Thursday, April 30, 2015

America is the best country in the world - a statement that keeps getting harder to validate, and simply isnt true in so many ways anymore

Had to share this video that my DIL shared earlier today...
And also some things on my heart...

It's not that I don't love my country, but I am so very disappointed in it. In us.
I've had several conversations with people, with more and more frequency, about the views and truth of the statements in this video... the world doesn't have to change for our lives to be better - WE have to make conscious changes within ourselves and within our own country to once again see America strong, or even see us truly make any lasting difference at all in our world.
We are falling extensively short and farther behind in equal morality, education, compassion, health, and quality of life here - as well as leaving a positive mark on the world.
If only we would ALL decide as individuals to band together to do the necessary things to ensure true equality in every possible way here at home, and stop expecting the next group or person in local/national government office to "fix things". What would everyone's lives look like if we could each stop thinking that any of us deserve more than another? If we quit basing our outreach efforts outside this country on ONLY REACTING to the crisis instead of arresting it where it begins? If we quit attaching a string to much of our aid/assistance that those we help then do things the "american way"? What if we instead focused more energy and funds to find ways and resources to help educate those in need to sustain themselves in ways that work best in their own culture and match up more easily with their natural resources? And most importantly they might honestly think it a good thing to let us help if it was evident we had successfully lessened or eliminated our own hungry, our own down trodden and outcasts, our own destitute, our own have nots.
But we say the "caste systems" in other countries are an outrage, while we are ok that a pretty similar one exist right here in America in so many ways.
And we're ok with the fact that our military are continually put in harm's way to defend another country from treating select groups as unimportant and less, while we watch the same thing continue to happen here daily as if there is a difference. The quote "where you live shouldn't determine whether you live or die, and where you live shouldn't determine your access to the simplest of things that mean the difference between living or just existing" should hold water here too.
I agree, we USED to be the best country in the world when every man and woman did their personal best to give back, to stand alongside, and to personally invest in their own neighbors and communities because they kept a compassionate eye on the bigger picture. We were more selfless as a whole. Being an American was more about how we treated one another instead of what we could consume.
Until we are moved collectively to change the circumstances of those down the street, in the next town, or in another state, we have no business touting ourselves or our country as being the greatest, or the ones qualified to show any one else how to better live... we can never truly make the difference we should anywhere else until we put every effort into making sure this is really the land of equality and freedom it was intended to be. Until we can honestly say we are about EVERYONE here having equal access to a solid education, healthy food, to not die of diseases that are treatable except that the health care and medicines they need are only available to those who have a high paying enough position to afford a better health care plan, until all are living without the daily fear of not knowing how they will clothe and feed their children, and having the injustice in all lives receive the same attention and help - to not base their level of protection or aid on where they live or how much money they make.
The truth of America is that we are still full of our own poor, that we have let achieving the "american dream" become a warped sense of what success really looks like, that we put what we think will make us happy above what the dream was really about in the beginning: that everyone have the exact same basic opportunities, that we impact others in positive ways with what we have - not staying focused on how much we can purchase or consume, when nothing achieved created bragging rights, that it was quite simply about how much good we did for others, and what we could accomplished together verses alone would better everyone's life.
Instead America is: still full and spilling over with our own disadvantaged and hungry, allowing human trafficking to thrive in our own back yards, letting abuse of our children still happen every day, not taking collectively any real moral stand on anything, letting not making anyone angry or causing a possible law suit take a front seat to doing what's right, turning a blindeye to injustice, expecting our government to right the wrongs we as a people have let happen and that we still create every day by choosing not to act, not living by the golden rule (which would literally fix every single problem that exists), and we frankly refuse to accept that the weight of our individual responsibility for one another goes way beyond our own families.

Here's to being the 'more' joy in someone elses journey ;)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Instinct matters, more than many are willing to admit and trust. A good instinct is as important in reaching goals and visions as anything that is taught. Hand in hand, instinct and knowledge can be unstoppable.

