why are you still spinning plates?

I’m 37 and I finally feel like I am DOING the things I have dreamed of doing in my life, and I feel like they are God’s dreams for me as well.  Now, I’m no Carrie Underwood, singing all across the world.  I’m no Michael Hyatt, writing and speaking all over the world.  But I’m Ann Skaehill, doing the things I’m meant to do in my little circle of the world.

In 6th grade, I remember doing some kind of “career project” wherein I had to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.  My project was about being a writer.  Now, I wasn’t exactly sure what KIND of writer I wanted to be – and honestly even through my Sophomore year in college I thought I would work for Hallmark and write witty and sentimental sayings for their greeting cards.

Because I believe God pursues us and keeps dreams alive in us, He never let my dream to write slide by the wayside.  I have had other talents pop up that I jumped on and turned into money makers for my family all while God was putting new dreams in my heart.

When I felt called to work in ministry, I laughed.  Ok really, we ALL laughed.  I was the mom with the f-bomb problem – I had no business being in ministry!  And in fact there were things He wanted me to experience and learn so that He could call me out of ministry for a season where He cultivated those things within me.  Talk about confusing!

A few months ago my husband and I went for a walk and he said (in love), “I feel like you’re all over the map!  You are basically working 4 part-time jobs right now and you’re making me crazy!  So what IS your dream?  Or do you seriously have a bazillion of them?”

Good points.  After my initial defensiveness subsided, I realized he had some exceptionally good points.  God might call us to do new things, and in fact He might keep a dream alive in us for a long long time.  When it’s time to take action and follow your dream, you have to let something else go.  My best friend always says to me:

“Everytime you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else.”  

Because I was essentially saying yes to 4 part-time jobs, I was saying no to my family and to God’s FULL calling for my life.  Again.  (I really hate it when I repeat this cycle!)

So it’s time.  I’m shutting down one of my spinning wheels.  It’s taking time to get through the work, but I have peace about it.  And as I get closer to completion, I feel my passion coming more alive in the areas of writing and ministry. Correction, I feel HIS passion coming alive in the areas of writing and ministry.  By continuing to say yes to this 4th thing, I was saying no to the big picture of how God wants to use me in these other areas.  I was doing something because I was good at it, not because I was called to it.

How do you know if you’re called to something or not?
Prayer.
Conversation.
Humility.

1. Write down EVERYTHING that you’re doing.  I mean everything.  This includes carpool, taking meals to people because they are sick, volunteering with a pet rescue place, your career… everything.  Then pray over that list.  Ask God to bring to the surface the things that He intends for you to have your hands in/on.  Ask Him to make it clear to you when it’s time to start saying no.  Don’t be “that guy” and walk into church Sunday and say “I can no longer serve because God’s not calling me to it.  Bye!”

2. Talk to your people.  I can’t shout this to you loud enough.  Your people know what you’re good at and what you clearly have no business doing.  It’s going to hurt, because you think you’re good at spinning all those plates. And frankly, you might even think you’re CALLED to spin all those plates.  Maybe you are.  But because you’re human, I’m positive you have at least one plate that needs to find a new home.

3. When you feel like God is calling you to something, you will simultaneously have this sense that it’s not about you.  Because He might even be calling you to something that you know NOTHING about.  Get your seatbelt on, because you’re in miracle territory.  He’s about to work wonders for HIS good, through you.  And when you walk away from a job well done, pride won’t be an issue because you won’t be able to stop praising GOD and all that He has done in this thing you knew nothing about.

If this three-step process isn’t enough for you, please go read Jennie Allen’s book: Restless.  She will lead you down this amazing road of self-discovery.  She will help you peel back the layers of your life so you can lay out the pieces and see your detailed map to God’s calling for your life.

Start thinking about what you need to say no to.
It’s time to stop spinning all those darn plates.

please like me.

Fresh out of college, I was given a killer opportunity.  I was hired by a telecom giant at 22 years old.  I had a great salary, amazing benefits, and opportunities to travel all over the United States.  But I wasn’t that great at my job and after only 2 years with the company, I was laid off.

I had a killer severance package and I told my husband that I wanted to do something fun while that severance supported me. Somewhere in those next three months I shifted from, “I am competent and smart and will do a great job” to “Please like me!”  Oh, Ann.  Yikes.

