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In which I realize we ARE more than conquerors…

No, in all these things, we are MORE than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Romans 8:37 (NIV)

Romans 8 is going to be my favorite passage of scripture soon. Mostly because I will be reading and RE-reading it over and over and over again until it actually sits firmly rooted in my heart and mind. I would post the entire passage here, but for brevity and clarity’s sake, I will restrict myself to the most poignant aspects that hit me recently in a cherished conversation with a person who grows ever more beloved to me with each passing year of my life.

A little background before I dive in…

It’s my 33rd birthday today and I woke up after a crazy few weeks of sleepless nights, physical pain and suffering through a miscarriage, fog brought on by a nasty head cold, and other sundry craziness, to a dreary, gray day made absolutely BEAUTIFUL through the restorative and healing power of my Savior. I got a phone call from my mother at 7:33am, the exact time I came into the world kicking and screaming (at least I believe I was kicking and screaming given that’s how I usually deal with shocking situations. As beautiful as a birth is, it’s also so very traumatic for both mother and child and I’m positive that’s the truth given my own three beauties who showed up after nine months of pregnancy…my thanks to the fourth baby who decided to bypass that and just enjoy life at the feet of Jesus, waiting for me to join her)

Shortly after the phone call began, my beloved children jumped into bed (yes, I did sleep in this morning…sue me.) and sang a beautiful and slightly off-key rendition of Happy Birthday. My husband gave me his birthday wishes right around midnight last night before he conked out and snored his way through the rest of MY sleepless night, so I know I am FULLY and COMPLETELY loved…

Anyway, the conversation with my mom was a perfect reminder to me why following Christ MUST be shared in a community, because not only was I blessed by her call, I was blessed to be able to bless her with some words of encouragement that God laid on my heart. What an AWESOME way to begin my birthday celebration…with eyes FIXED on my Creator, the one who knit me in my mother’s womb and called me fearfully and wonderfully made.

Romans 8 came afterward, but it fit in SO well and was once more a reminder of what happens when our eyes are fixed on Christ. My mom told me to write down the words I spoke, so I will try to do so, and hope that I do them justice. I know full well that I am not the first, nor am I the last person to realize an important truth about Christ and the cross, but I do hope that this can serve to encourage others in an area I know is a common human condition.

A situation arose recently where our first reaction was anger and hurt. It’s amazing really how often situations like that arise. My husband, my children, my extended family, my friends and acquaintances…all have the power to wound me in many ways and more often than not, they don’t even realize just how deeply wounded and hurt I have been by their words or actions. The tendency to anger and bitterness when wounded is so very easy to fall into and I am guilty more times than I can count. It’s a reaction, like a wounded animal cornered, with no other recourse to defend itself and protect the wound, except to attack. Instinctive, immediate, and often with long-lasting repercussions.

The problem with this reaction, this protecting of our wounds through anger and clinging to the hurts inflicted by others, is that in the end, the only one who bears the consequences is the one wounded and bleeding out. As I stated before, we cling to wounds that the one who wounded often does not even realize a wound was inflicted. While we are cursing and calling down judgment on them in our pain and anger, they remain oblivious and unaffected.

But a bitter root takes hold in US, the wounded, allowing poison to seep in to every crevice of that wound, reopening old wounds, and creating new ones as we focus on the source of the wound. It is often an insidious and creeping thing, insinuating itself into every aspect of our life and coloring everything with its bitter, dark hue. Soon enough, our relationships suffer, our physical bodies suffer, and we cut ourselves off from the very source that can come in and heal any wound inflicted, no matter how deep or devastating.

This is such a difficult concept for me to grasp, and this morning, Romans 8 indirectly influenced my perspective and I read it with new eyes after my conversation with my mom.

Before I get into that passage more, I want to address the direct influence that started the revelation.

A few days ago, I was listening to several of my favorite apologetics teachers, among them, Michael Ramsden, Ravi Zacharias, and a new favorite, Nabeel Qureshi. I believe it was the last one I am referencing today, but each man has, in his own way, been a revealer of this particular truth to me. Forgive me, because the next little bit is going to delve into a not so pretty picture, but it illustrates the point so beautifully, that I cannot NOT write about it.

So Doctor Qureshi was describing exactly WHAT Christ went through leading up to and on the cross and I wept through his entire message. I don’t think we in America really have a solid grasp on exactly how HORRIFIC his crucifixion actually was. Even The Passion, a particularly gruesome visual, cannot come even close to the reality and part of me is thankful for that. The other part feels that lack of reality gives us license as Christians to downplay the work on the cross to a fortunate byproduct of an unfortunate tragedy. Thus we also downplay its full effect in our own lives, to our detriment.

