Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My new favorite quote!

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
                                                                   Albert Einstein

Each one of our children is so unique and special in their own way. I hope they see the beauty and giftedness in that. It's a tragedy that so many of us grow up comparing ourselves to others that have different talents or trying to live up to someone else's expectations, according to what they or society deems valuable. It only leads to feelings that we can never quite measuring up. We end up concluding that we're not smart enough, talented enough, or good enough. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Variety is the spice of life. How boring if we were all the same.

Part of the beauty of our individuality is that it brings us together because we need one another. With all of my sisters, I know who to go to for what... 

There is nothing smart little Nat can not do. She seems to have the ability to juggle many things at once. That girl will plan a sister's weekends in nothing flat. She's the life of the party and always keeps everyone laughing with her wit. She has undertaken the insurmountable task of helping her older sisters stay young and hip. God help her. Natalie brings out the fun side of me like no other!

Jeannie, who is only 11 months older than me, will be the first I call when I get a new wrinkle or another gray hair. I'm like, what the heck??? We commiserate all our woes together. She's also the one I call when I move furniture around or buy new panels for the windows. We share our love for decorating. She's also the Martha Stuart of the family; she can cook and entertain like nobody's business! 

Big sis, Dawny, is my go-to spiritual guru. She's also the one I call for advice when my kids are going through something hard. Her kids are just a bit older than mine and she can always relate and calm me down. Her gentleness, patience, and compassion knows no end. She's an inspiration to me because she continues to discover more of her hidden talents. At age 50, the artist in her emerged! 

Of coarse I can't go through all the sisters and leave out our sweet Ginger. Although she's gone ahead of us to plan our family reunion in heaven, she is our bubbly, happy, positive, encouraging sister. It's impossible to be sad in her presence because she will lift you up. I still go to her in my mind and heart and feel her wrap me up in her warmth! I always go to her when I need a hug!

Why is it that we tend to look at others strengths and suddenly feel our weakness? I don't think that's what God desires for us, but part of our fallen natures here on earth. I hope to encourage my children to choose to celebrate everyone's uniqueness, including their own, and to listen to that still small voice inside of them to find their own personal genius!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Old voices in my head...

Lately, I've noticed a negative voice in my head.  This voice always seems to harshly correct or "disciple" me. I didn't even realize it was there. Maybe I've just grown accustom to this abusive voice. This time I noticed it when it said, "Don't be defensive, Don't be overly sensitive, Don't be ridiculous!" Sure sometimes I do need to let my defenses down and be open to hearing something; but sometimes the right thing to do is to "defend" myself. 

I remember a time not too long ago, after being wounded, I became extremely sensitive to what people would say to me. The church I was a part of assigned each person a discipling partner, just to make sure no one fell through the cracks (or maybe it was a way to have more control over the body). This particular church was structured more like an organization... elders and staff were over large group leaders, who were over small group leaders, who were over small groups. Then each individual was assigned a partner (one person over you and one or more people under you... unless you were at the very bottom of the barrel because you were a new or struggling disciple.) If someone was over you, it was because they were "more spiritual" than you, so they were given authority over you to "disciple" you. Basically, they could put you in your place if you didn't agree with them.  The higher up people were, the more spiritual they were thought to be. 

One of my partners (pretty high up) was extremely harsh and controlling. I felt I could never do anything right. I was constantly corrected and put down. My motives were always questioned and my reputation tainted by her rumors. After being offended over and over again, my boundaries constantly being trespassed, my voice not being heard, having everything I said and did be twisted into lies, and being treated with no respect, her lies slowly became my truth.  I began to hide inside a shell to protect myself. I didn't trust anyone, not even myself. My personality changed. I became timid and lost all confidence. Even though that person is no longer in my life, I'm realizing I've allowed her voice to continue to abuse me. 

For several years now, God has been walking me out of all that mess and healing me. He's showing me how safe I am in His love. He specifically asks His children not to lord over one another, but to love one another as He loves us. To love as God loves is to love unconditionally. It's sad that we have to clarify that true love is unconditional, but real love can be nothing less. What we call love today, is not love. To love unconditionally is to love others, and ourself, right where we/they are, not where we think we/they should be. When I notice that my thoughts toward myself or another are unloving, unkind, judgmental... I try to ask where those thoughts may have derived. It could be coming from an old wound God wants to heal, or maybe he wants to reveal something knew to me that he wants to walk me out of. I believe if I lean into Him, his spirit will continue to give me insight and walk me into greater freedom.

I noticed after coming out of the religious environment I was in for most of my adult life, one of the ways it change me was that I had become extremely judgmental. Being judged, taught me to judge. I judged everyone (including my kids, my husband and myself). I resembled "the accuser" much more than I reflected Jesus' love to myself and others.  God, in his grace, has been helping me discern the difference in His voice and the voice of the accuser in my head. Satan's voice always shames and accuses me and others. God's voice is always kind and gentle and full of grace. He's in no hurry, but patient with me and looks at me with kind eyes, full of love and compassion whether I'm at my best or worst. Religion doesn't allow us to love people at different places in their journeys. It teaches us to manipulate and control people and accept them when they do what's right rather than patiently walking along side them and loving them where they are as we trust Father to lead them out of their sin into healing and freedom.