I got a job at a local craft store where I catered to and assisted a lot of people. It was clear right out of the gates that people liked me.  And DANG that felt good!  After only a month, I was promoted to a management position and I thought things were going really well for this college graduate (who was working retail to hide from the fact that she royally screwed up her opportunity of a lifetime).

But trouble started when I began to notice some inner workings that I didn’t like, and certainly didn’t agree with. But remember I wanted people to like me, so I chose not to ruffle feathers. The talk about customers behind their backs made me feel dirty.

Even more mortifying than hearing the conversations was PARTICIPATING in the conversations, which easily led to conversations about co-workers behind their backs as well. I crossed the line, just to be liked.

I drew the line when I overheard and witnessed conversation about ME.  Funny, isn’t it? It was so easy to participate in the conversation until I knew they were talking about me too.  Only THEN did I draw the line.  At about this time, social media was starting to pop up here and there (no smartphones yet thank the Lord) and I found out that I was being talked about via email and social media mostly because I stood up and said “hey – this isn’t cool – at all.” (However, I’m in my young 20’s at this point and I probably had the complete package of entitlement with a red bow of attitude to go along with my soap box speech.)  Before I knew it, my entire goal to get people to like me turned into a 911 call-to-arms to put out all the social media fires.  I was crushed.  I BAWLED over the phone to my college roommate.

But I thought they liked me!
I thought they liked me.

As the book of Joshua starts, Moses has just passed away and the leadership “torch” has been passed to Joshua.  One of the first few things he has to do is conquer Jericho.  I could have learned a lot from Joshua back in my early days of adulthood.  Joshua didn’t care what everyone else thought, even though he was about to ask them to act a little crazy.

 “Ok guys, we’re going to walk around this sucker once every day – but you can’t say a WORD.  Then on the 7th day, we will walk around this sucker SEVEN times, the priests will blow their horns and we’re going to get crazy up in here with our voices!  I mean, I want to REALLY hear you, people!  Then the walls will fall down and the Lord will make it easy for us to defeat our enemies.  Trust me on this, He personally told me this is how it will go down.” (MAJOR paraphrase of Joshua 6:1-11)

Joshua did what he knew was right, even though he was about to ask for his troops to commit to a crazy battle plan.  He didn’t care if the people didn’t like him.  There was work to be done.

It has taken me years to overcome this people-pleasing problem.  I think I’m fairly close to conquering it, and then I fail miserably again in a single conversation.  But this is what I love about scripture: I’m going to change, but scripture isn’t.  The truths within will still be applicable to me 3 years from now when I’m wondering where I went wrong… again.

Father, fill me with your spirit so that appreciation from people has no room to soak into me.  Bring me back to scripture to see how to live and how not to live.  THANK YOU for believing in me, even though I screw things up over and over again.  That kind of love is inspiring, refreshing, and so very comforting.  Remind me that I don’t need others to like me because you LOVE me more deeply than my mind can understand… and that’s all I need.   AMEN 

 

making the call to “that” friend

Why do we do that thing where we make an issue bigger than it really is?  Often times it isn’t even an issue but we don’t take the time to clarify someone else’s words and we go from harmless words floating in the air to panicking because there is an air raid and you’re being singled out.  You’re the only one taking shells!  RUN! HIDE!  GET IN YOUR FOX HOLE!

Or…
What if you just called your friend and asked for clarification.

GASP!

No Ann, you can’t possibly mean to face the issue head on could you?
Why yes, that’s exactly what I mean.  Hold on, let me finish rinsing the sand out of my teeth so I can share with you what I learned yesterday.

I’ve made this mistake too many times to count.  I had a conversation with a friend and walked away a little injured, then my mind went ahead and dropped the atomic bomb and made me think that friend didn’t care about me at all.  If I had a dollar for every friendship I have single-handedly ruined this way, I would quickly give it all away so no one would see how awful I have been.

Earlier this year I decided to change this way of catostrophasizing, but yesterday was my first real attempt at picking myself up from my face-plant in sand and setting my feet on the instructions that Jesus gave us.

