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Author Archives: Rebecca Greebon
And just like that, the Jen Hatmaker school of wisdom begins with a bang. In her amazing new creation, For the Love, Jen takes us on a journey of love, laughter and “fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards” . Chapter 1, entitled “Worst Beam Ever” is all about trying to balance the crazy and unreasonable demands of an artificially over-competent world, while living under the scrutiny of social media and unhealthy self-image. She compares the tension we feel to struggling along a balance beam, and points out that the unfortunate result of such destructive thinking lies here:
“We no longer asses our lives with any accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done.”
She reminds us that no one can do it all….no one is doing it all, and to try is futile as well as maddening. We aren’t called to be master multi-taskers. We aren’t called to be wonder women, or top production managers, or masters of the to-do list.
What a relief! What a beautiful thing, to be openly told that our worth doesn’t come from our ability to please everyone, or check off the most items on a list, or be the best at every single thing we might possibly need to do or participate in. What a glorious day it will be when we believe this; when we realize that it’s okay to not be okay at something. When we can fathom a time of rest, and enjoy our work and our tasks because we have chosen to prioritize that which fulfills us. When we celebrate the fact that we are all different, and not having a particular gifting or skill set means that someone else gets to claim that one – and it’s a good thing! Our unique abilities are for use in our lives, as an enrichment, not a chain to drag us down into the depths of over-commitment.
The entire book is amazing, and I have read it many times already…but this chapter sang to my heart, because it so clearly and gracefully says what my very soul cries out for – there is acceptance and freedom in letting go of assumed guilt. There are so many seasons in our lives, we grow so much throughout the years….why waste time and energy bemoaning what we can’t accomplish when there is so much to celebrate? It’s not about the picture or post. It’s about life, real life, and finding our way to “walk confidently in our choices”. Doing so allows us to find freedom – from guilt, from worry, from comparison and competition.
It’s a fabulous start to an incredible book….and to an extraordinary life. Which is pretty much the point. Don’t you agree?
Solidarity, sisters. Unicorns are overrated.
Ok…so in the spirit of solidarity and magical creatures….I’m doing a giveaway! Because I truly think everyone should read this book…and gifts are my love language. SO….leave me a comment to let me know you stopped by = 1 entry; share this post = 1 entry; subscribe to my e-mail list = 3 entries!! You’ve got so many chances to win!! I’ll leave the opportunity open until this Friday, August 21, then draw a lucky winner at random. Good luck!
I had the amazing privilege of attending the She Speaks conference from Proverbs 31 Ministries last weekend. There is so much to say and think and process through… It’s truly an incomparable event. It’s well-run, phenomenally organized, perfectly staffed and tailored to Christian women writers, speakers and leaders down to the last detail. It is unequivocally the best conference I’ve attended.
Even so, the things listed above are not what make it exceptional.
Lysa Terkeurst, the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, leads this group of breath-taking women in a culture of sisterhood, team playing and true humility that exceeds my capacity to describe in a way that does it justice. The vision and execution of equipping women to learn and teach God’s Word is inspired….and unanimous. Each of the leaders and staff members has embraced the core values, and none of them waver in the slightest from the mantra.
“We have to go to God’s Word, to truly be with Him, in order to stay in alignment with His assignment. Keep the sacred space. Getting sent out is second.” Lysa Terkeurst
Every speaker wove this theme throughout her lessons and advice seamlessly, which tells me that they walk this walk as well as talk the talk. They were gracious and funny and wise, giving us a plethora of tools to put in our arsenal for study and use, sprinkling each lesson with the reminder to really listen for God’s voice….and then do as He says.
Are we serving where needed, regardless of what that looks like, knowing that our call is never mundane?
I was uplifted, overwhelmed, encouraged and enriched.
I was mentally and emotionally spent by the end of my time there.
And I was determined to stay true to the spirit and wisdom shared by these women I so admire. I prayed for God to help me hear Him clearly, to have the discernment to understand when and how He speaks to me, and to have the discipline and humility to obey by serving as He wills even when it doesn’t match up to what I plan or think.
I spent my last night there meditating on this while girding myself up for the return home, knowing that His voice gets harder to hear and His will feels less clear in the chaos and noise of my everyday space. I waited at the gate to board the plane, anxious to get seated, anticipating a few hours of concentrated reading/studying/writing time as I processed through my copious notes, aware that my patience would have to increase back at home, given the distractions and people who constantly need me in some form or fashion.
As usual, God had a different idea; and it became obvious that my testing would begin the moment I stepped onto the plane.
I made my way down the aisle and found my seat. Looking at the row behind mine, I discovered that a family of five was sitting there – two parents and three children below the age of four…on their first flight as a family. Two of the kids were wired, bouncing in their seats with excitement and chattering non-stop when I made eye contact, the baby was already not happy to be there, her mommy looked incredibly stressed and was on the verge of a small freak-out (every mom recognizes that look, we’ve all been there), and her husband was trying to follow orders as fast as she was spitting them out. Turning my head to the seat next to mine, I saw a lovely teen girl, who I had noticed at boarding because she was escorted onto the plane as it was her first time flying alone and she had special needs.