I’m paraphrasing here, but this is the basic rundown. Crucifixion was one of the most torturous and pure evil forms of punishment the Roman Empire thought up to get rid of their enemies. Only the WORST of criminals were sentenced to death this way and no Roman citizen was ever allowed to suffer its abject humiliation. It was reserved for the ones Rome most desired to use as a devastating example of what happened to those who opposed them. The story goes that the Emperor Nero lined his gardens with crucified Christians and torched them, to light the way for his macabre dinner parties. I’m not 100% certain on the veracity of that particular story, but given his madness, I can believe it to be true.

Even before the convicted criminal MADE it to the cross, the Romans ensured the condemned would not make it out alive. It puts the Resurrection into even more poignant perspective because in all of Roman history, not one crucified person made it out of the ordeal alive. Not ONE. When people make claims that Jesus MIGHT have survived the crucifixion through some sort of divine intervention (downplaying the power of the cross and its redemptive work) that claim is categorically untrue.

The condemned Christ suffered the humiliation of jeering, spitting, mocking crowds, but that was just the beginning. When the soldiers took him to be whipped, they did an even more thorough job than usual. Often times, their victims died on the whipping block because of the depths of their depraved torture. Blood loss, broken bones, entrails exposed. Somehow, he had no broken bones, in spite of the worst attempts by the guards to do so, but he fulfilled the prophecy through that miracle. By the end of the 39+1 lashes, the person resembled nothing remotely human. Their skin hung in shredded tatters, bloodied and misshapen, bones and muscles exposed. It was called the predeath, if they didn’t make it to the cross alive, but that never stopped the Romans from finishing their grotesque work.

We’ve seen pictures of the holocaust and shuddered at the reality we are exposed to in those grainy images. Do any of us actually imagine that Hitler was the first or most creative executioner? Through the millennia, the utter depravity of tyrants and despots only changes location and time period. What Hitler and Stalin and Mao Zedong, and Lenin and Hussein and others did to millions, the Romans perfected in their own despicable way in the broken body of our Savior.

By the time Christ was forced to carry the cross, not only did he not look human, but he was naked and barely strong enough to stand, let alone carry the weight of those heavy wooden poles. Some speculate that a crucifixion cross weighed around 300 pounds. I can’t imagine bench-pressing that on a GOOD day. Imagine carrying that weight about 650 yards uphill, from Pilate’s palace to Golgotha. Naked, dehydrated, and resembling a bloody side of beef. It was no wonder, Simon of Cyrene stepped in to carry it the rest of the way, once Jesus collapsed and was ministered to by the women who loved him best.

I took care of a patient once who had a GI bleed so bad, she painted her room with it. Unintentionally. She died shortly after, but I remember that day like it was yesterday. The horror of walking in and seeing her covered in her own blood. I was a teenager still and recoiled, gagging on the smell of death in her room. It took everything in me to go and tend to her, to wash her clean and push away my own instinct to run away screaming.  I still smell that and see it in my mind’s eye just writing it.

(I did warn you this would not be pretty)

I cannot imagine Jesus’ mother seeing her son in such devastation and not being horrified by his image, yet tradition indicates she tended him on the Way of Suffering and offered him water to drink. And Jesus even managed to preach to the women who followed him, weeping over him. If there was ever a sign that Christ truly was fully GOD AND fully MAN, we see it right here in this picture painted in Scripture.

At the end of the Via Dolorosa, Jesus was placed on the cross and nails were driven with great force through his hands and feet. The word, hands, was a bit of a misnomer. He would actually have been nailed right between the two major bones on his forearm, the radius and ulna and directly through the median nerve that traverses the arm. My husband had his ulnar nerve moved after a surgical procedure following his life-threatening car accident. Unfortunately the nerve was shifted in such a way that it sits on the outside part of his arm, a bit unprotected. He has described the excruciating sensation that occurs when that nerve is struck by anything. I might say it’s a bit comparable to childbirth or getting hit in the family jewels depending on your gender, but it leaves quickly once the source of the pain is gone. Jesus didn’t get that relief. He had nails, 7 inches long, driven through the median nerve and the fiery pain must have forced agonized cries with every jolt and shudder. The nails through his feet created their own form of torture, for while it offered him something to push against so he could breathe, it also prolonged his death because the very real will to live that every human body instinctively battles would have forced Jesus to push against that agonizing, horrifying pain to take just one more breath.

I’m weeping just writing this.

Without the nails in his feet, he would have suffocated, unable to draw up to pull air into his lungs. It would have been excruciating, but over far more quickly. Jesus lingered for SIX hours in this state. They offered him bitter gall, a vinegary, sour beverage mixed with myrrh to make it go down a little easier. It was the closest thing to a narcotic, according to some commentaries, but nauseating to consume. He refused even that small, mocking mercy. They posted a sign above his head, claiming him King of the Jews and they jeered at him, casting lots for his clothes.

