#Write31Days – Post 5 – A Man of Few Words

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The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.

Proverbs 12:15

My husband is a man of few words.  He is not likely to tell you a long story about his day.  Sure, if you start talking to him about his favorite subjects he is a wealth of knowledge… but even then he is tempered.   He’s just not one to fill space with small talk.  What makes this such an amazing trait is that when he does speak, it’s worthy to stop and listen.

Many times I have come to his with a problem, complaint, or question and he’s left it up to me to make the decision.  However, there are times when I sit in awe of the wisdom that falls out of his mouth.  He has an ability to see things that I miss, or think of things in a way I hadn’t considered.  There have been a number of times where he has stopped me in my tracks, and I’ve found myself pondering a single statement for weeks.

Recently, I had been struggling internally with a decision that would relate to our long term future.  This is what I do, I will weigh decisions out in my head for months before I even bring it up to him.   I like to come to terms with myself before I bring someone else into my crazy.  (HA!)  I explained the decision to him, and he listened intently.  Then I dropped the bomb:

Do you think I can do this?

His reply…. a single sentence.

The wise man said:  “I think you can do it, but I don’t think you should.”

What an answer!  It was an answer that didn’t in any way undermine by ability, capability, talent, or skills.    In fact, quite the opposite.  He was encouraging and supportive, while at the same time discerning and thoughtful.  No one has ever said that sentence to me before in the past.  Everything in my life has been a black or white answer.  Yes you can.  No you can’t.  You can do anything you put your mind to.  You can’t do everything yourself.

For anyone wonder, no he didn’t leave me dangling with that single sentence for long.  Of course I wanted to explore what his thoughts were, so a deluge of questions from me followed.

Interestingly enough, my husband thought I was thinking too small.  He saw something bigger and greater for me.  He was looking at my gifts as a sum total, how they all work together, how they can be used in a way that was far greater than what I saw for myself.

Many of the plans of man seem noble and right, but it should be the plans of the Lord that are victorious.  We can do any number of good things, right things, and even godly things but if those are OUR plans or what SEEMS right to us… that doesn’t necessarily mean they are what God wants to happen.

We need to seek the wise counsel of others, it helps us to separate our selfish desires from His call, it helps define and refine the call by giving us a clearer vision or solid affirmation, it invites others in to prayer with us as we move forward in the call, and gives us the encouragement and support we need to do far more than we ever thought possible.

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Proverbs 19:20-21

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For the Love of Peace….

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This post is part of Jen Hatmaker’s “For the Love” Blog Tour which I am delighted to be a part of along with many other inspiring bloggers.  To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

For the Love of Peace

If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Romans 12:18 (HCSB)

The pressures of life are surmounting.   The pressures on women are driving us to anxiety and depression.  Once upon a time, the only expectations upon us were to be image bearers, good wives, good mothers, good stewards, and good students of the word.  Over the course of history, to modern day, those expectations grew.

A perfect home.

Perfect children.

The perfect wife.

Then we added to those pressures as women entered the work force.   Now not only did we have to be perfect in every way at home, but also at work.  As more women entered the work force, the expectations upon them grew to become a super woman.

Then, there was a shift.  Women began staying home with their children again.  However, this added to the pressures of the perfect home life because she no longer had to balance outside work and housework.  We thrust upon her the notion that children’s birthday parties had to be grand, we needed to scrapbook every day of our children’s lives, and that we had to not only be the super mom… but also the super wife.  Proverbs 31 Woman became a piece of scripture that women were clinging to in order to become the super Christian woman, as well.

The pressure was mounting.

And then, it happened… social media exploded and took women along for the ride.

We had Pinterest to help us make the perfect meals, hand craft decorations for our homes, and upping the children’s birthday party to epic levels.

Facebook tossed in our faces, daily, the women who were winning at life.  Working out every day to maintain her perfect body.  Her perfect weekend crafting with her kids.  Date night, once a week, with her perfect husband.  The flowers he sends her, the gifts he gives her, the attention he showers her with.