All thoughts of focused study time flew out the proverbial window at this point.
I didn’t get upset, not really. I could almost hear the question: “What now? What are you going to do? Do you remember the point?”
And I found that I actually did. I smiled at the kids as they jabbered excitedly about their first time on a plane, their first time going to Texas, all the things they thought would happen during the flight. I joked with their mommy about the adventure of flying with three kids, and how we had just done so last month. I had a lovely visit with my new friend, Misty, as she told me her entire life story and exclaimed over how fun flying is. She chatted about her best friend, and how he would miss her while she was gone, and about how her sister fixed her very own room up since she was staying there for a whole month.
Transparent moment: I might have given myself a tiny mental pat on the back, preening at my cheerfully smooth handling of this curve ball….which set me up for a bit more correction.
The real fun began when the plane started moving. Misty was quite insistent I look out the window with her to see take-off; and then she began to loudly proclaim that she hoped we had a good pilot because planes can crash, you know. She saw it on the news once, so she knows it’s true. It could happen to any plane, even ours.
Those of you who know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, may already be chuckling. For those of you just tuning in, let me bring you up to speed.
I don’t fly well. At all.
I hate flying. I am terrified of planes. I generally spend take-off and landing with my eyes closed praying and/or singing Amazing Grace under my breath as I try not to cry or vomit. I envision plane crashes with tremendous ease. Every instance is cause for alarm.
This flight was oversold. Which means they kept asking people to give up their seats for vouchers. It also means the luggage space was over capacity, so they had several of people check their carry-on at the gate. More luggage means heavier plane. What if we went over the weight limit? What if they underestimated fuel needs, not realizing how packed the flight was? I was already shaking as I boarded.
Before take-off, the flight attendant came and asked the guy in front of me if he would switch seats with someone in the exit row who didn’t feel comfortable sitting there. The man who ended up sitting in front of me was a perfectly healthy, normal-looking gentleman in his 50’s or 60’s. Why would he switch? Why would he be uncomfortable? Did he know something? Had he placed an explosive device under his seat?
Apparently, if there’s not a crash, I’ll create a terrorist.
It’s ridiculous, I know, but I can’t help it. Every time I fly, I mentally end up with my children orphaned and my husband a widower who (after a less-than-meets-my-approval period of time) marries a 25 year-old blonde aerobics instructor who has no idea how to properly care for either him or his kids.
I am a lunatic. But, I’m a lunatic who listens when the promptings are so very obvious.
What else was there to do, other than agree that yes, planes can crash and assure her that our pilot was much too skilled to let it happen? How else could I respond, except to lean over and look out the window at everything she pointed at while maintaining a pleasant facade as I fervently prayed I wouldn’t throw up all over her? Who better to sit there, comfortably unfazed by this beautiful and special child of God than a mother who works with special children as a career?
Even as He works to teach us lessons, He provides….. for everyone.
And what a lesson He was driving home. He reminded me, as He does with increasing regularity, that the call to love my neighbor, the command to love His children, always comes first. Always. Without exception. Without equivocation. Without end.
Perhaps because I was more open than usual to listening, He decided I had done reasonably well, and to further drive home His ability to provide for and pursue us, He threw me a bone. About an hour into the flight, the kids settled down, the baby stopped crying, and my friend decided to take a nap.
So, I got to write and journal and study a bit. And the exact instant I lifted the pen from my final sentence, Misty woke up, ready to resume our chat and share her M & M’s.
God is so good. And I was so humbled at the reminder of His goodness (following that tiny slap on the wrist).
He thinks of everything, and loves us enough to cover the details that fill our minds and trouble or excite our hearts. No whisper is too silent. No prayer is too small. No slip-up is too large. No accomplishment goes unnoticed….even if He has to guide us in baby steps to the goal.
What a gift. What a blessing. What a Father.
Solidarity, sisters. When He speaks, listen.
As I mentioned in the previous post, we did a fair amount of swimming and snorkeling on our vacation. Our kids are part fish, being river rats and all, so this was no surprise.
Our first snorkeling venture was not a smooth one, however. As much fun as we had jumping into the river, the freezing water and lack of visibility made our little Bug very nervous. The mangrove trees were overpowering, the water was dark, and the designated swimming path was quite narrow. Little One was not happy at all, and was ready to be done before we even started.
When she refused to be comforted or cajoled into embarking on this new adventure, her daddy swam over and placed her on his back. As you can see by her expression, she tolerated it….just barely. Patiently, he swam at a steady pace, despite the challenge of a little passenger. She looked so adorable, perched like a tiny turtle on his back with her blue goggles, pink life vest and serious expression.
About halfway down the canote ( the name for the part freshwater, part saltwater rivers that run from inland to the lagoons), Gregg said he felt her begin to relax a little. Her death grip loosened, and she sat more comfortably. He felt bad that she was missing out on the action, since her view was limited to trees and the water line, and the fish and other creatures were down below. So, he raised his head and explained to her that they were going to implement a system. He would swim on as she rode, looking below for interesting things to show her. When he saw something, he would raise his hand on the side she was to look, and she could duck her face into the water to see the wonders underneath.
