Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Have A Courageous Holiday

Life has caused some storms that forced a rewiring in order to spark my abilities to be happy, and make others happy.

Pre-storms: I was wired to assume the best would be the outcome in every situation. 

Post-storms: I have experienced MOST of my well-laid plans not even remotely working out. So I was glitching and assuming the worst, which made me unable to get out of bed.

If you've heard me speak, or have read my blog, you've likely heard me mention a book I read a few years ago called, "Happy For No Reason," by Marci Shimoff.

Oh! When I first saw the title of that book smiling at me from the public library shelf, I was immediately angry and resentful. I was looking in the self-help section because I had been crying and disfunctional for a couple of years, at least. I wanted a REASON to be happy! I had accepted, "Get Dressed For No Reason." And "Breathe For No Reason." But I was able to do those things because someday I would have a REASON to be happy. 

A book telling me how and why to be "Happy For No Reason," just ticked me off. But I knew I HAD to read the book. 

It changed my life. 

I had been waiting for God to make me happy, to give me reasons to be happy. But God was teaching me something new; "I'm going to sustain you while YOU learn the tricks-of-the-trade of getting through fiery trials with the right attitude."

Over the last few years I've learned some things, things that perhaps you need to be made aware of. Accept the rewiring that needs to occur. We find ourselves frustrated, spinning our wheels trying to make things how they used to be. But, God has determined to make all things NEW. He's not allowing peace to come from the old methods. We've got to forget those things which are behind. We've got some learning to do.

I learned how to be content in whatever state of mind I found myself in. By accepting the reality of what I was dealing with, by thinking hopeful thoughts, by speaking life into the atmosphere around me, I began to gain some control over my state of mind. I determined to let the past be done, and I began to deliberately impact the future with present behaviors. I decided I was as ignorant and as undeveloped as a newborn. I'm not where I need to be yet. But, I'm not where I was either! Yes, I'll have days where sadness will come calling and I'll feel like I've not made any progress at all; but I've been rewired to get through difficult hours with patience. In fact, it IS only a few hours of emotional unrest now. In the past, it was DAYS. I'm getting better at this! :) 

There are some struggles I've not yet felt released to divulge to the public. But I CAN tell you that the joy, peace, and victories I've experienced have blown my ever-lovin' mind. And He's not finished yet! If this is my experience, I can promise you, it can be yours too! You too can feel strong and capable again! But, you can't demand it come by your methods. Your job is to learn how to do life in a completely new and different way. 

In the meantime...

As we move into the holidays, starting with this Thanksgiving, I am aware that some wounds are going to feel inflamed. My wounds. Your wounds. You're likely already feeling it. For some of you, the wounds have healed, and most days their existence is forgotten. But holidays cause the same reaction to your soul-scars as wet, cold weather causes old football injuries. Sometimes the scars ache. 

As you go into the holidays I encourage you to, first of all, be mentally prepared for it. Accept that it might show itself. And if/when it does, have a game plan in place. Maybe have a list of scriptures to read or listen to, to give you a quick pick me up. Plan to take a nap. Don't plan to do all of the usual traditions. Or do like me, and (gasp) refuse to do ANY of the traditions. After I saw the attempts at traditions were triggering depression in us, I chucked those traditions. We started having fun creating brand new ones! 

Go into every situation with a prayer. Ask God for strength. Ask God to make the situation as smooth as possible, and to give you wisdom to best handle it. Before you step into the next one, pray again. 

Lastly, give yourself a break. Speak life. Be joyful and positive. But, it's ok to go in a back room and cry for a bit. Just don't get lost in the back room. Blow your snozzle ASAP, and wade back in. PLAN to give yourself a break. 

Wherever you are in your storm, mid or post; YOU CAN DO THIS! Trust me, you will enjoy life again. I haven't quite got the "reasons" to be happy that I wanted. But God has sustained me. I feel better equipped at facing difficulties now. And I am experiencing the miraculous! God is proving to me that God sees me, and that He will work ALL THINGS out for my good. 