Instagram became a revealing window to how much fun others were having, without us.  We saw their “girls weekend getaway” that we were not invited to.   We commented on the fifty hand made invitations for her Women’s Ministry luncheon.  We loved her outfit of the day photo, while we sat in the jeans we bought six years ago that are holding on by threads.

The pressure kept growing… and growing….

Before we could even realize it was happening, the green eyed monster of envy was rearing it’s ugly head.  To see it, we just had to look in the mirror.

We were jealous of her doting husband.

We felt left out of the fun.

We didn’t think we could compete with her talent.

We were no longer content with our homes, or their decor.

We lamented over our lack of funds to go on vacations or buy new clothes.

We began to hate our own bodies.

We became jealous over the opportunities their children have.

And that is when it happened, the pressure became too much.. and we blew up.

On the inside.

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  When these things happen, when the pressure grows to the point where we are going to blow…  someone is inevitably going to get caught in the wake of the explosion.

We will hate our selves, for the areas we failed.

We will hate our families, for what they are not.

We will hate others, for what they have … and we don’t.

Jealousy will poison our souls to the point that it will destroy us from the inside out, if we don’t spiritually check ourselves.

When these pressures surmount like this, we have only two ways to respond after we blow our tops.

  1.  We pull up our big girl panties, set our minds right, and find peace with the blessings that God has given us.

—-  OR —-

2. We begin to elevate ourselves, by tearing down others.

There are so many scriptures that point us toward peaceful living.  Blessed are the peacemakers (Matt 5:9),  Seek and Pursue Peace (Psalm 34:14), There is Future for those in Peace (Psalm 34:34), Live at Peace with Others (Romans 12:18)… these are just a few.  God wants us to be at PEACE in our lives, not fear… not anxiousness… not jealousy or discontent.   God wants us to LOVE in our lives, not hate… not condemn… not hurt or divide.  In fact, God’s word says that we will be KNOWN BY OUR LOVE (John 13:35).  When we LOVE, we not only have peace in our own lives, but we GIVE PEACE TO OTHERS.

God wants us to live in peace, and yet more often than not…  we go the other route.

Whether it is rooted in jealousy or a lack of confidence in ourselves (and our decisions or abilities), we begin to lash out.    It starts with the thoughts in our heads, begins to fall out of our mouths in our words, and then eventually felt in our actions and deeds.

We create competition, where there is none.  We become critical of their decisions and opportunities, instead of embracing our own unique blessings.  We try and bring others to our side, by gossiping about the person.  We try and force our opinions on others, not because we desire to see change in them for the better, but really to affirm that we are right.  Our thoughts become so self centered, that we can no longer see that person(s) in a positive light.   If we are not careful, it can begin to consume us.

If we are not at peace, we are at war… within our own heart and mind.  War is messy, and it has many casualties.  It will cost you happiness, contentment, and relationships.

 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:7 (HCSB)

Do not be conformed to this world, choose to live in peace.  Be known for your love.

“Let’s lay down our junk, our wonky junk that messes up relationships and community and togetherness. We won’t let our own crazy stop us from affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters.” – Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

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Learn more about Jen Hatmaker’s new book “For the Love” at:  http://forthelovebook.com/

Letting Go – Is it that easy?

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I think we have all been in that place where we are struggling with something, and a good willed person says:

“You are just going to have to let it go.”

They make it sound so easy, as if we could just flip a switch in our minds. 

But, is it really that easy?  Of course not!  And if the table were turned, and we offered that advice to that same person… we might be met with a dagger eyed stare.   Letting go, isn’t that easy.   It never has been.

I can recall teaching my toddlers how to walk, their little fingers tightly gripped around my own.  They are totally walking on their own, they don’t need to hold on to me, but they are afraid to let go.  No matter how much we try to tell them to “just let go”, or even slip our fingers out of their grasp, they clench their grip tighter.

The reason why letting go is so hard, is because we’ve been holding on for so long.

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We hold onto friendships, even unhealthy ones, because we have been in each others lives for so long … we can’t imagine a day where we could just stop caring.  We can’t imagine a day without them in our life, imperfections and all.