I got to witness their teamwork in action as they came down the final stretch into the lagoon. The boys and I had reached the end faster and were waiting on them to catch up. I stood watching, along with a fair number of other guests and tourists, as the pair of them swam into sight. Suddenly, Gregg raised his left arm, finger pointing up. Without changing expression or pausing for more than a quick breath, Emry leaned over and stuck her face in the water on the side of his raised hand. After a few seconds, she sat back up to continue her journey, repeating the process several more times to either side as directed.
It was one of the most precious things I’ve ever seen in my life.
I had tears in my eyes even as I laughed – as did more than a few others who witnessed this display of a nurturing father and trusting child.
Thinking on it later, I couldn’t help but contemplate on what a great literal representation of God’s love this anecdote is.
Matthew 11:28-29 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
It’s such a simple, yet profound concept, isn’t it?
When we’re tired, or scared, or can’t see clearly enough, all we have to do is reach for Father, and He will carry us.
He doesn’t mind a bit. We’re not too heavy for him. He knows the way, and will get us there safely. It’s what He does.
And when we begin to relax, when we finally figure out that He’s got us and it’s all under control, He’ll know we’re ready for His signal. He’ll start giving us a sign or two, here or there.
He’ll point out when and where we need to look, because He doesn’t want us to miss the good stuff.
He’s all about letting us in on the good stuff. We just have to trust Him, then watch for His signal and look where He points.
Solidarity, sisters. There’s no shame in hitching a ride.
There’s nothing quite like a family vacation, is there? The planning and processing, the hunt for the perfect location, the fun of picking a time and place, the non-fun of squeezing a budget together…. It’s an experience like no other, and summer is the perfect time to pull it off.
We’ve never done a big vacation with all five of us, so this year seemed like a good time to start. After much debate and discussion, we decided on Mexico, the Maya Riviera to be exact. I hyper-ventilated my way through airline reservations (we all know how much I love to fly), figured out the resort and accomodations, filled out passport applications and ran around like a crazy person to get them for the kids (that’s a blog unto itself); we coordinated calendars, shopped, packed, made 57 lists and somehow got everyone to the airport on time with all necessary pieces of self and luggage.
Perhaps it was the exhaustion resulting from such a herculean effort, or perhaps it was the distraction of having all three of our children on an international flight as their first time in an airplane….or perhaps it was my amusement at the flight attendant that kept sneaking us contraband snacks (he would hide them under his apron, then lean over pretending to ask for my drink order while dropping cans of Pringles or bags of cookies in my lap and then pointing to kids – he was smitten with Emry), but my usual flying anxiety/nausea was more under control than usual. So, yay for that. It helped make up for the fact that I had to get out of my seat to take Emry to the potty every 10 minutes.
We made it safely through the Cancun airport, sailed through customs and smiled as Drew practiced his Spanish with every customs agent and airport or resort employee he saw. It was late when we got to the resort, so our real fun began the next morning.
What a great place this was! I cannot say enough good things about Tres Rios Haciendas – if you ever have the chance to go there, do so. Food, staff, views….fabulous, every bit.
We purposefully didn’t buy any international plans for our phones, and the resort only allowed internet access for one device per room (best idea ever), so we were unplugged for seven days. Seven whole days of family fun and togetherness with no interruptions. It was amazing.
There is something to be said for times of rebuilding and bonding in your core group. It’s easy to overlook, and gets away from us if we’re not careful.
We were a unit, totally and completely together, in a strange place, with a different language, new experiences and non-typical foods.
Our kids ate it up. They tried everything! Every. Single. Thing. Food, activities, sports, communicating…..they were in the thick of it as we cheered them on.
They were addicted to virgin Pina Coladas, and our two non-Spanish speakers learned very quickly how to order them in Spanish. They would do so quite frequently, bringing a “round” for everyone at regular intervals (at least they were serving each other, right?).
We did get tweeted by the lifeguards more than once. I can’t point fingers here, since Mommy was the first one in trouble – apparently, they do not want you doing back flips off the planters in the center of the pool. Who knew?
Also, our children can’t resist – if they see a bridge, they want to jump off of it. It’s a compulsion. We’ll work on it.
Safety concerns aside. we stuck together and learned just how fun we are as a whole. We had conversations, and laughed at jokes. We were amazed anew at the differences in our children’s personalities, and the speed with which each picked up particular skills. Drew was a natural under water at scuba (he’s got a few years before he can go on a dive) and snorkelling, and his Spanish was a beautiful surprise to the staff and vendors. Luke put his salsa skills to good use, dancing on the beach with his mom (and he wasn’t even embarrassed by me), and blew both his dad and the dive instructors away on his first scuba adventure. Emry jumped, swam, played and charmed everywhere she went. She made friends at every turn, and the staff was literally in tears when they had to say goodbye to her.
It was fun, yes, but it was also inspiring to watch our kids experience so many cool things, and to embrace the foreign with abandon. We lose a little of that as we grow, I think. We forget to let go of our preconceived notions and our comfort, and to just jump in with both feet, shouting for joy and ready for adventure.
Different doesn’t have to intimidate; it can exhilarate just as easily.
And whether we like the experience enough to repeat it, or discover definitively that a particular enterprise is not for us, the lesson is in the learning. There’s a humility to that, and growth that comes from it.
