Dec
05

Do You Really Want What You Pray For?

Do you ever find yourself praying away your circumstances? I do. However, when I look at my “wishes” I often find contradictory statements…  “Please let us have a bigger house so we won’t be so crowded.” Then…“If we had a smaller house it wouldn’t take me so long to clean it.” Or…“May I have a job that is more mentally challenging?” To…”I wish I had an easier job so I wouldn’t have to think so much.” and on and on it goes.

As I drove in to work this morning, my prayers were filled with petitions to God for Him to change a circumstance in my life. But my mind floundered. What would happen if He removed the circumstance? Would that solve the problem and bring me peace? Or would I be bored and complacent?

I thought about this and then Mary, the mother of Jesus, came to mind. If there was ever a woman tempted to wish away her circumstances, Mary was probably it….

She was a woman (obviously), living in a time when women weren’t all that popular. She was engaged to be married, showed up pregnant, but not with her fiancé’s baby. It was another man’s – God’s actually. (Like that excuse ever goes over well.)

No one seemed to believe her so God intervened and convinced her fiancé, Joseph, to believe her. Joseph, now on board, stepped up and protected her from a possible stoning. Phew – maybe life will get easier now.

Oops – don’t think so. Months later she’s on the verge of delivering God’s son and has to travel miles by donkey because some silly census and a prophecy. She delivers in a stable, in the cold, filled with dirty animals – without an epidural! Surely the hard part is over.

Umm…doesn’t look like it. Jesus is born and just as things seem to be settling down, some crazy ruler wants to kill her baby so they all flee to Egypt and live as refugees. Are you serious? Wouldn’t it be easier for God to remove the crazy ruler?

Life starts to normalize again but her son is a bit “odd”. He’s not like the other kids and parents know how hard that can be to watch. He sneaks off, not to flirt with girls or tip camels during the night, but to “talk God” with the leaders of the Temple. Before long He’s claiming to be God’s son and challenging the Temple leaders. Uh oh.

I wonder if she ever prayed away her uncomfortable circumstances? Did she ever lay awake at night and wished for a normal, easy-going life?

Maybe. I know I would have.

What if she did and God had granted her the wish and gave the job of raising his son to someone else?

Think about all that she would have missed out on?

The heartache, trials and struggles would have been less, but she also would have missed out on…

…hugging and kissing baby Jesus.

…knowing Him better than anyone.

She knew and felt His love firsthand. She literally saw it manifested in His life and His death.

Life would have been easier but it would not have been better. Not even close.

True peace doesn’t come from our circumstances. It comes from saying “yes” to God and following through on what He asks of us.

God sent an angel to tell Mary what God had asked of her. She didn’t refuse or pray it away. Nope.

She told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant! Let it happen as you have said.” Luke 1:38

God’s called us all to do something great for Him. We just have to be willing to say, “Yes!”

Do your circumstances tempt you to pray away God’s call on your life?

Say yes! The pain will be temporary but the rewards will be eternal.

Nov
30

Wisdom of a Sewing Cowboy

Our daughter learned to knit this year and wants to make gifts for a couple of her cousins. I noticed one of the craft stores in town was having a sale on yarn so I stopped by to get her some.

The checkout line was very long as everyone else was there to take advantage of the great deals. I noticed an older gentleman, wearing a cowboy hat, arms full of yarn and material standing in line. I thought it strange because I’ve never known a burly cowboy who knitted or sewed in his free time.

He was chatting with the ladies behind him. A few minutes later I noticed he had made his way down the line as the next person in line moved to the cash register. He wasn’t shopping for himself; he was holding the place in line for his wife.

No long after that, he was in front of me, “I’m waiting for my beautiful wife. She needed to get some thread. I hope you don’t mind me waiting here.”

Awww…he still calls her beautiful.

“She forgets things a lot but she’s the sweetest woman I know. I’m so lucky to be married to her.”

He gushed on and on about her and then he told me that haven’t been married that long. Oh…that explains all the praise!

“We’ve only been married 56 years!”

What?

“It’s worked for us because we focus on each other’s positive qualities.”

“Next in line!”