We hold onto memories of past relationships, even bad ones, because we were intertwined in each others lives for so long.  We were a team, taking on the world together.  How do you just walk away and never look back?

We mourn over deaths, sometimes indefinitely, because these were people who were integral in our lives.  We don’t want to forget them, so we hold on even tighter to their memory.

We hold on, out of fear, to our children as they grow up.  We are afraid we haven’t taught them enough, we are afraid they will make bad decisions, or that the world will wort them.  We hold on because we care too much to let go.

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Yes, there are times where we absolutely need to let go, no matter what it may cost us.

There are other times, where what we need isn’t to let go… but distance and patience.

And sometimes, we need to hold on… with everything we have.

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Continuing to hold on can be even more painful than letting go.

We must rely on God to give us discernment to know when it is appropriate to hold on, and when we really need to let go.  Then, we need to rely on God to help us in the process.  How long do we hold on for, and what actions and boundaries are to be in place?  If we are called to let go, then we need strength to do so without looking back and doubting if we made the right decision.

We must also examine our own hearts in the matter.

Am I unable to let go, because I hope for reconciliation?

That is a good thing.

Am I unable to let go, because I want evidence that I was right?

That’s a bit prideful.

Am I unable to let go, because I want to see them fail?

That’s sinful.

Am I holding on, because I feel like I can save them?

That’s pride.

Am I holding on, because I can’t live without them?

That’s idolizing.

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Letting go isn’t easy.  It is also not always the right thing to do.  We can’t always make these decisions on our own, we need wisdom of godly counsel of others and we need to be praying to God to direct our hearts.

If there is WILL, there will be PROVISION

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There is a belief that I have always held on to when making big financial decisions, it’s really quite simple:

If it is God’s will, then God will provide.

I truly believe that if God is calling you into a new place, new ministry, or new direction in your life… and that step requires some sort of financial need… God will provide the funds for that need.

I’m not suggesting that it means you can sit around and do nothing, and your bank account will suddenly grow by the amount you need.  However, I do not believe God will call you to action if it means you will acquire debt to do so.

It may be that God is preparing your heart, head and family for the transition or change, but you are not getting the finances because the timing is not NOW.   When the time comes to take those steps, the details will be addressed.

Too often, we try to force these things because we feel the call… and then we assume that it must happen right now.

But when we rush God’s calling, we are shorting the blessing.

God put a calling on my heart quite some time ago, but I wasn’t sure how it was going to unfold.  I knew God was calling me back to school, I needed to be equipped for something.  I wasn’t sure what.  Through a series of affirming events, I found myself enrolled in a certificate program. This worked for my family in so many ways.  I could work at my own pace, they had a payment system that was within our budget, and the certificates were the equivalent of a seminary degree.

I didn’t know at the time what God wanted me to do with this education, but I did know that going back to school was part of the steps to get me there.  As a mom, with young children at home, I had plenty of time to work my way through.  I was not in a rush to get a job.  So, I was just going to do what I could… as I could.

Then just a few classes in, the news broke that the school was in the process of accreditation!  They were going to start a degree program.  I was so excited. However, this was also going to be a bit more expensive.  As I stated before, I wasn’t really in a hurry.  So, I just kept plugging away at my classes.  Each payday I make a payment into my student account, because we agreed that there would be no student loan or credit card debt.  I believed if God was calling me, the money would be provided.

My first dose of reality hit when I had my transcript reviewed.  There were some classes from my old college that they were not going to count toward this degree.  I didn’t quite understand why, and I made a request to have the transcript looked over again.  I provided a bit more information on the classes, explaining why I thought they fit the degree requirements.

After a few days, I got a wonderful email that they agreed!  They credited me for the classes I questioned, and I was just thrilled.  I sat down with my course schedule to see the impact that would make on my degree plan.  Sure enough, I would be finished in ONE YEAR.  Super exciting, but I wondered…. how are we going to get the rest of the money in this short of a time?  When I didn’t have those classes credited… the end was far enough out, I wasn’t worried.  This changed everything.

But, I still held true to the belief that if this was indeed God’s calling, then the money would come.

And it did.