Maybe you will, or maybe you won't, have a "happy holiday." 
But you can have a strong, courageous holiday! 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The [insert your name here] Project

God is NOT finished with you!

Look around at all things beautiful and comforting; from the great outdoors, to a cozy quilt, to a delightful baby. These took TIME & STAGES to create. 

Where you are today is not the end of "The You Project."

God is not a procrastinator. He doesn’t have a craft room, or shed, full of half finished projects. He is the most deliberate, purposeful, well-planned individual EVER. 

The way a farmer knows what fields need what ground enhancements, when. 
The way a wedding planner knows what week to do each preparatory task. 
The way a gardener knows which plant goes in which zone, and when. 
This is how God sees you and your needs. He KNOWS how to complete you better than you know yourself.

He knows when to do what. He knows how to do each step and stage so that its so perfect. And he LOVES the project of "You."

What are you passionate about?

Do you LOVE to cook? Do your happy-endorphins start going nuts just reading recipes? 

Do you LOVE to exercise? Does just strapping on your running shoes cause you to feel empowered? 

Do you LOVE to make furniture? Does the very smell of saw dust, or the squeal of the saw make your senses stand to attention? 

Do you LOVE coffee? Does talking about the age of the coffee bean, the temperature of the water, the perfect froth just cause you to come alive with energy?

However you feel about your passion, realize; that's how God feels about,
"The [insert your name here] Project."

He's consumed with you. 
He's invigorated by you. 
He's so delighted about you that he SINGS.

Don't allow despair to drown you. Don't give fear a foothold. Begin to sing songs of hope and faith. Begin to smile in the knowledge of what is unfolding. Snap your fingers, clap your hands, create some joyful rhythms!

Begin to say things like, "This is going to be AWESOME!"
When somebody asks, What's going to be awesome?"
Smile at them and say, "What God is doing for me is going to be AWESOME!"


Isaiah 49:16 (KJV) 16 Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of [my] hands; thy walls [are] continually before me.

Matthew 10:30 (KJV)
But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Zephaniah 3:17 (KJV)
The LORD thy God in the midst of thee [is] mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.

John 14:18 (KJV)
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

Haggai 2:9 (KJV)
The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Being An Acceptable Sacrifice

I am a stubborn person. My stubbornness has caused me much pain. It's given me much victory and satisfaction as well. Of course, human nature is to function in the belief that if one can get away with something once, perhaps we can again!

This is why we get speeding tickets. Those "speed trap" towns that we know exist... We absolutely do not go so much as one mile over the speed limit there. We've learned that they are CONSISTENT in their punishment. But put us on a highway where the speed "limit" has come to be defined as "speed suggestion," and we are downright indignant if we get pulled over for a ticket! Why? Because the issuing of tickets is sparadic on highways. We do what we can get away with until we're stopped. Then we, of course, gripe and complain about the cost of the fine, the unyielding officer... Oh, the outrage! 

My stubbornness has won me some good favors. Through maturity and experience I've learned to distinguish between the good and the bad uses for it. Because my endurance and tolerance levels aid my stubbornness, I usually end up the winner. But, I'm sorry to say that it has not always worked to my benefit. It has, at times worked to destroy me. I feel so indignant and cheated when I've been harmed by my self-will. I was at quite a loss for how to start over. But I've learned a secret for recovery and beginning with a clean slate. I hope my painful lessons can help others. 

“But he shall wash the inwards and the legs with water: and the priest shall bring it all, and burn it upon the altar: it is a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the Lord.”
Leviticus 1:13 KJV

I've had many stretches of road on my journey with God that were outside the laws of limits. Much like my speeding on highways, because God didn't smack me down each and every time I stepped outside of covenant, I felt like my law-breaking speed was as acceptable as the actual law. In these time periods I would excuse my bad attitude, I would blow off conviction, I would get an attitude with the other drivers who were "in my way."

