Posted in comparison, encouraging women, God's word, loving God with your mind, self-absorption, spiritual growth, transformation by truth

What story are you writing?

What story are you writing this morning? Not a writer you say? I disagree. You are telling yourself something about a lot of things.

It may be that you have carefully crafted a story about your acquaintance’s life, her trip, her parenting, her marriage, her financial status. It may be that you have written a story about everyone having good friends but you. You may have written a script with conflict in a friendship in which your friend is unaware. In fact, you might be an anonymous writer that has never shared her work with anyone but yourself. You have created a scripted show in your head and have never checked it against reality. You could be constantly sharing information with yourself that breeds more and more disconnection, deception, and strife.

Gone are the days of just comparing your life with your next door neighbor or your cousin. With the world at our fingertips, we are bombarded with all of the things. We have a virtual world with fancy filters, branding, and crafting of our stories that shows us everyone we have ever worked with, dated, been to school with, known through a friend of a friend, went to summer camp with, or watched on television, etc. Their lives flash before us in the scroll. We do not control what they post as they carefully craft the story they want us to see.

It’s a bit exhausting to compare our lives to each of them. “What do they do for a living? How can they afford that? must be nice to have a spouse who… their teenagers actually seem decent… Must be nice to get to work out all the time… They are doing so much for others while I am over here drowning… Look at how much their parents help…How many times are they going to be away from their kids? How can they go to Disney that much? How can they crusade about that? what are they doing to help others?”

We have these thoughts and write these stories unchecked, and then we awaken to feel the weight of our hearts. We have no idea what the real truth is, but we are living with this alternate truth that we have crafted. We are cut off from relationship because we have assumed and have not conversed and checked in with the actual people.

Whatever we feed grows. When we are feeding a fictional narrative in our head, what does that do for our reality, our relationships, our actual lives?

Our hearts, in the flesh, will deceive us every time. We set ourselves up front and center, and we interpret life from our feelings. This is really dangerous (think looking at life as a 2 and 3 year old demanding our every desire). So, how do we navigate? Where do we fact check and mature and get our tantrums under control?

Did you know that the word of God tells us about this? Those living life apart from God’s transformation through Christ, are “darkened in their understanding alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to their hardness of heart….have become callous, given to sensuality, greed, practice impurity, corrupt through deceitful desires…” (Ephesians 1) It also says that those, in Christ, are to put off their old self and to put on the new self created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

So, it sounds like there is hope and transformation written into our stories, huh? It is very easy to fall back into the old, and we have to step into and put on the new self. This is a battle, but it is a battle in which we are NOT alone.

First, we have to acknowledge “old” and deceitful stories we are telling ourselves. When we begin crafting a story, we need to stop and to examine.

We examine ourselves with the Lord first: Where is our attitude out of alignment with God’s character? Are we remembering the grace of God toward us or are we caught in guilt and shame and bitterness? Where are we holding in to the old ways? Are we humbling ourselves before Him and trusting in His thoughts toward us?

Then, we examine our relationships with others: Are we assuming the best or the worst in others? Are we choosing to rejoice with those who rejoice and to mourn with those who mourn? Do we need to ask forgiveness in a relationship? Where do we need to humble ourselves and to serve others?

In taking our thoughts captive in obedience to Christ, we replace lies with the truth. I always find it so helpful to remember Philippians 4:8 “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” Oftentimes, I need to think situation by situation, person by person–what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy in this, them? When practicing this, I am able to turn my thoughts into prayers, into being “for” instead of against, into looking at what will spur them on instead of seeing it as a competition.

We all know that “reality tv” is far from real, and we must always remember that we can be living in our scripts and missing out on true life and growth and relationship. Let’s spur each other on today…

Posted in Uncategorized

the M word

 

        We do not like to be told we have limits.  We need limits.  We feel more secure with limits.  But, for goodness sakes, do not try to tell us it is not possible to do something–Especially as American women.  We have bought the line that we can have it all.  Yet, when we try to have it all, we implode and explode and combust in complete frustration and exhaustion realizing, in fact, that we believed a lie.  