We spent seven days together as a family, and it was glorious. We found out new things about each other. We watched each other soak up every drop of verve and vivacity from our time in Mexico.
That’s LIVING. It only works if you’re all in.
Solidarity, sisters. The family that plays together, stays together.
Watching my daughter at her gymnastics class has become one of my favorite ways to pass the time. Really. She is so stinking cute, with her tiny self and quick movements and perfect little tushy.
I could just squeeze her.
She is brave and (mostly) focused, trying every task they present to her with little or no hesitation. On top of that:
- She’s a full foot shorter than the next smallest girl in her class – doesn’t phase her.
- She’s younger and less skilled than the others – doesn’t intimidate her.
- She can’t reach the beam or vault mat without an effortful scramble – doesn’t stop her.
She does her best approximation of the conditioning exercises; no ankle weights for this tiny gymnast, even though the older girls have them on. She’s just not ready for that part. She jumps off every surface, no matter how high, and smiles proudly when she beats the others to the water fountain at break time (though I strongly suspect she’s the only one actually competing in that race).
She does all of this with a spirit of enjoyment, a clarity of purpose, and a tenacity that fills me with pride and wonder – not only as her mom, but as a woman. Because this diminutive little lady has already figured out what so many of us never do….or often forget.
In the words of my fabulous For the Love pal and author, Jen Hatmaker: “Run your race.”
And she does.
She isn’t distracted by the other girls, at least not enough to slow her stride or change her game. She isn’t minimized by their talent, or embarrassed that she’s smaller/weaker/less advanced.
She’s out there, doing her thing….and loving every minute of it.
It’s fun. It’s adorable. It’s inspiring.
It’s a smiley, curly-haired, freckle-faced reminder to her mama, and to all the other more worn-down gals out there that this is how we’re meant to be.
Hebrews 12:1 – Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Throw off everything that hinders. All of it – the insecurity, the doubt, the sense of not being good enough, the comparison, the competition, the fear.
God did not create us to be imitators of His other creations.
He did not go through the effort of making us each unique and individual, only to have us lament that we are not the same as everybody else. And He certainly didn’t mean for us to stop halfway through our race, or before we even really get started, because we assume someone else would do it better, or laugh at us, or criticize how we run. That system would be one in which we are meant to fail, and while He is many things, our God is not a cruel trickster. It’s just not his bag.
He gives us each a set of gifts and talents and tools; and then He gives is each a set of opportunities and relationships and circumstances in which to use them. We just have to figure out the what and where, then take off. It’s generally not easy, but it shouldn’t be impossible, either.
When we spend our time worrying about what everyone else is doing, or bemoaning our perceived inability or awkwardness, it gets harder to see the possible as well as the path.
I was humbled, as I watched my little girl teach me a lesson last night. She gave her best for the hour we were there, and when it was time to go, she ran towards me with her arms outstretched for a hug and our traditional post-class recap ending in a high five. Her face was flushed, yet beaming. Her muscles were tired, yet stronger. Her resolve to practice and improve was renewed.
Yeah….she gets it. And in that moment, so did I.
It’s a lesson I have to learn over and over, because I so easily forget it. We all do, I think. Thank goodness our Teacher is so patient.
We skipped out of the gym, my miniature tutor and I, both light-hearted and thinking happy thoughts; both on the same page, in spite of our age difference and role delineation. On this occasion, we exited hand-in-hand, re-entering the outside world as two daughters of the King who had been given His instruction together. She doesn’t know the depth of the teaching she received today…not yet. She doesn’t realize what she showed me, or how she blessed my soul. But I do. And I will carry it, and continue its working in both of us as we grow and go.
Solidarity, sisters. Ready to run?
I’ve had this post floating around in my head for months…just haven’t found a way to let it out. You know how that happens? You get a thought or idea or epiphany rattling around in there, bouncing off the sides of your skull, but it’s stuck and loses it’s impact or point when you try to explain it out loud or on paper.
So, I started to think maybe I shouldn’t try, even though I keep hearing echoes in my head; whispers, if you will, of a concept that needs to be explored.
It came to me several months ago at church, when I looked up and noticed the section in back. This row had the distinction of housing several of my brother’s co-workers – all of whom happen to be former military members of varying experience. They filled the seats, crammed together like a line of well-muscled birds, with their backs straight and their eyes focused, drinking in the sights and sounds and words coming from the stage.
They maintained this intensity throughout the service, never fidgeting or looking away from our pastor as he delivered his message. Their in-the-moment focus and patience was a sight to see. It grabbed my attention, and I’m sure caught the eye of many others in the congregation.
It has stayed with me since.
It’s an impressive thing to watch, the functioning of the heart and mind of a soldier. It’s unique, and in many ways inspiring.
Memorial Day was this past weekend, and even so I was unsure of whether to share my thoughts on this topic. People feel strongly about patriotic holidays and subject matter, and military references evoke a variety of reactions in all of us. I am not one to be overly concerned with what others say or think, but soldiers are near and dear to my heart, and matters involving them strike a raw chord with my family.