Lately, I've started paying more attention to the chatter in my head. I've noticed a bad habit I had formed of shaming myself when I'd blow it.  I'm learning to bring it to God and let Him help me sort it out, rather than beat myself up. It's much more productive to look to Him and what He's doing, rather than to focus on my sin. He's much more gracious with me than I am with myself. In fact, my sin really isn't an issue for Him... He's already dealt with it on the cross. The only issue with sin for me now, since I trust Christ as my savior, is the painful consequences sin itself brings. That's why God warns us about sin, because He doesn't want us to suffer the natural consequences that sin brings. When I used to sin, I used to be terrified that I'd lose my salvation. What freedom understanding His grace has given me! The good news is that since I couldn't possibly be sinless, God (in Jesus) took care of that for me on the cross. (Rom. 3)

Now I interrupt that voice and say, "Where is this coming from God? I know that You only hate sin because it hurts us and You don't want harm to come to Your children. Walk me out of this." The more I get to know God and see that He is not the accuser ready to throw me into hell if I sin, the safer I feel to come out of hiding and be honest with him. I say things like, "So, here's where I am God, there's a big part of me that doesn't even really want to overcome this sin right now, but because I trust You that this is not Your highest and best for me, I ask You to grant me both the desire and the ability to change this in my life." 

Monday, August 12, 2013

It's okay, I'm not gonna let you drown...

I sometimes look back and regret how busy I was with “church activity” when my boys were young. I also regret that my parenting reflected the “scary God” religion made him out to be. I’m so enjoying the freedom from all the busyness that allows me time to spend with my family and just love who father puts in front of me. Learning to relate to God through love instead of fear has made me quite a different parent today and healed my relationship with my sons. As God reveals to me how he parents me from a place of love instead of a place of fear, manipulation, and control, it has permeated every relationship I have.
I teach swim lessons at my neighborhood pool. I didn’t set out to do that, but 9 years ago when I was teaching my girls to swim, other parents began to ask me to teach there children. I’ve never advertised, but through word of mouth, I seem to get more and more lessons every summer. This summer, I taught 150 lessons. I see each parent and child I come in contact with as an opportunity for me to love who Jesus puts in front of me with the kind of love he’s shown me. 
Parents bring me their children, many who have had previous lessons that “didn’t work”. These children come to me terrified of the water and of me before they even know me. I just meet them where they are, and help them know that I would never hurt them or make them do anything against their will. I tell them I just want to keep them safe and protect them. I play with them and love up on them and through love and connection and a feeling of safety and trust, they thrive. I don’t compare the children with each other, or have expectations of where they “should” be. They are each unique individuals. Through play and hugs and kisses, I try to convey to them how precious they are. I’ve found that as they learn to trust me, they follow me. 

That's how I see father treating his children... loving us, helping us believe how precious and valued we are to him, daring us to trust him, and then asking us to follow as he leads us to the greenest pastures and the clearest waters and restores our souls.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I wanted to share this video I found...

The kids started back to school today, so I can pick up my writing blog again. Summer was busy with teaching swim lessons and trips to the beach and just spending precious time with my family. 

A friend sent me this video and I really love it! Religion seems to put God in a box. It compartmentalizes our life and separates our spiritual lives from our secular lives. We are not just disciples on Sundays, but 24/7. Christ is our life. Jesus didn't come to just bring us another religion. Christianity is a relationship with Christ, God making himself known to man so we can commune with him like we were originally created to do. God didn't just throw us into a broken world and abandon us. He wants to walk with us and talk with us; he wants to guide us and to bind our wounds. He wants to give us life to the full.(Jn. 10:10) In Genesis, we see Adam and Eve taking their daily walks in the garden with God, before they took the bite of forbidden fruit that broke creation. I believe God wants that kind of relationship with his children today. As we walk with him and seek to know him, he will make himself known to us more and more. We will discover how deeply loved we are and be compelled to spread that love to others. 

One of my favorite parts of this video is where it shows "regular people"... a chef, a doctor, a child, a mom, a construction worker... then it writes down the front of each one... teacher, pastor, apostle, prophet, evangelist. These are regular people God has gifted; who says it has to be robed clergy in an organized religious institutional setting. Why can't God gift the cashier at the grocery store to be one of his teachers as well... or the Wal-mart greeter to be a pastor... or the traveling salesman to be an evangelist? It is God who gifts/equips/appoints people to these roles. We, the church, the believers who are scattered like salt throughout the earth, will recognize these gifts in people when we come along side each other and as we love and spur one another on. When we stop limiting God by putting him in a box, and remember that he does not dwell in a temple made by human hands, but in the hearts of men, maybe we'll begin to recognize all the ways he's continually making himself known in our ordinary every day lives.