 

Argh! I had to leave him, it was my turn but those brief minutes the cowboy left me with a good reminder, a principle that I need to apply in every relationship (especially as we enter the stressful holiday season).

Focus on the positive qualities in each person. We all have aggravating things about our personalities but there is plenty of good in each of us too. Everyone brings something positive to the table that enriches our lives.

So, as the holidays continue to roll around the annoying aunt (the one who says you’d be pretty if you’d lose some weight) sits next to you at the table – focus on the positive traits in her – even if you have to dig deep.

Be generous with them like my cowboy friend by saying them out loud to her and to others. We all need to need to be reminded at times of the good that lies in us.

Nov
29

Falsely Perfect or Truly Broken

A while back, a friend and I met for coffee. We chatted away about our families and life but towards the end of our time together, she began sharing with me about a personal issue. It wasn’t devastating but it definitely wasn’t something she’d want to tweet or post on her Facebook page. She had made a bad choice and because of it, a relationship had been severed. Openly she poured out all the details of how a few bad decisions had led to a regretful action.

The next day she called to thank me for being a sounding board (as opposed to “sounding bored”). Our time together allowed her to process her thoughts. It gave her the courage to reach out to her other friend and work to rebuild the friendship.

After we hung up, I thought about how much I admired my friend. Her humbleness and transparency was helping her to right a wrong and to move beyond it in a healthy way. She wasn’t hiding her mistakes but instead she was owning up to them and beginning the healing process.

Hiding our mistakes is something that often does more harm and rarely helps us save face – instead it can wedge into our souls and tear them apart. Here are three things I see it doing…

1.    Builds the wrong things up – Hiding mistakes leads us into lying and our focus becomes building the story to cover our mistake instead of working to rebuild what’s broken. Nothing good ever comes out of a lie. It breaks trust, misdirects our focus and drains valuable energy. God hates a lying tongue for a reason.

2.    Builds bad self-esteem – We all have crude in our lives and will forever make blunders.  God gave us a conscience and when we live a lie, we can’t feel good about ourselves. Our minds will often make a situation seem worse than the truth and we begin to internally tear ourselves apart.

3.    Builds walls – Hidden “stuff” builds walls around us and prevents others from truly knowing us. We’re unable to fully receive friendship and love when there’s a part of us that we are hiding. The amount that we are loved is dependent on how well we are known. If we don’t allow our full self to be known, we miss out on being wholly loved.

Sharing our full selves builds bridges. When my friend shared her story with me, I felt closer to her. She had invited me deeper into her life and it opened the door, making me feel free to be myself too.

I have to admit, this is not always easy for me butI’d much rather be a person who is truly broken than falsely perfect.

How do you handle your mistakes?

 

Nov
16

Deterred by a Speedo

Mark is turning 40 this year and to celebrate it, he wants to complete an Ironman 70.3 triathlon – a 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike and a 13.1-mile run. Being the supportive wife that I am, I offered to watch him do it. But he had other plans. He asked if I’d train with him to do one. Uh…

After reviewing my vows, I realized that I had promised to support him in “sickness” and even though he didn’t agree that this was an illness. So I agreed to think about doing a triathlon but…one on a much smaller scale.

Our local YMCA has a triathlon team that meets throughout the week, offering swimming and running clinics and bike rides – all for beginners to elite. One by one my family joined the team…Anastasia, Mark, Noah. I watched their practices from afar and cheered the kids on at few local children’s triathlons. From the sideline, I began catching the tri-bug.

Two weeks ago I bit the bullet and signed up. However, the minute I did a sense of dread hovered over my head. What had changed?

The first week went by and I conveniently allowed other responsibilities to trump tri clinics. I thought about attending a training swim but my nerves paralyzed my desire to try (pun intended) – for silly reasons too. The last thing I wanted to do was walk along the pool side, in a speedo, only to jump in a pool with a group of confident people whose bodies looked like mini-Greek gods – no exaggerating either!

Last Friday, one of the coaches called me out, asking when I was going to start practicing. I explained my busy schedule to her but her eyes told me she wasn’t buying it, she had heard it before. In order to accomplish the tri, I’d need to commit and prioritize. I’d have to put in effort and make it happen.