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.  Matthew 5:21

Since I gave up sacrificing animals for Lent (a bad, and probably inappropriate Catholic joke), I tend to think this looks more like when I am praying for peace, asking for God’s forgiveness, and asking for help to be obedient in His will — except that I am trying to step over the dead friendship I have created to get to God’s blessing.

You pretty much have to address the friends with whom you must reconcile. FIRST.

So I did.

I called “that” friend.  The one who said something to me early in the day and it messed with me all day long.  I said, “hey you know when you said this and that?  It hurt me and made me feel yucky.”

She was SO grateful that I called because as it turns out, she had only shared a teeny tiny snippet of the full story.  As I listened, I used my hazmat suit and gloves to clean up the chemical warfare carnage that I had created in my mind.

At the end of the call I felt SO much better.
And I also had more work do to… yup, more sand.

As it turns out, when you allow that atomic bomb to be built and to detonate in your mind, you create a World War II recreation in your own family by throwing up all over the people you love the most… and the cat would like for me to share this with you:

identity hidden to protect the innocent
identity hidden to protect the innocent

I had to go home and apologize to my husband for letting my chemical mess burn him, and I had to ask for his forgiveness.  He happens to be a pretty amazing guy who understood, forgave, and got the yard blower out to help clean up my sandy mess.

I was a brat last night

 I got more sand in my teeth last night.

22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.  Matthew 5:22

Ok, I didn’t call my son an “idiot” and I didn’t curse him but good golly miss molly did I have attitude with him.

Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/
Photo from: http://www.gamepressure.com/

We were playing a cool Lego Wii game based on the Indiana Jones movies.

Have you ever heard kids play video games together, specifically the ones where they have to WORK TOGETHER?!?!  It sounds like this…

Me: “Woah – nice shot!”
My boy: “Where do we go now? Let’s look over here. What’s this green ball?”
Me: “Wait!  When you go that way it pulls me off the screen!”
My boy: “I know, so just come this way so we can see what this is over here.” (said in a “duh” tone of voice)
Bratty me: “NO – I don’t WANT to go over there.  There’s nothing over there! UGH, forget it – I’m not playing this anymore with you!”

(for the record, you have to push that green ball off the top of that dome to get to the next level — apparently every 10 year old boy knows this and moms do not… just go with the flow, ladies and let the boys lead you)

I don’t know what it is about playing these games with my son that makes me revert into a bratty 9 year old girl, but sadly it happens.  I am more patient than I used to be, but y’all, I have a controlling nature that is brutally mean to my child when he makes judgement calls with which I disagree.

Was I angry? Yes.
Annoyed? Yes.
Did I walk away? Yes.
Did I walk away before opening my mouth? Uh … do I have to answer that?

I think I called my son “annoying” or something similar; because I’m a grown up and I know how to handle my anger properly.  I know, I have issues.

So again last night I went to bed picking sand out of my teeth and I still have some grit in there today.  I didn’t keep my feet squarely planted on the rock of Christ that is found in His instruction, and down I went … face first into the sand.   Another shot at playing the game his way will ensue today – but not before I pray and then apologize to him.

Maybe you have anger issues with your kids, especially when they are in that obnoxious wonderful stage of learning how to assert themselves because they have good ideas that are worth listening to.  Maybe you need some prayer too before you open your mouth and fill it with sand.  Let’s pray this together:

Lord, thank you for not punishing me the way I SHOULD be punished for speaking to my child in ugly ways, using ugly words.  I don’t know why I think those words won’t hurt him, but it’s obvious that they do.  I strongly dislike the way it feels to know I have caused him hurt.  Create a strong desire in me to let him lead on things that will not matter in 2 years — or in 2 minutes for that matter.  I want to create confidence in him and I want him to know I have his back, even if I am disappointed by his actions. Remind me that my words stemming from anger don’t just hurt him, but they also cause tension in my relationship with You.  Forgive me, Lord, and give me another opportunity to shower my child with grace.  AMEN.

I think I’m going to need some dental floss for this mouthful of sand.  Hopefully apologizing to my child wholeheartedly will be the rinse-aid I’m needing.

Do you struggle with keeping ugly words in your mouth when your kids are pushing your buttons?

cape-less and content

What is “sand in my teeth” you ask?