 

Margin–a limit in condition, capacity, etc., beyond or below which something ceases to exist, be desirable, or be possible

        By definition, our lives have a certain capacity.  We have a cup which can be full but it will spill if it is filled to overflowing.  When we have too much in our lives (even if great opportunities and good things), we cease to be effective.  We each have different capacities that we function well in–some can handle more chaos than others.  That does not make someone better or less than, just different.  We, as women, tend to think, if she can do it, why can’t I?  What is wrong with me?  We have to learn OUR distinct margin/capacity and not try to fill our cup with the amount of liquid that goes into another’s cup.  It might flood ours.  We have to keep our mind and heart on what WE need to discern for our cup.  

        As of late, I have hit an internal wall.  People had told me that having two children was an exponential amount of commitment and work verses just 2x the work.  I nodded, “Yeah, sure.”  Now I nod in understanding (like we all do when we live something verses planning for something).  This winter has thrown us all curves with sickness and snow and the unexpected.  In January, I resumed ministry on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Early in January, I committed to several things above and beyond my regular schedule knowing they would stretch me some.  I said no to several things, as well.  I felt good about the boundaries I set knowing I am not a super woman.  I assumed that the little time I had set aside to prepare would be available, and then life happened.  I assumed my cup would have some room near the top, and then it was filled beyond the brim.  There were some spills.  

        In the last few weeks, I have recognized that my capacity is not the same as before.  My tendency has always been to have a lot in my cup.  I thrive in just the right balance, and my balance is way off.  I am an extrovert, so I need to have people time (I also need my alone time).  All my people time has been in leading or serving, and I have seen a huge deficit in my alone time.  Because my brain capacity is diminished, it takes me longer to prepare well, and I have less time to prepare well.  I can tend to juggle people as things when this happens.  

      Truthfully, my heart is a bit of a mess.  I am recognizing that my capacity in this season does not match with what I have assumed I could do.   We all live in seasons.  This is a new season for me (just like when I became a new mom). I know there will not be a lot of personal time.  I am so thankful to have these precious boys that I thought were impossible to have.  I knew I would be tired and that priorities would need to change.  The practical aspect of discerning priorities is what I did not realize would be hard.  

      I had a conversation about this with a dear friend the other day.  She knows herself well.  She draws good boundaries and sets holy margin.  Yet, she can feel less than others that she is not formally doing things other than raising her preschool age children.  I know her, though.  I know that she ministers wherever she walks.  She has room in the top of her cup to listen to a hurting mom, to make a meal for her elderly neighbor.  When we fill our margins, we do not have time to look to the right or the left.  We have no room for our cups to be flexible.  When something or someone unexpected happens, we spill on others in a bad way, and those “others” are usually the ones we are called to love and serve in the deepest way–our family.  

      There is nothing lauded, no attention gained, when I serve Greg or Jack or Luke.  I do not get applause or recognition or feel like I have produced anything.  But, this is the holiest calling I have.  They will know the reality of my heart much more intimately than a girl I disciple or a class that I teach or someone who receives a painting I painted.  That is a deposit for life into them.  I covenanted with greg to be there for him for life, luke and jack are entrusted to me to shepherd to the Lord.  When i do not discern my margin now, it hurts them the most.  I begin to treat them with less intention, love and care.  I can tend to be frustrated with them that they are blocking my goals.  In truth, they should be the ones i make goals to encourage and help.  When i do not create margin, i miss opportunities to shepherd and love and enjoy them.  

        I confess that my heart has been confused.  I confess that i have not discerned well.  I commit to a new way of thinking in this season.  The stakes are high, and I do not want to live in regret.  So, most likely i am going to tell you no if you ask me to do something extra so that my heart margin is balanced to hear the Lord and to say yes to my family and to those in need along the way.  I commit to get affirmation from the Lord instead of being in demand from others.  May He be made much of and not me.