If the Roman guards wished to entertain themselves further and end a crucifixion that cut into their meal times, they would break the bones in the legs to initiate the afore-mentioned asphyxiation. By the time they got to Jesus, he had already died, so instead, they pierced his side. Blood and water gushed forth. How he managed to have any body fluids left after six hours of this torture, I have no idea.

All of this to state one thing: In the hours before he died, Jesus prayed. He did not curse his tormentors. He did not condemn those whose sins sent him to this final excruciating death. (hint: that’s all of us) He didn’t even curse His Father for sending Him to take our punishment upon Himself. He had no words of condemnation or bitter anger toward all who had wounded and destroyed Him. What did He say instead?

“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 23:34 (NIV)

And in the FINAL moment before He took His last, excruciating breath, he absolved every ONE of those who sent Him to the cross with:

“It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30 (NIV)

Do any of us realize exactly how significant these final words were? Still are? Absolution, forgiveness, and redemption. In the midst of the worst form of humiliation and suffering any man could possibly endure, Christ took every last wound onto Himself, carried the weight of our sin, and released us to freedom through the power of His blood shed on the cross.

It makes my suffering from the wounds of others look paltry and petty in comparison doesn’t it? If I want to be truly honest with myself, most of the wound is inflicted by my own refusal to release the bitterness and anger and forgive as Christ forgave me.

Oh but, Christ forgave and forgot it all, we say. He’s divine and the cross was nothing to him, we claim. He went willingly and He’s God. Surely, it’s NOTHING to what we suffer when someone intentionally or unintentionally wounds us. Why would we WILLINGLY take on the burden of someone else’s sin and forgive them? That’s Christ’s job.

It’s amazing to me how much I love to pick and choose the character qualities of Christ I want to emulate. I don’t recall that particular passage in the Bible. You know. The one that says, “Choose one or two of Christ’s character qualities and imitate Him in those areas where you are stronger. Ignore the rest, because, hey, we’re only human, right?”

No. I DO recall the verse that says,

Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.

Luke 5:1-2 (NASB)

And the one that says,

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Genesis 1:27

And this one,

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

Romans 8:18 (NIV)

Of course, our present sufferings more than likely referenced persecution and trials experienced by Christians in Paul’s time, but the concept stays the same. The wounds inflicted by others no matter how severe or how petty, are NOTHING compared to the glory that Christ will reveal in us, as we choose, daily (and sometimes hourly or moment by moment) to walk as the redeemed and restored image bearers of our Savior and God.

The beginning of Romans 8 expounds on the differences between living according to our flesh (and subsequently dying because of it) and living according to the spirit of Christ in us (and facing eternity, fully and completely alive). Paul speaks in another of his awesome letters about the light and momentary afflictions that trouble us here on earth preparing us for bigger and better things, and eternal glory basking in the light of Christ Jesus.

Light and momentary afflictions?

This from the man who was jailed, beaten, bruised, threatened, mocked, tortured, whipped, and eventually decapitated for his faith in Christ. I’m beginning to think that my definition of wounding and suffering are SLIGHTLY skewed.

I’ve carried the offense of wounds long scarred for YEARS before finally releasing them into the Father’s hands. My light and momentary afflictions are more often self-inflicted, if I choose to be honest about it. I CHOOSE to prolong the pain and bitterness by rejecting Christ’s example and withholding forgiveness. I’m being as gentle as a bull in a China shop when I say with all respect,

How arrogant of me. Of us. Did I ignore that command to forgive as Christ forgave us? When He forgave, he didn’t half-ass it. (pardon the French, but I’m going for emphasis here) He said, IT IS FINISHED…

And He meant EVERY LAST WORD.

Yet I hold on to offenses, both real and imagined with the iron will of a wild animal who grips its prey in jaws so tight that only death can pry them loose. Only, I find, I am the prey AND the predator. I bit down hard and now am bleeding out around the wound, all the while accusing the original offender of the crime. Am I truly willing to give up eternal glory for a temporary offense? Is my momentary affliction, given by another, TRULY justification for my continued clinging to an offense Christ already called FINISHED two thousand years ago?

Romans 8 is my new favorite passage. And if you stayed with me through this rather long-winded exposition, I pray that it will soon become yours as well.

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In which prayer is my most powerful and unused weapon…

Having spent the last two weeks in almost non-stop prayer and worship, I can safely confirm that I do NOT pray nearly enough.