But a part of me would KNOW I was breaking the law of God. Even if it might have been a "lesser law." Much like our experiences speeding, we excuse the fact that we're literally breaking THE LAW, with the argument of, "At least I'm not killing somebody." But sometimes simple speeding DOES kill somebody., and so officers of the law take time where they pause their work on the more serious crimes to remind citizens that even the lesser crimes are a problem. 

That part of me that knew my sin-nature was in opposition to God's law, and that I was out of sync with God's people would rein myself into the limits. I'd use my self-discipline techniques and present my body as a living sacrifice. But I discovered something in my offering that surprised me; unacceptance.

How was it that I brought myself into the confines of what God and man asked for, but I wasn't feeling that acceptance I craved? 

I felt indignant! I really didn't like that I wasn't feeling approval. After all, I had brought my offering to God. Even though I didn't WANT to get in sync with God's plan, and I felt the people around me were unfair and judgemental. I STILL BROUGHT MY OFFERING! Why wasn't that enough?!

In the scripture I've included above, Leviticus 1:13, we see a step involved in sacrifice that many of us fail to do; washing the innards and the legs. 

When we come to God without repentance we will feel the frustration Cain felt when his offering wasn't accepted. We're being STUBBORN. And it's not fixing anything. We want to appear before man as holy and "as good" as they are. (Ahem. NO man is good, but God. That's why we need him.) But we're still experiencing a breach. WHY?! 

We've got to not only bring ourselves as a living sacrifice, but we've got to do some cleansing.

2 Corinthians 7:1 says, "Cleanse YOURSELVES of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit." We ask for God's forgiveness, but we have a part in the cleansing process as well. 

We know when a part of our heart is stubbornly holding on to that thing we must let go of. And I'm sorry to tell you that this isn't a simple two-step process. Some stuff requires "wrestling" our spirit to rid ourselves of it. Sometimes there aren't more detailed instructions outside of the simple, "Just do it." And when we're experiencing these complicated wrestlings, we must use the same stubbornness that caused us to defy God's law, to come back into peace with God's law. Where there's a will, there's a way. Get STUBBORN about fixing it.

We most certainly will not cleanse ourselves if we're not continually putting ourselves into the waters of prayer. We must pray until the living water of the Holy Ghost comes pouring out of our inner most being.

Some heart matters require more than "a quick rinse." But stay at it, as many days or weeks as it takes. Get your inside clean. 

The other part of us that must be cleaned for acceptable sacrifice is our legs. We have been with people we should not have been with. We have gone places we should never have gone. We have got to wash ourselves of the past. We've got to confess that these places and things were not pleasing to God. And we've got to cleanse the dust of our past from us. We must remove all traces of where we've been. Sometimes, in our cleansing we'll realize there was more mud than we remembered. And it may take, as with the heart, several washing to get that caked-mess out. But keep scrubbing because the fulfillment is WORTH it.

In this cleansing we will find the experience we crave of being an acceptable sacrifice. Our lives will feel useful. We will once again begin to live in the purpose we were designed for. Accepted and useful to both God and man.

I've had to learn to use my stubbornness to outlast the devil, not outlast God or his people. I've learned to use my stubbornness to rid myself of the people and places that were outside of God's perfect law of liberty. But I'm glad and thankful that I've learned to cleanse myself of all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.

Use your stubbornness to fulfill your acceptable sacrifice. You'll be glad you did!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

It's Ok To Be Tired

I'm forty-something years old. 
My mother birthed all of her children at home, so I live in the same town I was born in. I've travelled all over the world, but I've never lived anywhere besides Belleview, FL.
I've worked for only two bosses in my entire life. 
I've worked at my current job for twenty years. 
I've lived in the same house for twenty years.

While that sounds incredibly monotonous and boring, you'd have to live with me, attend my church, or follow me on social media to know my life is FAR from boring or monotonous. 