Friday, April 10, 2015

It's Not The Leap, It's The Landing

I remember the first time I decided to try the high dive at our community pool. I thought the scariest part would be jumping off. Not that it wasn't frightening enough. Standing there, looking down into the cool watery abyss from more feet up than I've ever jumped off of before. Yep, I was scared. I was almost overwhelmed with the need to shimmy down that ladder, back to the safe concrete below, not caring who I had to climb over to get there. But hey, I'd been triple dog dared.

That was the day I learned where my fear really came from. 
Because I did jump. I stepped off into nothing but air, plummeting like a small missile into the water below.
I went much deeper than I imagined I would (sunk like a rock really). It was then the fear seized my entire body and mind!
It resonated in me even then - ok, it wasn't the leap I feared, it was what came AFTER. The unknown.

(Keeping a secret, well... secret, is hard sometimes. But at no time is it harder than when it's a secret of our own. Hard because it causes us the pain of feeling somehow in a constant state of separation from everyone else in our life. We hold it in well past the point of pain, afraid its not a safe enough time or place to let it out. The pain of what we imagine the "after effect" to be (aka - what everyone will think about us) keeps us holding our secrets, our story, close to our hearts. It's like holding our breath. ecause sometimes the burning pain it causes somehow becomes tolerable. Familiar. Better than the unknown at least we think. The after affect scenarios that we imagine HAVE to be worse. So the unknown keeps us silent. Our lungs stretch to hold more)

Let's see, where was I... oh yeah, sinking like a rock.
I could hear the muffled voices and laughter from above. I thought, "here's where I'll meet my maker", while all around me life will just chug on by. The adrenaline was flowing and my lungs were burning with the need to exhale and suck more air in. My mind swirled... what if I don't make it?? What if I don't have enough air to make it up all the way?? What if I swallow water and die?? Or worse, what if I don't die (my young mind was sizing up and categorizing the worse of any foreseeable outcomes), and I live only to be seen being pulled half dead from the water, coughing up the watery depths I'd swallow, gagging and spitting it out like a fish convulsing after being reeled in on the bank?? Only I'd be projecting a barrage of water mixed with snot out of my nose, a gasping crying hot snotty mess, and all right in front of the really cute boy I had noticed sitting on his towel by the deep end as I began my (not well thought out at all) ascent of madness.
I knew I needed to exhale, badly, but I knew I couldn't until I made it to a safe place (head above the water) to do so.
But here's the truth of it. When we offer a declaration of our own secrets, share the thing we're most fearful of someone finding out on their own, or when we bear witness to another persons story with a "me too", or by simply listening and responding with compassion, love, and acceptance, we are validating the fact that the pain, emotions, and feelings associated with them are real. That it did happen, and that the impact the experiences made on each of us matter. In both instances we are finally attaching a deep intrinsic value not just to the story tellers, but to the decisions, choices, and incidents that adversely altered our lives along the way. It’s a priceless acknowledgement that it all hasn't gone unnoticed. And it's a necessary step in the healing process. Necessary because to us it's a direct reflection of what we all need to believe most at our very core, and what we are really seeking in the whole process - to know and believe that God truly sees us, knows us deeply, never left us, loves us as we are, and is for us no matter what.
Part confession, part healing, and part accountability, bearing witness to each others secrets is a sacred exchange (and we should be that safe place) that blesses the heart of our Heavenly Father, and that gives a whole new meaning to Hebrews 12:1 - “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfector of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

We need people in our life who know our truths, who encourage us, love us for who we are - the good the bad and the ugly - and want us to be in the best place possible. Then we can more easily let God show us just how much he loves us, by allowing him to rewrite that story. His intent is to assign a "kingdom minded" purpose to our "after" life story - to take us to a whole other level of healing and forgiveness that He can use! We can take off the heavy coat of shame, or anger, or whatever false identity we have been wearing. We can breathe in fresh life once we finally "exhale" the secrets and pain that have long filled us with shame. We can shake off the bitterness that has held us under - suspended somehow in that particular place in time. We can step into deeper water without such fear.

If you hold a secret too close that is tied to a healing you need, it's holding you captive.