There’s a story that’s told of a man named George Mueller, a minister, evangelist, and the man who took care of over 10,000 orphans in his lifetime with faith and prayer as his foundation. He began each day very early in prayer. Sometimes for hours before the sun rose, he would be found on his knees in supplication to Almighty God and this continued without fail until his death.

The story is that one day, he was interrupted by one of his assistants who, stressed about all that needed doing that day came to ask if they could shorten their morning prayers in order to make room for the expanded schedule of events. George Mueller took one look at his assistant and said very calmly,

“Absolutely not. In fact, BECAUSE of all we must get done today, we will need to pray LONGER.”

And he did, adding at least one more hour to their prayer time that day. At the end of the day, the assistant was amazed. Not only did they get all of their assigned tasks completed in record time, but they ended the day at rest and at peace, instead of frazzled and hurried. Their focus had been on God from the beginning and He was big enough to handle all their burdens.

I did not quote the story word for word, but the essence of it is there. When I first heard it, I puzzled over how “losing” ANOTHER hour of time to prayer would help them complete their tasks with time to spare, but the answer was so very simple. Did you see it?

Their focus was on God from the beginning and He was big enough to handle all their burdens.

Prayer is the greatest weapon God has given us in our arsenal and it is sadly the least used. Without prayer, faith cannot thrive, because it has no focus and no line of communication to the Author and Perfecter of said faith.

I was recommended a book to read by one of my dear friends and a woman of faith I have looked up to as an unofficial mentor in my life.

It’s called Prayer & Spiritual Warfare

I’m only 2 chapters in and BLOWN away by the fact that in spite of my almost 3 decades of claiming to be a Christ-follower, I have absolutely NO idea what prayer is all about. I mean, I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover, memorized the Lord’s prayer, read through the Psalms dozens of times, and just two chapters of expounding on the Scriptures has proven how very ignorant I am of the greatest weapon I have in my possession. I’m eager to read more, but it’s 11 at night and I really need some solid sleep. I’m pretty sure my eyes are bugging just writing this post.

If you EVER want a great read on what prayer is and how it works in your life, read E.M.Bounds book.

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Be aware that it will transform your thinking in regards to your walk with God and the power of prayer. Like my friend said, “Be prepared to be rocked, lady.”

My favorite quote so far is this one:

Prayer.jpg

Just imagine what the world would be like if prayer was used the way it should be, and faith was more than just a trite word we throw out there to impress no one. If we truly “prayed without ceasing” and prayed for each day instead of worrying about tomorrow’s cares.

“The EFFECTIVE prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” James 5:16

I’m just learning what that means.

Posted in discipline, faith, Family, Freedom, God, Home, Hope, marriage, mission, Pain, prayer, soul surgery, Spiritual disciplines, spiritual training, Transparency, Uncategorized, War, Winning

In which I discover the art of war…

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I’m not a pacifist by any stretch of the imagination. My husband might even insist I thrive on conflict and battle. He’s called me his warrior wife enough times for me to get the hint. I’m not a pacifist.

However, I wouldn’t say I am pro-war either. I’ve seen the aftermath of many a bloody conflict in my thirty plus years of life and not all of them were in some god-forsaken desert in a never-ending campaign against a faceless enemy.

No, the wars I am thinking of now are the ones against an enemy far more insidious and destructive.

An enemy that comes dressed in light and so subtle a twisting of truth and good, that you don’t realize you’ve been pierced by his poisoned blade until you’re left bleeding and dying on the battlefield. More often than not, he takes out your loved ones right along with you, leaving a trail of wounded in his wake.

I watch this enemy rage on in a war that very few are even willing to acknowledge anymore and I wonder why that is. What happened to this world that makes our greatest enemy triumph over and over an over again, meeting little resistance along the way?

The answer is both deceptively simple and horrifically complex.

The enemy is winning in simple terms because we’re letting him win.

The complicated answer? This world is his stronghold, a kingdom stolen from its True King, many thousands of years ago. A stolen kingdom that the True King has already victoriously won back in one fell stroke of ultimate sacrifice and triumph.

The reason it’s complicated is that the True King’s warriors are living like that AMAZING victory NEVER took place. His warriors carry on as if they are living a sedate, civilian life, untouched by the horrors of the war they keep perpetrating through their complaisance and denial. All the while, the enemy is right within their camp, watering and tending the seeds of division, deception, and doubt, until the warriors cannot tell a truth from a lie, reality from fantasy, right from wrong.

All the while, the True King grieves at the chaos and discord, desperately wanting his warriors to experience the victory he paid SO high a price to win. Begging them to accept the freely given gift in exchange for total submission to His benevolent, just, unconditionally loving authority. All He asks for is their everything.

