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 

 

i’ve been robbed

This week my doctor told me she wanted to me to rest.  Seems simple enough… so why do I struggle to do that?

Maybe if my room looked like this I would actually rest in it:

Yes, I totally pulled that off the web — and the website knows it’s a great looking room so much that I had the pleasure of embedding their advertisement as well as their photo — that’s fair I suppose.

Why do we struggle to rest?  I know I’m not the only one.  Maybe you work.  Maybe you’re a stay at home parent (which is also work, by the way), maybe you volunteer in multiple areas and your phone never stops ringing, maybe you teach and people are counting on you to show up, maybe you don’t have any sick time left, maybe you struggle with depression and when you rest it makes your depression worse, maybe your sheets are dirty (just keeping it real)…. there are so many maybes.

So what’s MY problem?  I have a feeling my chronic illness buddies can relate.

I feel robbed.
There.  I said it.

Already I have changed so much of my lifestyle and I have set really healthy boundaries for myself.  I limit my activity level so that I don’t run my body down — and when I say activity level this is what used to consume my life:

  • volunteering at my son’s school
  • volunteering and working for our church
  • running errands for my family
  • doing the laundry / sheets / towels
  • making sure dinner was prepared each night so we weren’t eating out often
  • having lunch with friends / hanging out with friends / running errands with friends / having coffee with friends
  • crafting / scrapbooking
  • bike riding and going for 4 mile walks
  • working in our yard and tending to the beautiful flowers and plants my mother-in-law helped me plant
  • going to and leading a bible study group
  • going to potlucks and cookouts with neighbors and friends
  • setting up Care Calendars for families who were going through rough times
  • attending all the fun things up at our son’s school / and our church

These are not BAD things, right?  So when I had to become incredibly strategic in knowing how many spoons I realistically had available each day, it was clear I didn’t have enough spoons for all of these things anymore.  I like to describe it as my life pie.  I pretty much cut that sucker down the middle and had to “get rid of” half of my life pie.

So here I am with my remaining half.  And I feel pretty good about this remaining half most of the time, because I know it’s healthy for me and I don’t feel nearly as run down and ill as I used to.  Until I got this crazy virus last week.

I.
Cannot.
Sleep.
… because all I do is cough, and blow my nose, and cough, and take medications, and drink water, and go to the bathroom, and cough.

But my doctor wants me to rest.  And all I can think about is that half-pie life of mine that’s just sitting there.  I’m not sewing and making any money to help with the things that are falling apart in our house.  I’m not figuring out dinners.  I’m not able to go to the grocery store.  I barely make it through the carpool line each day.  I’m not raking the leaves in the yard.  I’m not doing the laundry.  I had to bail out of a theology class that I REALLY wanted to take.  I’ve missed three weeks of church and serving at church.

I want it all.
But if I can’t have it all, GIVE ME BACK MY HALF!
I’m bitter.

God sprinkled my bitterness with some of His sweet sugar this morning when in the midst of my bitter-party I opened my bible app to find this verse of the day:

And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.  Colossians 3:17 NLT

Dude.  I was NOT representin’ today.  And I certainly wasn’t giving thanks today either.

Here’s my prayer for me — and for you — on the days that I have to shelve my half-pie life because it’s important in the moment:

God, thank you for knowing in advance that giving me everything I want just isn’t good for me.  Just like I don’t give my child everything he wants, you protect me in the same way.  I am so sorry that I haven’t been thankful for the generous serving of life that you have given me.  Please forgive my selfish behavior. I don’t like feeling bitter, Lord.  Thank you for showing me the verse from Colossians this morning, it reminded me that peace really can be found in your Word.  Please help me turn off the scrolling to-do list in my head and appreciate the opportunity to be still and rest, even if my sheets are dirty.  I want to be your representative here on earth, and I can’t do that when I am spewing bitterness left and right.  Doing your will doesn’t require a cup of bitter along with a pound of love.  Thank you for loving me and for helping me set my mind and heart back on You.

Amen.

 

what do you say to the brokenhearted?