Two things happened to make me pick up a pen:
1) I saw a post on Facebook in which someone made disparaging remarks to those who would thank a soldier over the weekend. He went on to explain that Memorial Day is not about veterans or GIs, it’s about the ones who have been lost, who never made it home. Thanking a these men/women is inappropriate behavior, according to Mr. Opinionated, and he was happy to correct us in this.
Let me go on record to say that thanking a veteran (or active member of the military) is never inappropriate. Period.
2) I am writing the draft of this post in an emergency room, surrounded by the sights and sounds of machines beeping and medical staff coming in and out, as I sit by my unconscious brother. My baby brother, lying in a bed, with a tube down his throat allowing a machine to help him breathe. His arms are strapped down to keep him from tearing at the tubes should he wake up. Every so often he twitches, or grimaces in pain.
I have lost count of the number of times we have sat like this over the past eight years. It’s a way of life for our family. This time didn’t require a helicopter ride…so that’s something.
He’s only 37 years old. He is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps. And Memorial Day is most certainly about him.
Because while he did come home, miraculously, after many deployments and engagements, we did not get him back, not completely. We got him back broken and fragile, with pieces missing or shattered or irrevocably changed. We got back his nightmares and PTSD and brain trauma and horrific scars, both seen and unseen.
The boy that left for boot camp, shiny and new and excited to serve did not come home.
He was lost years ago. We mourn him every Memorial Day, and every time we sit in a hospital surrounded by machines and unanswered questions.
The man who survived, who continues to fight his way back from every single this-could-be-really-bad episode would do it all again….with pride, and without hesitation. We celebrate him every day.
We celebrate the others like him, who come in and out of our lives with stories and nightmares and survival battles of their own.
We mourn with them for the losses of their brothers who never made it home.
We are humbled by their ability to serve with every fiber of their being.
It begs the question, when was the last time we did so?
When was the last time we believed in something enough to sacrifice everything? To create and maintain a lifestyle around turning ourselves into a protector and advocate? To know that it’s worth dying for?
We talk the talk about being soldiers of God, of fighting His battles with Him, of spiritual warfare. Do we walk the walk?
1 Thessalonians 5:8 – But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.
There are lessons to be learned from the ideals of the American soldier.
1. Believe in the calling, no matter what
They fight for our freedom, even when it’s not pretty, or easy, or popular. The entire group has but one aim – the protection of America and its people. They don’t argue this point. They don’t debate its validity. They don’t vacillate. The purpose is the point, not the individual. Forge ahead with everything you’ve got, whether anyone sees, or cares, or hears about it. Many won’t understand – do it anyway. There will be blood, sweat and tears – wipe them off and keep going. Cry when you need to. Scream if you have to. Know that it’s worth it, and your part will make a difference.
2. Stay focused
Once the objective is made clear, they move towards it. There is a plan. There is a goal. There is no other agenda. There is no time for rabbit trails or distractions or besides-the-point stress. There is no time for pettiness or in-fighting.
3. Create strong relationships
Ever notice how tight these guys/gals can get? They are a unit, bonded my multiple layers of commitment and experiences. They are aware of the risks, and know that there is a very real chance one or more of them will be lost along the way. They form the relationships anyway. They love fiercely and without limits, forging bonds and brotherhoods that seem disproportionate at times. They don’t let the fear of being hurt or losing a member weaken their attachments or decrease their enthusiasm. They know when the pain of loss comes it will be crushing. They don’t let the anticipation or anxiety of this win over the importance of trust and human connection – the strength of this union may make all the difference in a tight spot.
4. It’s a lifestyle
There’s no such thing as lip service to a battle field. They’re all in. They live, eat, sleep, breathe, read, hear, experience and learn throughout the military experience. Every space points toward growing into the role, training each individual for the part he/she will play in obtaining victory. It’s not put on the shelf when inconvenient.
5. Live, and find your joy
Soldiers, perhaps more than any other, understand the fleeting nature of life. They have an uncanny ability to find laughter in the oddest places, and celebrate at every opportunity (sometimes in rather over-the-top ways). They know their days are numbered, so they grab life by the horns. They embrace their place in the grand scheme, accepting the byproducts to the best of their abilities.
They are human, and imperfect…and that’s okay. They make mistakes, some more costly than others. They can be broken, or derailed, or put out of commission.
It does not diminish them. It does not negate their contribution to the fight. It does not make them less deserving of love, respect, or a place in the pages of history.
What if you and I did Christianity this way?
What if we took the lessons as ideals, and put them into practice? If we treated the battle for true freedom and the redemption of human souls as a life or death issue, instead of a topic to banter about while mouthing platitudes?
What if we served with every fiber of our being, and seized the chance to love our neighbor with ferocity and fervor?
What if no amount of blood, sweat, tears or ridicule could sway us from our goal or distract us from the face of our Father?
Would our lives look different than they do now?
For most of us, the honest answer is yes. So, what are we going to do about it?
Solidarity, sisters. It’s never too late to join the fight.
1 Timothy 2:1 – First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people
Oh, how I have loved walking this walk through relationships with you for the past nine days. I hope that it’s been helpful and given you thoughts to think and places to grow. I know it’s done so for me. And as with many good collections, we’ve saved the best for last.