Stupid, selfish, blinded creatures that His warriors are, they refuse time and again, accepting instead, the deceptive, destructive promises of the Enemy, completely blinded to the fact that they’ve signed their names in blood to a contract that is High Treason to the True King.

We lay down our swords and shields for empty promises of peace and happiness, and we have yet to fully understand that TRUE peace and happiness are merely byproducts of a life given over to complete obedience to the True King. The temporary drivel that we cling to in our selfishness and vanity is eating us inside out like acid, destroying everything that made us warriors and victors.

We walked away from the war, raising our white flags in surrender to the enemy. But here’s the thing. We LOST. We weren’t just assimilated into a new order and given a free pass to live as we please.

NO.

By laying down arms and taking up the colors of our Enemy, we’ve LOST. Lost our lives, lost our freedoms, lost our happiness, lost our humanity, lost our identity, lost our purpose, and lost our reason. We’ve won NOTHING. We’ve gained NOTHING.

EVERYTHING in this life that is worth gaining is worth FIGHTING for. It’s not a victory because we chose the easy way out. We just handed ourselves over to the enemy on a silver platter and he’s laughing his ass off in hell. Because God’s people are proving to be cowards and deserters, not men and women of valor. And the Devil is counting heads as they walk through his gates willingly.

Christ may have won the final victory when He willingly walked to the Cross. But He’s still waiting for His soldiers to act like soldiers and take up arms against the enemy who hides like a coward in the shadows and teaches his recruits to do the same.

He’s waiting for Men to stand up and lead their families with passion and conviction, teaching their children to obey ALL the commands He’s laid out for a successful battle strategy. To equip the next generations to stand firm on their convictions, even willing to die for the cause of a Kingdom NOT only of this world but the next.

He’s waiting for Women to stand firm as shield bearers and women of valor, fighting bravely to deflect the fiery darts of the enemy aiming to destroy their families and their homes. To stop picking up selfish and fatal causes and to stand for what’s right and true.

He’s waiting for His people to rally around HIS standard for marriage, for family, for the sanctity of life, for the defense of the helpless and oppressed, for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the least of these.

He’s waiting for His warriors to live counter-cultural and willing to face death for HIS cause. To stand up for Truth and Justice, to give Grace and Mercy, to stand as victors and not cowards.

To believe that He is who He says He is and to LIVE and LOVE in that belief.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am the worst sort of coward. I talk big, but when the line is drawn in the sand, I’m the first to lay down my arms and give up the fight. But I am ALSO the first to admit that this cowardice is NOT acceptable in my life.

I just made a promise to my children and my husband tonight that until my dying breath, I will fight my worst enemy and I won’t back down ever. Because to do so would spell destruction for my marriage, my children, and my place in God’s army.

My worst enemy?

Myself. Oh how I shudder in fear when I face me.

But by God’s grace, I will face that fear and remember whose warrior I am and what war I am actually fighting.

And the first weapon of defense is Prayer.

OnMyKnees

 

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In which I realize I play the victim well…

It’s insidious, dangerous, and damning.

Most of the time I don’t realize it and when I do, the cycle tends to repeat itself because I find myself blaming its presence on my circumstances, my events, my past…

Playing the victim is EXTREMELY easy for me. I do it well.

Doesn’t mean I WEAR it well. It’s NOT a pretty look on anyone. It’s ugly, it’s petty, and frankly, most of us, if not ALL of us have worn it at least once in our lives. Human nature. From the Garden in Genesis when God asked man where he was and man (woman and serpent as well) replied with the victim card.

Because that’s really all it is in the end, right? A place to hide, a shroud to mask us, a blanket to cover up the truth that would stare us in the face otherwise.

The truth?

We’re NOT the victims. We’re the perpetrators of the crime.

I’ll give you a GREAT example in the interest of transparency.

My college years were spent in financial disarray. I had a part time job that paid JUST about the minimum wage, and that job changed rapidly for various reasons. I attended school full time, taking out loans because my grades slipped to the point that grants were no longer options. I depended largely on the kindness of friends to feed me anything close to three square meals and at one point, I subsisted on rice and cheese. My rent, utilities, and other sundry bills were often late and I rarely had money for gas, which meant the bus lines and walking were my sources of transportation. I lost a ton of weight, about the only bright side to the whole screwy situation.

I spent evenings working my crappy jobs, late nights poring over textbooks (or writing BS papers on a procrastinator’s schedule), mornings attending classes with my eyes half shut, and afternoons in clinicals. At least, that was what I told myself I was doing.

It’s funny looking back on the situation I used to lament loudly to anyone who would hear, my perspective has changed and brought with it a lot of regret and shame.

Because in spite of my cries to the contrary, I did not give my absolute best during that period of my life. If I had, I guarantee you, I would have been working two steady jobs, studying my ass off, and graduating with High Honors and a whole lot less debt.