See, here's the key to the telling, to the leap, to working our way through the unknown, to our purpose. The freedom we attain from letting God lead us out into our healing, is what then gives birth to one of the single greatest calling on our lives... to help others we meet along our journey who are sinking and desperate for a lung full of fresh air, to find a way to believe that Romans 8:28 is for them too - that "God makes all things work together for the good in the lives of those who are in Christ", and that there is a huge redeeming life giving "exhale" waiting for them too.

Oh, and for those who are interested in the rest of the story - I made it to fresh air, and up the ladder on the side of the deep end, with only a little coughing and snot. The cute boy? Never even looked my way. Dang it. So I took a run when the life guards head was turned, jumped as high as I could, and pulled off a pretty impressive cannon-ball right in front of him  ;)

Joyful on the Jouney,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Silence Really Still Can Be Golden

Before the storm stirred, Jesus went down into the space beneath the stern of the boat to sleep. He didn't take a cat nap on deck. He knew the storm was coming. And it says he slept soundly. 
Knowing the road into Jerusalem would lead to the cross, Jesus still rode that dang donkey straight into the center of town - midst a fanfare of shouting and singing no less. He didn't hide his arrival. He faced it head on. Willingly.
Whether listening intently to our desperate prayers, still orchestrating the perfect answer to our circumstance... or boldly announcing his presence, kicking open that door standing directly in your way out of that circumstance.
Jesus is always there. And for us. From beginning to end. Faithful. 
#trusthimwiththewhole #nevertakesilenceforabandonment #sometimesitjustmeansnotyet #histimingisalwaysbest

Saturday, March 21, 2015

You haven't missed your calling...

Your biggest pain, your biggest shame, and your deepest wound is the most important part of your calling... the healing from it, the revealing of it, and the beautiful thing your whole story can then become, is the most intimate way God can use you. The best way to share Him with others is to let Him restore and rewrite your story.Then start telling it. That's how it becomes "His story".
It all starts with where you have desperatly needed Him the most  ;)
#noneedtolookforyourpurpose #itsalreadyhere #Hisgloryrevealed

Joyful on the Journey.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Am I Enough?

Insecurities suck. 

'How does she have the energy to DO all that with her kids, AND cook from scratch?'
'How does she juggle all that at work?'
'I should volunteer there too.
I wish I was good at that.'
'God would probably be happier with me if I were more like her.'

Yep, I've thought those too. And more.

And getting past them? Ugh, almost as painful as holding onto them. Almost.

Overcoming insecurities isn't exclusively hard for women. Men definitely struggle with them too. But it often seems particularly difficult for us. So many of the things we desire to be or do, seem to always come so much easier for someone else. 
But in reality, we sabotage ourselves don't we? I mean, on an insecurity scale of 1 to 10, we don't seem to need any help twisting the knob up to about 15 all on our own. Yes, the enemy does know our weaknesses quite well. But eventually, we're the ones doing the majority of the work. It comes so easily to us too, almost like second nature. And then what do we do? Why we consciously choose to play one of the most extremely dangerous and competitive games there is. A game, that evidently must be able to handle as many players as want to participate, called 'Comparisons'.

You know that game, right? I do. We've moved our tokens around the game board, strategies of how we can land on the same spaces the women we wish we were more like do. It's easy to see what to aim for. After all, they always seem to be one step ahead. We lay down a little more of what we have in our hand to bet with. They move. We feel envious, lacking, and so we frantically move too, trying to get the same results. And if it isn't working we panic, fearing that we're being left behind. We might even cheat a little then. Pretend we have exactly what they do so we can move along side them. But before long we find we're totally bankrupt, and we justify the striving and struggling that got us to wager our sanity, peace, joy, and more by quoting Proverbs 31  
"See" we shout, "SHE does it ALL!" 
Wait... what? 