We’ve established that we need to love like Jesus. We’ve established that our God loves us beyond the telling, and wants us to do for others as He has done for us. We’ve established that we are flawed and imperfect, but lovable nonetheless. We’ve realized we need to admit and embrace our weaknesses and move on to building ties that make us stronger.
So, now it’s time for the big guns.
Are you praying for the people in your life? Because you most certainly should.
Why wouldn’t we go here? It’s the most powerful thing we can do for another person. If you had the chance to introduce, or remind, or endear a person of great influence and means to the ones you love, knowing that he would protect them and bestow gifts upon them….wouldn’t you do it? Wouldn’t you rush to say, “Here is my friend/child/spouse/co-worker/mother/aunt/brother/sister/in-law! Notice them! Hold them secure! Give them health and wealth and opportunity and everything they need!”
We have the perfect vehicle to do this any time we wish.
The gift of prayer is perhaps the greatest we can give to others…and to ourselves.
What better way to show love and prioritizing and respect than to lift someone up to the Creator of the universe, putting their needs and hopes and dreams and very life right back into His hands?
We get some things wrong as parents, my dear hubby and I, but this one we cling to without ceasing. We pray for each other. We pray over our kids – in front of them and at times they are not around. We pray for the protection and prosperity of our family.
Some days, we are exhausted, or frustrated, and wonder if anything we do makes a difference at all (can I get an Amen from the parents of pre-teens out there?). It’s hard to cleave to the intangible.
Our oldest son, Luke, is a very handsome (biased mom moment, I know, but truth is truth) and extremely social sixth grader. Middle school has been quite an experience: discovering and being discovered by girls, branching out with more independence, getting his first phone and the texting frenzies it involves…. those of you who have been reading for a while know some of my struggles and opinions on 12 year-old girls and their drama, so I won’t reiterate it too much here. That’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
One of his friends has been especially trying. She is a very unhappy and insecure little girl who is trying to grow up too fast, and creates wave upon wave of melodrama. It’s exhausting for everyone involved. Her texts to my son are eye-rolling at their best, alarming at their worst.
We’ve been walking and talking through this since October. I’ve asked Luke if she believes in God, or prays (he’s not sure). We’ve discussed her need for hope and true healing. When I ask if he prays for her, his answer is usually yes. It’s a hard line to walk. How do I balance lessons of compassion and empathy with protecting my child from negativity and hurtful images/words/people?
The other day, this friend sent Luke a series of very upsetting texts. She was depressed and her words were filled with self-loathing. I was so sad as I scrolled through their conversation (we read all of his texts….there’s a limit to freedom in our house). And then, I saw a thread that made me catch my breath. She had sent a negative stream of consciousness, and here is how he answered.
Luke: (Name), do you pray?
Luke: Then I’ll pray for you.
Oh, how my mother’s heart swelled as my eyes filled with tears. I sat holding that phone for several minutes, reading and re-reading the words of my son; barely breathing as I cried tears of joy.
He gets it. He’s been listening. He’s been watching. He’s been learning.
And he knows that when things get to a point that he no longer has the words or patience or capability to handle a relational situation or interaction, all he can do is release his friend into the arms of the One who loves her most.
Can you imagine the man he’ll become if he can continue to embrace this concept and engage all of his relationships this way?
Can you imagine the warriors we would all be if we did so?
When was the past time you prayed intentionally over the people in your life? Over the relationships you hold dear?
Do you lift up the hopes, dreams, hurts and healing of those around you to God?
Do you let the people in your life know that you pray for them? Do you ask them to pray for you?
List three names of people who you consider to be prayer warriors for you. If you don’t have three, consider asking someone to fill this role.
List five names of people you can commit to pray for consistently over the weekend.
God is very specific about His desire for us to pray for those around us. He gives the mandate with a promise, an incentive if you will. I’ts that important. When we come to Him on behalf of another, He rewards us as well.
Job 42:10 – The LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold.
Praying puts us in direct communication with God. Praying for others put them as the focus of our hearts, even as it puts them in His path.
It’s a win-win like no other.
Solidarity, sisters. I’ll be praying for you.
I am a bit of a hot mess.
If I’m being totally honest, a “bit” is probably downplaying that statement. Or maybe not. It depends on the day. I do have stints when I’m actually pretty pulled together….for a time. And then I get out of bed or leave the house.
I can be impatient with people and a little spastic in my movements or idea execution. I am hopeless with technology and shut down in that area when overwhelmed (which makes blogging a wee bit more challenging at times); I consider my phone to be technology, by the way, so I don’t even answer phone calls when I’m over capacity to handle my world. I can’t craft to save my life, and have no desire to learn (which means my Pinterest boards are super boring, unless you like food…then I’m all over that business). I’m distractible on a good day, and if there’s music playing in the background forget it – I’m either singing along or rewriting song lyrics in my head. I can be a tad dramatic (be nice, honey) and am easily bored with repetitive or mundane tasks (which means I may not be the best housekeeper and running as a form of exercise is like a sojourn in hell as far as I’m concerned). I talk too fast and laugh too loud.
I have moments when I am jealous or angry or small inside. I have days when I am not a good friend, or mother, or daughter, or wife (or Christian – gasp!).