As it was, I still managed a social life, high-priced frou-frou coffees from Starbucks, and frequent restaurant visits. All while “mourning” my financial distress, my family dysfunction, and my dropping grades as if had absolutely NO idea why I was failing so spectacularly.

All while my bills went unpaid, my friends pitied my poor starving college self, and my grades dropped like a rock.

I graduated with the BARE minimum passing score and that, only due to the mercy of my adviser, who felt my pitiable situation to be the reason for my lack of excellence in my work. I’m not certain I should be thanking her for that.

It’s a pity I actually managed to pass my boards and with flying colors. In reality, all that tells me is that I can take a multiple choice test.

The best part of this whole story is that I look on it now without wearing my victim’s shroud and I can see myself for exactly what I was then, and in this present time.

I was and am the decider of my own destiny. I decided back then that I would not thrive and so I didn’t. I decided that I would fail and so I did.

Of course, the whole time I was deciding this, I was vehemently denying that decision and whining about why my life seemed so painfully, awfully bent on mediocrity.

It’s a wonder ANYONE liked me at that time of my life. Looking back, I can’t say I really like who I was when it’s all said and done. Who I oftentimes still try to be.

I ended my college career with the distinct feeling that I’d wasted five whole years of my life (actually six given the gap year I took to TRY to get my debt under control). I still wonder what might have happened had I chosen wisely and refused to be the victim in my trumped up scenario.

I still struggle with making the wise choice even today. It is SO difficult to acknowledge my position in my own story. I’m either the villain or the hero, but I have NEVER been, nor will I EVER be, the victim. I have to stop telling myself that role is even available for me to fill. Because that particular role has NEVER been part of the story. Not for me or anyone else.

You are either the villain or the hero. You don’t get to play the victim in spite of your best efforts to try.

EVERY decision you make WILL make you the villain or the hero in your story.

So which is it?

 

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Posted in Abundance, BeachBody, Carpe Diem, Entrepreneur, Home Based Business, laziness, life lessons, Marriage and Family, Memory, Obstacles, Passion, soul surgery, Transparency, Uncategorized, Why, Winning, Writing

In which I quit with the quitting…

I have about 20 manuscripts of all shapes and sizes. Out of that 20, only three are considered completed first drafts.The rest of them are in various states of unfinished.

I have five cross stitch projects. Of the five, only one is complete, and it wasn’t even framed. It’s a tiny little beaded ornament on foam backing, with no frame. The rest are in various states of unfinished. The first one I started was before my youngest brother was born. He’s now fifteen.

I have a basket with some beautiful fabric, all cut out and ready to be sewn into a medieval style dress and over dress. It was for a project I was supposed to complete my junior year of high school. I had gotten a sewing machine and in a fit of inspiration, I thought it would be a brilliant idea to sew an entire costume to accompany my oral report.

The costume is a heap of fabric that’s beginning to fray on the edges. The oral report never got presented.

My history of starting a project and not finishing is legendary. My mom would tell you I have quitting mastered. And she would be correct.

I quit 3 different home businesses, 7 jobs (to be fair, some of them were because I was moving), and various friendships throughout my lifetime.

Looking back on this rather incomplete list, I shamefully wonder how on earth I’m still managing to keep a blog going after 4+ years. Although even that has been done sporadically and not with the determined dedication of a motivated blogger.

I could make excuses. My manuscripts are a work in progress, I didn’t know how to sew anyway, and at least one of my jobs was dangerous to my health, my license, and my patients. I’ve got enough excuses to write my own book on reasons for quitting.

It’s not a book I desire to write.

I’ve tried to analyze my penchant for quitting over the years and failed. I’ve blamed it on others, blamed it on circumstances, blamed it on a lack of passion.

The one place where the blame SHOULD rest is on me, but I find myself reluctant even now, to go there.

Sure, people in my life HAVE influenced my character development and therefore, I can legitimately claim their part in my failures. It makes me a coward and a jerk though. I’ve still seen and experienced people in my life who never give up and live by the motto, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” So this excuse is cheap, unflattering, and too easy.

My circumstances HAVE contributed to my quitting. Some of my jobs really were dangerous enough that I refused to put myself and my patients at risk anymore and I walked. I couldn’t change the policies and procedures that led to this situation, so it’s a legitimate reason to quit. At least one of the companies I quit is now involved in lawsuits and I cannot really regret leaving when I did. It still doesn’t explain MOST of my quits. Again, weak and flawed. A coward’s way out.