 

I am a compassionate person, but sometimes I say really stupid things to people who are hurting.  I don’t intend for my words to be stupid, but it happens.  A neighbor of ours lost her precious 4 year old son in a car accident several years ago.  I was still new in my faith and I only had bits and pieces of it figured out – so I tried to connect the dots on my own.

I don’t recommend that.
If you *think* you have it figured out but you aren’t 100% sure, you might want to check with someone who has been on their journey a little longer than you have just to be certain you aren’t creating a donkey with your connect-the-dots art.  Know what I’m sayin?

The good news is that our neighbor knew that I was genuinely hurting for her and her family.  I cried… often (and ugly) for this family.  She recently told me that it’s indeed hard to know what to say when someone is brokenhearted, but this morning I came across this scripture in a book study I am doing and I think that instead of trying to find just the right thing to say next time, I might just quote the scripture in the picture above.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted.

Because He is.
He is close to the brokenhearted.

He shows up in family members who come running to be by your side.
He speaks through the countless cards and texts and emails you receive.
He works through the hands of those who come clean your house.
He loves through the hearts who care for your children when you are unable to.
He shows compassion through the meals and groceries that start showing up at your house.

I can’t answer the age-old question of “why”… WHY is this happening?  What did that happen?  Why is God doing this? – because as Jen Hatmaker (you know, my best friend) posted recently, the WHY could be any number of things depending upon the situation… and even then, we aren’t God and we don’t have all the answers.  And this is why we need faith.

We need faith, and we need to connect the dots on our own on a regular basis so that we can SEE God in action — but not the dots I first mentioned.  Instead, connect the dots of who shows up as His representative, who speaks with His loving voice, who allows Him to work through their hands, who loves with a heart like His, and who shows you compassion just as He did for countless people in the 3 short years that he ministered to others on this earth.

That’s your Lord.
That’s how much He loves you.
He is close.
Closer than you think.

(Thanks to my precious friend Anne who shared her inspiring idea of “God Dots” with me this summer – you can see more of her God Dot inspiration by following her here or here.)

where I saw Jesus

I went to a Women’s Conference this weekend and I experienced something I have never ever experienced before.  I saw Jesus.

There were 12,000 women all singing praises to the Lord, and I closed my eyes and suddenly it was as though it was just me and the band in the room.  Just us.  Alone.  I wasn’t aware of any other voices around me.  No one else breathing or clapping or stomping or anything.

MercyMe was the band.
They were singing “Hurt and the Healer” which happens to be my #1 go-to song on the days that my pain is eating through my patience with teeth like piranhas.  And then we got to the lyrics that make me reach for Jesus every… single… time.

“Breathe.
Sometimes I feel it’s all that I can do.
With pain so deep that I can hardly move.
Just keep my eyes completely fixed on you.
Lord take hold and pull me through.”

And that’s where I met Jesus.  And then the following happened within my soul.  It was so real and so close that I could barely breathe – but not in a bad way…. does that even make sense?

I wish I could draw this for you — I’m going to reach out to a friend of mine who is an amazing artist and see if I can describe to her what I saw.  Until then, I pray my words help you realize that He is reaching for YOU too.

__________________________________________________

Jesus is reaching for me
I can see His face
His hair covers his right eye
Sweat drips from his brow
His right arm reaches over the edge of the heavens
He is reaching for ME!

His muscles are tensed up
He wants me so bad
Yet He only whispers
He never yells

Everything is in black and white
The colors of heaven must be too great
for the limitations of my imagination

I am standing up on my toes
I am jumping up and down
I reach until the tendons in my arms hurt
and I have tears running down my face

I want you too, Jesus!

He is looking right at me.
He wants me. Me!
He doesn’t care about my past.
It’s all forgiven.
Redeemed.
Wiped clean.
White as snow.

I see you, Jesus!
I hear you whispering my name!
I will never stop trying to reach you!

“You already have me.” He whispers.
“But you often forget
that I am with you.
I’m alive … In you.

“Never stop looking for Me
Acknowledge Me.
Call my Name.
Reach for me.
Always.”

My tears drip down my chin.
They stain my shirt.

“Always, Jesus.
I will always reach for you!
Thank you for being there,
even when I forget to look for you.”

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?