I have flaws I’d rather not share in public, and a closet full of mistakes or episodes that make me cringe to remember.
Hello. My name is Rebecca and I am a less-than-perfect, sometimes irrational, broken human being just trying to survive and find my place in this world.
And so are you.
Romans 12:3-6 – For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgement, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
If we walk into our relationships accepting from the onset that both parties have flaws, and deciding to love the other person anyway, we set ourselves and our connections up for a much greater degree of success.
Lack of perfection is a human condition. We all have it, without exception. Trust me on this – it’s the unadulterated truth.
A natural consequence of this condition is that somewhere, somehow, some day someone in your life is going to make a mistake. They are going to hurt your feelings, or tell you a lie (accidentally or on purpose), or get on your nerves, or break something of yours (may be your coffee mug, may be your heart). They are going to let you down, or forget your birthday, or leave you out.
And you are going to have to decide to love them anyway.
You are going to have to decide that your bond with them is stronger than your anger, and that their presence in your lives outweighs the temporary hurt they’ve caused (see Day 8, and review forgiveness here).
Ephesians 4:2 – Be completely humble and gentle; bearing with one another in love.
Keeping our expectations of others realistic is key in building and maintaining solid relationships.
Keeping our view and expectations of ourselves in check is another way to develop strong ties as well. When we embrace who we are, flaws and all, we bring our whole self to the table. We present the person we really are to the people in our lives, and ask them to love us anyway. There’s a tremendous amount of security in that.
Do you have a tendency to hold others to unrealistic standards? Are your expectations of the people in your life so high that they are doomed to failure from the beginning? Are your expectations of yourself that high as well?
Think of someone in your life, past or present, who held you or others to impossible standards. How did this manifest itself in their interactions? Were they easy or difficulty to get along with? Do they have lasting or temporary friendships/family relationships?
Think of someone in your life who is accepting of others. How do they make you feel? Do they have lasting relationships?
Think of the people closest to you. How well do they know you?
List three of your flaws (gulp). Write a funny story or anecdote about an incident that happened because of each. The next time you feel insecure about this flaw, remember the story you wrote. See if it helps you feel less vulnerable – and reflect on the fact that colorful stories make us interesting.
When I’m with a person who has a true view of herself, and is out there forming connections and interacting with a smile despite her shortcomings instead of trying to hide them, I am drawn to her. She’s the type of gal who is accepting of faults and open to imperfections. She’s not out to compete or condemn. It’s encouraging, and makes me want to be her friend. It’s inspiring, and helps me to engage on a deeper level.
I cannot tell you how many women I talk to who make the statement, “I’m just so hungry for authenticity.”
Me, too, sister. It’s refreshing, and keeps us rooted.
I love people. I love making and having friends. I love family ties and entanglements, even when they’re messy. Wanna know why?
Because I’m messy. And I hope to be loved in spite of it….or maybe because of it.
Solidarity, sisters. It’s not a competition – we all get to win this time.
There are few moments more awkward in a relationship than those in which we are completely and utterly wrong. And yet, without exception, we are going to have them…and way more often than we would like to. We are human, thus predisposed to screwing up – some of us more spectacularly than others.
Hebrews 12: 14-15 – Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;
So, if we know it happens, and we accept that it’s part of the human condition, why is it so hard to open our mouths with a genuine apology and ask the person on the receiving end of our blunder for forgiveness?
1. We have to realize, and then acknowledge that we are wrong.
Well, this is just no fun at all. It’s hard to screw up, and even harder to admit it to ourselves, much less another person. This gets especially sticky if we’ve spent time and energy arguing our point
2. It’s embarrassing
I don’t know about you, but I’m a “go big or go home” kind of gal. More often than not, when I have the greatest need to apologize it’s because I have managed to pull off a whopper of a stunt. This generally involves: completely missing the point in a situation, opening my mouth before thinking or when I should have kept it shut, not knowing both sides of the story, shaming another person, looking like a fool, or a myriad of fun combinations of the previous.
3. We’re often angry
Most arguments between individuals happen when one or both of them are angry – and in the few that don’t, as the discussion continues someone eventually ends up ticked off. It’s pretty much impossible to apologize in a haze of outrage.
4. We don’t want to put our pride aside
This is a big one, isn’t it? There is a tremendous amount of humility involved in asking forgiveness: it puts the other person in a place of power (at least in our minds), and often feels like we are minimizing our point of view. Guess what? If you need to legitimately make amends for your words and/or actions, your two cents worth is not the point at all.
Asking for forgiveness, when done from a heart that is truly repentant, puts the other person at the focus….not you.
It admits wrongdoing, and opens the way for dialogue, reconciliation and new understanding. It implies a desire to do better and not repeat the same mistake again. And, perhaps most significantly, it communicates to that person that they are important to you – even more than your pride, or need to be right.
On the flip side……
If we are capable of botching things, so is our neighbor (sibling, friend, spouse, co-worker, acquaintance, parent, child, etc). And as we expend the effort to apologize, hoping to be forgiven, we feel we deserve a second chance….and so do they.
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
Forgiveness is a two-way street. Ideally, both parties are involved…and genuine.