I have jumped into something, thinking, “Oh, this is cool. I really want to do this. It’s fun, it’s an adventure, I can make some money on the side.” Hobbies are expensive and I cannot justify some of them as businesses when I choose not to put the time and effort into making money instead of losing it. Again, I could justify this excuse.

Then again, I really need to quit justifying my quits.

Because it’s not the quitting that bothers me the most. It’s the mentality that I’ve held for 30+ years. It’s the concept that when the going gets tough, this quitter quits. And that, quite frankly, scares me.

I’m not advocating for staying in a job you despise or going back and finishing a high school project you didn’t know how to finish anyway. I’m not advocating for restarting those failed businesses or NEVER giving up on something. Sometimes, giving up one thing allows you to experience something else far better.

What I AM saying, is that my quitters mentality is far more dangerous and insidious than just walking away from a really bad job or not finishing a manuscript. It’s my mindset that I need to change. I can be wise about WHAT I quit, but that means having a stronger reason than, “It’s just too hard, so I’m giving up.”

I need to change my way of thinking so that quitting is an exception to the rule and not the normal MO. For some things, I shouldn’t even offer myself an out. The cost of quitting has more to do with the damage I do to my thought process and the results that I live out for those who are watching me. I’m thinking of my children right now, but I also want to count my coaches and customers in that sphere of influence.

SO. List of things I haven’t quit and CHOOSE to stay the course:

  1. My marriage. Divorce is not an option. It’s not even in our vocabulary and I’m thankful to have a husband who chooses to fight FOR us, not against us, every day.
  2. My parenting. I get exhausted and my kids are all still young. One thing I CHOOSE to never do, is quit being a parent. Some days are easy. MOST days are NOT a walk in the park. If I want my kids to grow up principled, morally upright, valuable contributors to society, I can’t use my exhaustion as an excuse to stop parenting.
  3. My Beachbody coaching. I AM a coach. I have a long way to go to make this successful, thriving, and big enough to prove myself, but this last, lazy week has proven to me more than ever that I WANT this. I have a HUGE why and I’m not going to give up the opportunity to change lives, change families, and change the world. The cost of quitting is greater than the cost of continuing.
  4. My Writing. This blog and all my other works in progress. I’m not finished yet. I DO have something to say and I am a writer. It’s non-negotiable. I will continue writing.
  5. My faith. It’s last on the least, but that is NOT because it’s the least important. Technically, it should be at the beginning of this list, but I am not always writing chronologically. However, as the culture grows increasingly hostile toward Christ followers, I CHOOSE to walk the walk. No matter what. No apologies. No regrets. The cost of walking away is FAR too high for me to even contemplate.

It’s a mindset change. In keeping with my recent lifestyle changes, I’m finding the inspiration to press on, worth the cost.

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Posted in Hope, Impossible, lessons, life lessons, soul surgery, spiritual training, Transparency, Uncategorized, Writing

In which I find logic and reason to be beyond me…

For a time at least.

I knew when I took on the task of home schooling my daughter, that I would be faced with both the pleasant memories and the demons of my past.

Okay, slightly melodramatic, but math IS the bane of my existence. I didn’t think I could hate it more until I got to statistics class in college. I knew I was doomed when the instructor calmly informed us that he, “Was not here to entertain us,” and he, “Didn’t care if we passed or failed.” I passed, but barely.

So first grade math SHOULD be a cinch for me, right?

Wrong.

Instead, I find myself staring stupidly at a problem, getting frustrated at my ineptness, and yelling at my daughter when she can’t figure it out either. Before anyone freaks out, yes. I apologized and asked for forgiveness. I also explained that mommy hates feeling inept and dumb (not in those words) and that math was NEVER my strong suit.

My daughter is brilliant at math. Part of the reason for my frustration. HOWEVER, she is also seven and learning these concepts for the first time. While she may pick up quickly on some of the strategies and problem solving, I forgot to give her grace and understanding.

Me, at 32 years of age. Still struggling with grace. I know. The logic is beyond me too.

I find myself getting frustrated easily these days. My temper’s short and my patience levels low.

But maybe it’s not everyone else I’m frustrated at. Which stinks because they are usually the first ones to feel it.

That math problem that I couldn’t figure out for the life of me and sent my daughter into tears?

I came back to it later in the day, mainly to justify my frustration and convince myself that I’m not inept.

Guess what?

I worked my way through the problem. Was it silly? Yes. Does it still feel like a pointless exercise? Definitely. There are at least TEN other ways the problem could be more easily solved. That’s not the point though.

The point is, I figured it out. AND I explained it to my daughter without either of us breaking down into tears.

I think that’s what grace is to me. It’s God getting frustrated by my continued ineptness and repeat mistakes, but putting the frustration away and realizing that I’m still a child learning these concepts for the first time. So unlike me, He doesn’t hit me over the head with my failures and bring me to tears.