It means that I have only set one foot on the rock of Jesus’ teachings found in the New Testament pages of the bible.  When I am put to the test I sink in the sand because both feet are not planted on the Rock.  The end result? I face-plant in the sand and it gets in my teeth.  A most unpleasant sensation surely to cause staring from others and self-evaluation in a mirror.

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27

The rock:

“…let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
Matthew 5:16

The sand:
Letting my good deeds shine for all to see, so that everyone will praise me while I stand on a hilltop with my cape heroically flapping behind me.

downloadable photo from www.hdwpapers.com/
downloadable photo from http://www.hdwpapers.com/

I got massive sand in my teeth and it took years to pick out every last grain.  I had good intentions, I really did.  But my pride was more interested in winning the race and taking the gold medal.  My humility was lagging somewhere behind, it didn’t even medal. Imagine that.

Tragedy was striking left and right around me and I am a fixer, it’s what I do.  I truly believe it’s how God made me to be.  I am an encourager and a connector.  I encourage people in their times of trouble and I am able to connect people to make things happen.  But I couldn’t see that these were gifts given to me in order to bring people closer to God.  Maybe I couldn’t see that because my head was down while I ironed my cape.

I took the credit for the things I did or said or prayed.
I didn’t give God the glory.

I let all my good deeds shine on Facebook and in conversations with others.
So that I could backstroke through the bliss of the compliments.

I snapped out of it only after someone pointed out that I was reveling in the back-patting a little too much.  Then of course because God’s threads of instruction are weaved throughout our lives, I heard Matthew 7:24-27 at church.  And then I felt it…  The gritty, dry, choking sand was all up in my face.  It was in my eyes, up my nose, and worst of all…. it was in my teeth.  I realized once again that I only took HALF of the scripture to heart – oh yes people, I let my good deeds shine for all to see but I skipped out on the second half of the scripture.  And dang it if I didn’t LOVE wearing that SuperMe cape!

My prayer:
God, I totally screwed up.  I took the glory that was meant to be yours.  I used the gifts you have given me for my own personal gain.  Please forgive me and help me take the steps to change my selfish behavior!  Humble me, Lord.

The result:
It took me several years but now when I use my gifts to help someone I have zero desire to pat myself on the back. I am using God’s tools, they are His.  He gets the glory.  He gets the praise.  When someone praises me I say, “I’m just the messenger for God’s love; give Him the glory!  I’m not the hero, He is.”

And as it turns out, neither of us need capes.

Have you struggled with patting yourself on the back? Are you wearing your cape right now?

sand in my teeth

I tend to visualize things as I read them.  I recently read the portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount where he discusses building on a solid rock foundation, and this is what I pictured.

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 

{visualize} standing on a rock – a HUGE rock, like a boulder, next to crashing waves.  Now picture the name “JESUS” painted so big on that rock that you can’t possibly miss the fact that Jesus is holding you up and your feet are firmly planted.

26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  Matthew 7:24-27

{visualize} standing on the sand next to the crashing waves at the beach.  An enormous wave breaks in front of you and it knocks you off your feet, sucking you under the water and tossing you to and fro.  It’s like you’re in a front loading washing machine with salt water, fish, sea weed, and … sand.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t particularly care for sand in my … well, everything… but particularly not in my mouth, or worse in my teeth.   It’s gritty, gross, and takes days to really get it all out.  While I had these (hopefully common, otherwise I’m just weird) visualizations it dawned on me how many “sand in my teeth” moments I have had over the years.

Photo courtesy of: http://mariannewildart.wordpress.com
Photo courtesy of: http://mariannewildart.wordpress.com

These moments occur when I screw up.  
Let’s just call it what it is.

These mishaps occur because I’m not standing on the rock that is Jesus … I’m strolling along the sand thinking it’s a solid rock, but knowing deep down I’m not really following Jesus’ instructions.  You know the feeling, right?  Like when you are judging someone and you know you shouldn’t be judging them so you tell yourself an absurd lie that somehow justifies your sin.  Yeah, like that.

Once a week, I will be sharing a “sand in my teeth” moment to show you that regular people screw up … often … but what sets us apart as Christians is that we learn from those mistakes by referencing instruction in scripture and we hopefully* don’t repeat them.

*Caution: if you’re expecting perfectionism from me, you’re reading the wrong blog.

Put your seat belts on, it’s about to get real up in here.