People view me as hyper, flighty, energetic, busy, adventurous, social, and a part of me is all of these things. But I'm rarely seen as, "tired." And I'm glad about that. I work hard to put and keep my BEST foot forward and visible. I loathe attention, pity, and drama. I absolutely refuse to be anybody's victim. When I am sick, or am dealing with trauma I want to be LEFT ALONE. My career keeps me in a highly visible place. I don't mind. My personality was created for such a role. But I know when I need solitude, and I've learned the health benefits of taking a break.

It's possible to take a break without quitting the job.

Thanks to our societies' media coverage of musicians and singers we all know how "weird" artists can be.
Guess what...
That's what I am.
By nature I'm a slightly bi-polar, emotional creature. And the very thing that has kept me from destroying myself IS the very thing that I sometimes feel is killing me; CONSTANCE.

To constantly work the same job, to constantly live in the same house, to constantly be in the same town, to constantly work out the same troubles.... This is maddening!

In these bad-seasons (and I've had MANY) my nature tells me that I'm suffocating. I can't tell you how often I've wanted to cut ties and RUN. I've had to ball-up and wait out intense panic attacks, overwhelming depression. When I tell you that you should be still, chill, and be patient; I'm not suggesting you do something I don't understand the weight of. 

It is EXHAUSTING being constant.

It's ok to be tired in your ministry. It's ok to be tired in your parenting. It's ok to be tired in your work. But it's never ok to give up. 

There is a true statement in our memes, and motivation books that says something like, "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always gotten."

While this statement is true, it's neither a license to be immoral, or a magical wand allowing you to quit a necessary task. If you've discovered a new door, or new path, the slowest, most extreme of caution should be taken before setting foot there. The multitude of counsel must be engaged. If your personality is like mine and you find great excitement in exploration, you should invite and insist on trepidation to be a part of the scenario.

FEAR THE FLIGHT. If a person does not fear flight they are either suffering from a disease akin to Urbach-Weithe, or they've done so much flying they've gotten used to it. Likewise in life; if you've gotten comfortable with flying to greener pastures, you've been doing it too often. You should likely stop flying, and start growing roots. Start insisting that you stay and go through the seasons. If you've planted yourself by the rivers of living water, you'll come out of each season ready and able to handle the next. And only in this state will you FINALLY experience being the green others are attracted to.

A person shouldn't quit their job because they are sick of the lack of respect, or aren't being paid enough on the job. What they can do is start submitting resumes and applications for a different job while remaining constant in the current one.

A stale marriage shouldn't be escaped because there's no sparkle in the relationship. Remain constant in kindness while you seek ways to mend the relationship.

Children shouldn't be yanked from their school because there's a rift with a teacher, or another student. Attendance and rule-adherence should remain constant while professional conversations are hammered out.

Volunteers in ministry shouldn't chunk their service of edification because of aggravation in a department. Remain constant in your work for God while you communicate your frustrations to the proper source.

And never, never, never leave the church because someone has hurt you. Remain constant in attendance and volunteer.

I can give details into EVERY ONE of the scenarios above because I have faced and endured ALL of them. I'm not proud of how I handled them. But I can testify of having much more to show for my life than some others whom I've seen cut and run. I enjoy the benefits of multiple generations STILL working together in ministries because constancy was the one (and sometimes only) thing we held in common.

Because I've stayed constant to my same congregation, instead of fleeing to "greener pastures," I get to watch the beauty of grandmothers snuggle shoulder-to-shoulder to snap pictures of their grand babies. It's beautiful because I remember when they were in their thirties and suffered a painful rift. Their constancy allows them to share a present abundance of joy. My constancy allows me to witness it. Because I've chosen to be constant, I've beheld the miraculous love shared between the merciful. We're all still living peaceable lives together because we determined to remain constant.

So, you may be tired. That's ok. Just don't quit, leave, or burn bridges. Stick it out. You'll be glad you did.

PS: If you find yourself away from those you wished you'd remained constant to, say hi. That's an awesome first step. :)