Her sternness was what I needed to break through my fear. On Monday I went to my first swim class. I didn’t drown – even though I did have a close call – and I realized that modern-day speedos work a bit like Spanx. A little lift and tuck! Just wish it was full-bodied.

I had a blast and have been giddy ever since. I may not be good (or look as attractive in the speedo) but I realized that I could do it and attempting something new feels better than making up excuses on why not.

Afterwards I was wondering why I was so nervous. It hit me that I was worried that I’d look foolish, that I wouldn’t be able to keep up on the swim and worse, that I’d jiggle more than others in my speedo (silly but true). If the coach hadn’t called me out, I’d probably still be sitting here wanting to go to the class but too nervous to try.

Often in life we allow the fear of how we look in front of others to sideline us from accomplishing goals that God has placed in our hearts. We were created for an abundant, exciting and challenging life that energizes us. Not one full of nerves that drains us.

There are times we are to cheer others on from the sideline, but we also have been given our own race to run. When we don’t run it, we miss out on the energy and satisfaction it gives us.

Suit up my friends and go start your race!

What goals do you have?

Is there something stopping you from taking the first step?

Am I the only one out there who fears the speedo dash?! 😉

Nov
10

Paralyzing Fear

Do your fears ever overtake you – paralyzing you either momentarily or long-term, to the point where you sit out on life?

Fear is a strong force that God may use to protect and guide us but it’s also a tool the enemy will use to keep us in stalemate, preventing us from experiencing and trusting God.

A few weeks ago our daughter had her end-of-the-season soccer party at a new gym in our area. It’s in an old warehouse and high above our party was the ropes course with six platforms and in-between each one was a variety of ropes and obstacles.

It looked awesome and the girls immediately asked about it. The manager offered us a deal if each child had an adult to accompany them. We couldn’t pass it up so we did the mini-training, strapped in and waited our turn to climb the rope ladder.

I was with my son, Noah, who quickly climbed the ladder as I belayed him. He made it look easy and I was eager to join him at top. However, as I began my climb the narrow, rope ladder, it began to twist and sway. I quickly realized it was going to be trickier than it appeared.

I felt uncoordinated as I climbed. When it came time for me to reach from the ladder and step onto the platform, a fear of heights took over me that I had never experienced before. I stood on the platform, grasping the pole and afraid to move. I wanted to go down – immediately.

I didn’t want to let Noah down so I tried to gather my nerves. He waited for me to clip him in to his first course while I mentally tried to think of a way to get out of it and without disappointing him. Maybe he’ll hate it and “need” me to go down with him.

No such luck – he took off and loved it.

It was my turn to lean out off, grab the rope and step off the firm platform onto a swinging rope. It was unnerving and I hated it at first but after a while that changed and I ended the day with an adrenaline high.

Here are a few life lessons it taught me.

  1. 1.    Straight paths are not always easy. In Proverbs 3 we’re encouraged to trust in God and not our own understanding. But just because God directs us to a path, it doesn’t mean it’ll necessarily be easy. My fears (understanding) told me to quit. However, if I had listened, I would have missed out on a great bonding time with my son. It was worth the struggle.
  2. 2.    Taking the 1st step is not always the hardest part. For me, taking the 2nd and 3rd steps was harder. Each one took me further from the platform and my safety blanket. It was even scarier at the end when I had to take one hand off of the rope to climb onto the next platform. It required me letting go and reaching out to another for help. Every step of our path we are dependent upon God and others – and this is a good thing.
  3. 3.    “Healthy” pride won’t lead to a fall. By healthy pride, I mean accountability – it keeps us from sitting out on life. I was with my son and his ability to continue on the ropes course was dependent on me staying with him. I didn’t want him to see me as a mom who quits on him. So I struggled on. My pride didn’t want to disappoint him so it spurred me on.

There have been times in life where fear kept me from trying. I didn’t send a query letter because I feared the rejection. I didn’t talk to a person because I feared looking foolish. I didn’t apply for a position because I feared I wouldn’t be able to handle the position.

God broke through that day. He reminded me that He enables us and He clears the right path for us. It may not be smooth sailing the whole way but the bonding and joy He gives us are more than worth it.

Do you have fears that prevent you from stepping out?

What has God taught you as you tackled your fears?