Within just two weeks, I was given a job opportunity that would take a few weeks of my time….but would pay for my school balance in full.  This was nothing I had done myself, but God doing exactly what He does best….

Being faithful to those He calls.

Equipping those He calls.

Providing for those He calls.

OLD HABITS ARE WAY TOO EASY

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Last night we were having our monthly women’s ministry meeting.   One of the team members hosts the meetings in her home, and she had recently moved.  I knew that she was still in the same neighborhood, just a different house.  I opened the reminder email, to grab her new address and headed out.  I have to admit, I thought it was odd that the street name was the same.  But, having driven to that house so many times, I had long forgotten the exact house number.  Perhaps, she had just moved down the actual street.  It happens.

As I turned down the street, and started driving… the thought occurred to me:  “I am going to her old address”.  But I kept driving.  It wasn’t until I was parked, right in front of the old house, that I finally grabbed my phone & called another team member.  Sure enough, the wrong address had been sent in the email.  I hadn’t noticed the email correcting the address.

I knew, as I drove down that road that I was going to the wrong address.  It was a street and house I knew well, and it wasn’t until I was there in the driveway that I fully acknowledged that I was in wrong place.

Isn’t that exactly what old habits are like?  Even if it has been months or years since our last drink, temper tantrum…. or since we allowed ourselves to slack in our studies or prayer time.  It is so easy to just travel down that road, knowing we are going the wrong way, ending up in that same driveway, and only then questioning ourselves.

Why didn’t I stop?

Why didn’t I turn around?

Why didn’t I call for help?

Even with all the resources we have available to us, to make our lives easier…  all of the people we can call on for help… all the access we have to information…  We still go down that road well traveled.   It is familiar and comfortable.

It is sometimes easier to go down the wrong road because we recognize it, and we know it.  We know the bends and turns, the speed bumps and the stop signs.  We hope that we will end up at a different place, as if we can continue taking the same path and find a new destination.

But, we can’t.  It will never be right.

We have to be willing to go down those new roads, even with all of the unexpected and unknown.

Old habits are way too easy.

New ones are unfamiliar and at times scary.

The only way to a new destination, is to start taking new paths.

OCCASIONALLY, WE ALL GO THERE

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Occasionally, we all go there… to that place of “what if”.  We ask our selves the questions that will take us back in time.

What if I made a different choice?

What if I took a different route?

What if I said something sooner?

What if I did things differently?

What if… what if… what if….

The problem is that “what if” is one of the enemies greatest tools to make us discontent with the blessings God has given to us.  “What if” makes us question the blessing, as if it wasn’t good enough.  It implies there may have been something better.  “What if” makes us look at an illusion of what could have been, instead of appreciating what is.  “What if” makes the grass look greener, life look better.  “What if” is also a lie.

Because, it never happened.  There is no guarantee that things would have turned out anywhere CLOSE to what our “what if” imagined.

“What if” tells us what we want to hear.  That some how life would be better, we would have more things, go more places, be happier.

“What if” comes with a price.

If we allow ourselves to buy in to the “what if” and dwell in those thoughts too long, we can find ourselves moving away from our blessings and becoming discontent.  And, in some cases, we will move mountains to make that “what if” a reality.  It seldom works out that way.  That “what if” can end up costing us everything.

To fight those “what if” thoughts we have to focus on the blessings.  We have to focus on what is good, noble and right.  We have to look to God and say THANK YOU for the blessings I never saw coming!

In our thanks we find contentment, and in our contentment we find happiness, and in our happiness we praise God for seeing and knowing more than we ever could.

And, in that praise, the best thing we can do is share those blessings with others.  When we have a peace and happiness that doesn’t make sense to others, they are intrigued.  They want to understand what is so different about us.

It is then we can say, in all honesty….

Myself, my life and my decisions may not be perfect… but my God is.   I trust in Him, because His word never fails.  He gives me the peace that is beyond understanding.  He gives me a hope and a future, greater than I could have ever imagined for myself.  My God loves me.  In His love, His sacrifice… I find contentment, peace and happiness.  It’s not that I don’t face trials and obstacles, I just don’t face them alone.