When we sincerely love another person, the relationship between us is more important than anything else…and this creates a willingness to work things out with patience and flexibility.
1 Corinthians 13: 4-5 – Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. (emphasis mine)
I have an anecdote from early in my dating relationship with my husband. I had upset him in a certain situation…to be honest, neither of us remembers what it was. The thing that stood out to me was how surprising his reaction was. My fun-loving, type B, laid back boyfriend could not let it go. I must have apologized six or seven times over a two week period, and he would either mumble something, shrug, or ignore the apology…then bring it up again later. It drove me nuts! Finally, one day I had enough.
“What do you want from me?!?!” I exploded, “Should I throw myself under your truck?”
Granted, that may have been a bit of a dramatic overstatement. Apparently, my combat style is to fight melodrama with melodrama.
Even so, the point was taken. It’s one of our
fondest more vivid memories, and taught us a lot about resolving issues with each other. It takes patience, acceptance, and more than a little humor.
Do you have a hard time with this concept? What is more difficult for you: apologizing or accepting an apology? Why do you think this is?
Think about the last time you had to say I’m sorry. What was the hardest thing about it? How did it go?
Think about the last time you were asked for forgiveness. Was it easy or difficult to forgive the other person? Why?
Consider someone in your life who is good about making amends. What are some ways they interact in situations requiring an apology (or acceptance of one)? Do they exemplify love in these situations? How?
People are flawed. You are flawed (sorry if this is a news flash…you’re still lovable, trust me). The less we fight the need to make amends, the less intensely we’ll fight with each other. And the less vehemently we fight with each other, the quicker we “hug it out”, the stronger our relationships become.
In the timeless words of The Hokey Pokey: “That’s what it’s all about.”
Solidarity, sisters. Let it go
Hebrews 13:16 – And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
Remember Kindergarten? We learned so, many life skills in that, our beginning of the formal education journey. We learned our letters and numbers, how to stand in line and take turns, the days of the week and months of the year. We learned songs and sayings and social skills – some of the greatest hits were:
- keep your hands to yourself
- use kind words
- pass the glue does not mean throw it
- scissors are for paper
- respect other people’s property
- a broken crayon will still color
- you have to share
It’s tough to share, isn’t it? That one’s a life lesson that requires repetition and practice. It doesn’t always come naturally, but it’s fundamental to our relationships. As we get older, the appearance of sharing shifts and changes. But it never becomes less important.
Romans 12:13 – Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
I have a friend who is an amazing hostess. She’s one of those people who anticipates the needs of those who come into her home beautifully, and then executes her hostessing duties with flare. She is gracious and patient and seems to be everywhere at once, asking if anyone needs a refill, making sure her guests are comfortable and serving each person according to his/her needs. It’s impressive to watch and wonderful to experience.
Her home is lovely and well-decorated. She always has food or drinks handy. She’s an engaging conversationalist.
Yet, these aren’t the most outstanding characteristics of her as a hostess. If you read the previous paragraph, my descriptions all center around her capacity to serve others.
True hospitality is service-based, and focuses on the other person’s needs.
It involves creating a safe and comfortable space for our guests, and according them whatever they require: a place to stay, a meal, a listening ear, acceptance, a moment of peace, reassurance, wise counsel….the list is as endless as the people we know.
Do you know someone who is an incredible host or hostess? List some examples of how they exemplify this trait.
Think about the last time you practiced hospitality. Who was there? How did it go? Are there ways you can improve on this?
The other amazing thing about my friend (and most of my inner circle of friends, really), is how well they embody the following:
Galatians 6:2 – Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
I cannot imagine getting through the tough parts of life without a supportive circle to help carry the load. I thank God every day for the amazing friends and family He has placed in my family’s life.
And now I am singing “I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends” (shout out to all the Beatles fans out there).
Embracing the truth that we are created to be in community, to be parts of one body, means grasping the fact that we are entwined in the lives of those around us…and as such, we are tasked with reaching out, even when it’s hard or messy or sad.
This is a fundamental truth. It’s why Go Fund Me pages actually work. It’s why we take meals to our neighbor in mourning. It’s why we have fundraisers for families facing scary and expensive diagnoses. It’s why cities rise up in turmoil after atrocities, or unite together during disasters. It’s why we cry with the stories of strangers, or cling tightly to our friend as she sobs.
We are not meant to go it alone. Trying to do so only creates misery.
Think about someone in your life who is gifted at sharing your burdens, who is always there to help lighten the load. Say a brief prayer of thanks for this person.
How can you work towards emulating her/him? What example of their actions sticks out most in your mind?
It doesn’t necessarily take a grand gesture to communicate caring or help lift someone’s spirits. What are some small acts of kindness you can perform today to help ease someone’s strain or make them feel loved?
Write down three goals for sharing and give yourself a timeline to complete them in the next two weeks. You can choose to practice hospitality, or an act of kindness, or a combination of both. Be sure to come back and write out the results once you’ve completed this. How did it affect the people on the other end? What did it do for your heart as well? What fruit did you see as a result?
I’m always amazed at the power of sharing when we get it right.
Solidarity, sisters. It takes all of our crayons to create a rainbow.