Instead, He walks me through each step with patience and love until I figure it out. THEN He rejoices with me when I’ve gotten the concept.

Grace

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In which my attitude gives me altitude…

This week was really rough.

And it’s only Monday. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say, this week will continue to be rough. Just the facts and I’ll tell you why.

All three of our kiddos succumbed to (DUN, DUN, DUN) the winter ick. That hacky, barky cough (no not whooping, the other one) where it sounds miserable and you want to cry every time your two year old (or five year old, or seven year old) can’t catch a breath between bouts. I thought we’d make it all the way through the cold season without a, well, cold.

No such luck. Now the prayers have shifted to fast healing, and keep it away from me and Jake. The essential oils are on double overtime and we’re cleaning every surface multiple times a day. Which reminds me, I have to go over the bathroom door knobs again. And recheck the hubby’s cleaning job in the boy’s room tomorrow morning. It still smells like ICK.

Anyway, I’ve got like seven hours of solid sleep on the last 48 hours and that might be a little generous.

Two months ago, this would send me into a crazy tailspin of emotional outbursts and meltdowns. I would leave my family in a trail of wounds on the battlefield of my angry rants while I tried to come down off the ledge without slipping and falling.

This year started out with the theme of Redemption. Restoration. Repentance. I could go through the thesaurus and find more, but we’ll go with the three R’s. It’s catchier. I’ve struggled for years with a negative worldview. Everything was colored by a glass half empty (or all the way empty on some days) perspective and even after my choice to follow Christ, that perspective didn’t seem to leave. I felt burdened, heavy with the weight of my constant failures and successes just seemed to be little bumps in the road instead of the road itself. I do a “good” job of living as if I don’t believe the power of God in my life and the power to change my attitude.

Except that Restoration, Redemption, Repentance, ALL have a POSITIVE view of the world. They are words resounding with the idea that THIS is NOT all there is. That life offers SO much more and it doesn’t end six feet under ground so what’s the point.

The three R’s say that hope is NOT some wispy phantom just out of reach, but present, purposeful, and completely possible.

Apparently, I like alliteration.

So two months ago, I would have freaked out when the kids refused to eat the meal I had slaved over and the toddler threw up ALL over me, the floor, his Powoh, the blankets, and. Let’s just say there wasn’t much room space he DIDN’T manage to cover. I would have lost it when the kids, instead of being helpful, decided that was the perfect time for 20 questions, only their version is more like 1,579 questions plus 1 more. I would have reacted, no second thoughts, regretting the explosion of broken, bleeding hearts after Mount Sarah erupted.

I’m not taking ANY credit tonight, because what DID happen, had NOTHING to do with me. I LAUGHED when I tasted the food and realized exactly WHY the kids weren’t eating it. My husband decided to brave through the artery clogging, ten-times-worse-than-a-salt-block flavoring and even gave me props for the colorful meal. I called his bluff when I gagged and hacked my way through the fish taco, promptly downing three large glasses of water to allow the salt, smoother passage through my digestive tract.

I’m going to regret that fish taco tomorrow. I can FEEL my eye sockets swell up and I’m pretty sure I just went back up three bra sizes. (Why do I ALWAYS gain weight in the face and chest first?)

#22MinuteHardCorps here I come. I don’t care if it’s 9 0’clock at night, I’m not going to die of a heart attack in my sleep.

We ate bananas and peanut butter sandwiches to balance our bodies on a cellular level again.

Which brings me to my son’s projectile vomiting episode right during the bedtime routine. I only got a little frustrated when my husband didn’t move at MY speed to fix all of our world problems. I calmed down pretty fast, which doesn’t ever happen for me.

And the 1,579 questions game? I calmly, but firmly informed them the Mommy textbook was closed for the evening and packed them off to bed…once I got the toddler and myself hosed down in calming bubble bath-laden water. He held my hand the entire time and managed to look about as pitiful as a toddler can look, when they are trying to milk the pity as much as possible. Oh, I’m not denying he is sick. I’m just saying, he takes the sympathy play to a WHOLE new level.

If it had been ONE of those situations two months ago, I would have blown a gasket. And humanly speaking, I came close a few times tonight to losing my cool and letting it all explode.

I could go into all the natural reasons WHY my attitude has made an altitude adjustment. Good exercise, healthy eating, relationship building…

However…

Supernaturally speaking, SOMEONE had my back. And this tired momma is MORE grateful that you all know.

Now, I’m going to sweat it out for 22 minutes and hit the sack for my nightly ration of two blissful hours of sleep before the interruptions start. I never knew a king sized bed could be so small before I had kids.

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Dinner tonight was a real Gag! No joke.