Hold up a minute. This isn't a mandatory list of things we have to do to be worthy of being loved. This is the biblical ideal of the kind of godly woman King Samuel's mother was telling him he should be seeking. It shows us a woman shouldn't let her life be dictated by every little thing. And I guarantee Samuel's own mother could not accomplish it all simultaneously - not even half of it!
NEWSFLASH – these are examples. Examples of how a godly woman is more concerned with being giving, being trustworthy, using whatever skills she may have to be supportive, contributing to the well being of her family/community, being willing to jump in and provide in her own way where needed, being forgiving, and showing grace. It isn't a check list of daily actions. It should encourage us all to find a balance in our lives that allows us to be soft, strong, nurturing, and independent in the best ways! Notice her focus is on the betterment of everyone else but not at her own expense. And not to make herself feel better or more important.

But I get it. Oh boy do I ever. I've been there. I've played that game more times than I can begin to count. My whole life. And I see the things that many of you share on Facebook, and hear in your conversationsYour hearts reveal many of you find yourselves there often. You’re playing the game like a champ.
For some of you, insecurities are very new to you. Circumstances not of your choosing have unexpectedly sidelined you. Your confidence has been shaken in a way it never has before. Your first health, finance, career, or relationship crisis has hit. You're reeling, and unsure. These are new feelings for you..
For some it's been a battle for some time. You've been in a dark place for a while now. And have before too. It's a second, or third crisis that's found you once again sitting down at the table to play the game. And unfortunately its getting easier.
For some, it’s not just a battle, but the war of a lifetime. Since you were a little girl you haven't been able to get past the circumstances throughout your life that have produced your feelings of being lonely - even in a crowd, of feeling used, abandoned, undervalued, unloved, and maybe even invisible. You know the game inside and out. You'll never need to give the directions another glance. It's as if you were born knowing how to play, dice in hand, with the question already formed on your lips... "Am I Enough?"

I'm extremely familiar with the game of  'Comparisons'. Many experiences - some of my choosing, but so many that were definitely not - have left me struggling with feelings of unworthiness, never being enough, feeling less than. For as long as I can remember I always felt I was two or three times around the board behind everyone else playing. Those are all stories for another time maybe :)
Not that there aren't days my mind still doesn’t take me there - but most days I think I can say Gods very real forgiveness and unconditional love are helping me gain ground on them.
But you can never let your guard lower, and become complacent thinking you have it all down. Never assume that you have walked away from the game for the last time. #youknowwhattheysayyoudowhenyouassume ;)

