at any expense, but I am fully embracing the idea of stepping out on faith when we have those moments of clarity that present us with the knowledge that there is something else we need to be doing.

God help us if we believe life is truly something to be endured instead of something to revel in. I dare say that none of us would want the children in our lives to settle for anything less than what they are able (and were meant) to be. Why then do we want our parents, spouses, friends and especially ourselves to settle for less? As people of faith, we have a God who wants us to live abundantly. He wants us to be happy, healthy and productive so why should I fear the path before me? Why shouldn’t I run leaping through the door into the realm of possibilities? There is no good reason I can find and yet I still hesitate at times. Fear takes hold and I am reminded of my responsibilities, commitments and my own mortality. I am blinded by this world’s cares and I surrender to the safety of the known rather than soaring into the open sky of my dreams. I would venture to say I am not the only one who sometimes finds themselves on the edge of clarity and greatness but shudders at the thought of leaping.

shutterstock_82458775Greatness will not come in our actions until it first comes in our thoughts. What we think, we become. If we spend our lives thinking we are weak or incapable of achieving greatness, then it is true. If we think our dreams are impossible, then they are. If we think all we have right now is all we will ever have, then it is! Sometimes we live our lives trying to protect what we already have instead of letting go and reaching for the greatness that exists within each of us. Settling is much different from contentment. Settling is giving up; contentment is letting go. Settling is admitting defeat and allowing circumstances to convince you this is the best it’s ever going to be. Contentment is courageously pursuing your true calling while having peace with the timing of the circumstances. The apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Phil 4:11-13)

power to changeSo stand strong and be courageous in the pursuit of your dreams. Don’t settle for what others think you should be, do or have. Be who YOU are. Do what YOU are called to do. Live YOUR purpose! And when you are willing to do those things you will find you have all you need to achieve more than you could ever dream!

Blessings!