The last few years have brought a new crisis or two. But it turns out the most life altering one, in a long time anyway, would come to a head over the last 12 months. I would have recognized just how serious the red flags were had I been paying closer attention. Over the last 6 years or so it seems my body had been screaming as loudly as it could to try and tell me that all was not right. But in all honesty, I think if not for circumstances that I did not choose that slowed my life FOR me, I may not have listened until the screaming stopped. And my body completely gave out.
The fact that I was sick, A LOT, weaker than I used to be, gaining weight steadily, suffering debilitating headaches, that I could hardly get out of bed some days and felt like I'd been hit by a truck most of them, wasn't just because I worked 60 hours many weeks. It wasn't even that on top of that I was heavily involved in women’s ministry, and was a wife and mom.
BUT, because I did all that I chalked it up to normal for someone who juggles those things. So I kept juggling for far too long. I mean, if I didn't do it all who would? #imsurethatdoesntsoundfamiliartoanyone
So I decided that the physical fall out was something I would just have to suck up and deal with. 
But 12 months ago I wasn’t working like that anymore. And instead of things getting better now I couldn't walk very far (to the mailbox and back had me needing to take some very deep breaths and hurting). I couldn't lift very much, couldn't sleep well at all, and now needed naps daily - sometimes more than one. I was in pain a lot, sore, stiff, still having numerous migraines, was forgetful, and felt like I was living in a sort of fog all the time. I've never felt more useless, worthless, depressed, and frustrated. I didn't even have the strength to TRY and measure up anymore.
But the guilt? Oh yeah, it was still there. And that made me insecure wondering if people thought I was faking, or wondering if it they thought it was all in my head (because I wondered that myself more than once), or if they thought I was just lazy. 
Then one day an allergy appointment of all things, with someone who listened VERY closely to some answers I gave to some pretty standard questions, began putting 2 and 2 together, And she set me on a path that eventually discovered and answered so many questions I didn't even know to ask. And the red flags began to finally make sense. And eventually a plan began to come together.
I have seen more doctors in the last year than I have in the last 10 years combined I think. Some I dropped like a hot potato as I learned more about my own body, as I learned that the "normal for people with your issues" still wasn't MY normal. I learned who truly listened and who didn't. 
When I discovered what the very real problems with my health were (hypothyroid w/goiter, and 2 separate auto immune diseases), what needed to happen for me to heal as best I could, and that there would also simply be a new normal for me I needed to accept - I was happy to know what was so wrong with me, but was even more depressed at what that said about my new life.
My husband, friends, coworkers, my family - would they be disappointed? Would they understand? Could they make allowances, or would they tire of them? And I asked over and over and over again - "Why God??? This isn’t how I wanted my life to go! I'm not even 50 yet and this is crazy!"
I was focused so much on what negative things I thought others would feel, that I didn't even consider how it might actually be exciting to them that there could now be a plan of action for me.
But then my sweet husband began showing me how much it meant to him. Me feeling better was all he was worried about. Not the weight. Not that he had to make sure he didn’t plan too many things in a day, or even a week, for us to do. Not that he would have to count on me less to help with certain strenuous activities around the house for awhile because they cause me too much pain. Not that we have to find things that allow me to not sit, or stand, too long. Not even that our diets had to change - AGAIN, removing some delicious things, normally very healthy, because they cause my body inflammation. All he cared about was that we do what we need to do for me to feel better, so our lives together would be as full and joyful as possible! 
His refection of loving me how my Father loves me began to sink in.
No matter the reasons, and how frustrating it is at times, I realize that even if my daily life has to be very different than many others, it's okay. Stress makes my issues flare, becoming over tired, not moving enough, being too cold or too hot, too much or too little of some vitamins/minerals, etc. It’s now definitely not about what someone else thinks, or me feeling guilty for my circumstances and what I can't do. God wants me to do what I need to, to be as healthy as possible. 

It really all comes down to how, and who, I spend time worshipping. God is trying, so very patiently, to show me that my mind, heart, and body ALL are individually His. 
So for me now, its way more important that I begin balancing my time & activities in ways that produce better physical health and emotional well being for me. That is HOW I can begin to best serve Him through my family, friends, church, and community. When I do the healthiest things for me possible, I can continue to do the things He has prepared for me for as long as possible. Not what someone else does. When I'm striving for a life and image other than my own, I'm trying to achieve what was never intended for me. 
Will I worship God by carrying for the mind heart and body He created just for me, listening to the signals actually telling me what it needs or shouldn't be doing? Or will I worship an idol, something or someone I wasn't designed to be?
Will I continually regret what I can't seem to do as well as “she” or “they” can, feeling guilty and less than? Or will I gratefully accept that I'm just different for a reason, doing what I can with the things that make me uniquely ME, and worship God thankful for what I can do? 
I'm learning that when I do what's necessary for me to feel my best, that's what allows me to more consistently do more for others and enjoy more of my life.  
I focus on what I can do, what I'm good at, instead of making myself crazy trying to measure up to someone else. It doesn’t mean I don’t try new things. It just means I don’t pressure myself to succeed in all things.

You may not have my same health limitations, maybe you have different ones. Or maybe different talents, skills, passions, amounts of time available, responsibilities, and interests - but can't seem to help but want the others ones you don't have. The point is that who and where you are is your reality. Letting your insecurities drag you into a fight that is not meant to be yours, is a conflict you cannot win. Feeling guilty for what you do or don't do for yourself or others, based on your abilities, is a battle you are not supposed to fight. It's not real. Take care of what you've been given, to do your absolute best with what you have. 

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Eph. 2:10

I don't know what convinces you to sit at the table to play the game. But if your legs are growing numb from being there for far too long, isn't it time you stood up, got some feeling back in them again, and walked away? 

Joyful on the Journey,