Chronicling 40: Day 9 of 365

ontarget

I’m not entirely certain if this has something to do with turning 40, or that we had a ministry training this morning on budgets, but…

I went to Target and only bought what was on my list.  I walked out with five things.  FIVE. 

I’m counting this as a victory, because I exercised restraint. I did look.  I may have laid my hands on a few things, or raised an item or two off the shelf.  The important thing is that I put it down and kept walking.

Miracles.

Chronicling 40: Day 6 of 365

summer

In roughly two weeks my kids go back to school.  Where did this summer go?  I feel like we just started summer break.  It seemed like we had so much time, and now we are running out.

Parents of youngsters, I know that quite a few of you are counting down the days until your kids are back in school.  Summer squabbles are exhausting.  Proclamations of boredom may be grating your last nerve.  And all of the eating, you are tired of spending so much time prepping snacks or telling your kids to stay out of the pantry.

As a mother who knows what that is like, let me give you some hope… one day this too will pass.  This is not the first summer where I am asking for a summer buffer… a little more time.  More time to rest.  More time to spend with the kids.  More time to do things. More time to connect.

Before you know it, you have a kid starting college and another entering high school.  The baby?  She’s finishing up her last year of elementary school.   Your kids are turning into adults before your eyes.

When you feel the summer struggles creeping in… try to embrace the days you have left.  There are only so many summers before adulthood.

As I grow older, so do my kids, and perhaps hitting 40 makes me a bit more aware of how old they are… how little time I have left in these years… and a desire to make the most of it.

Chronicling 40: Day 5 of 365

clock

I’m 40.  I have a child who starts college this fall, another starting high school, my youngest is only a few months away from 11.  This means that in roughly 7 years time, all of my children will be adults.  We will be paying for college for the next 12 years in a row (sans any scholarship monies), and the reality it that there will be at least 1 wedding followed by a possible grandchild.

This blows my mind.  In so many ways I feel like I am still just a youngster myself, no where even close to the vicinity of being a grandparent.  These facts have hit my husband the hardest, I think, because of his work schedule.  So much time has been called away from his family, and making sure that we relish the time we have left in this space as a family is incredibly important to us.

We are balancing our younger kids activities, our eldest having a job and college, his schedule, my ministry that is growing (and in short order will be a full time job).  You can’t see my calendar, I don’t post my daily comings and goings online for the world to see.  I am busier than most people realize, but at times that seems to be overlooked because I am a “stay home mom”.

So yes, I am going to pick family night over girls night out.

If my husband has a weekday off, I am going to choose to spend it with him over lunch at a local cafe.

As our family dynamics are changing, we have opportunities before us that have been put on hold in order to raise young children.  Health issues have taken some of our energy and strength, and as we get older we need to focus on being our healthiest selves.

So yes, I may be more interested in hitting the gym than the ice cream shop.

If I need to rest or tend to my health needs, I am going to choose to do that versus fill up my schedule to the point of exhaustion.

Time is finite.

Energy is finite.

Add into the mix having an autoimmune illness, my energy capacity is less… which means that my time is even more valuable.  Even on my best days, I am still running on less than energy than others.

I once read an illustration that compared life with an illness as to starting your day with a certain number of spoons.  Everything takes a spoon from you.  Since you are starting with a limited number of spoons to begin with… every spoon is valuable.  Somethings in life take spoons from you, and you have no say over that. Getting sick, emergencies, doctors appointments, etc.  Then you subtract all those necessary daily life spoons (tending to the house, kids, work, etc), you are left with the number of spoons to be spent on the things you enjoy.

There are a lot of things I enjoy.  I do enjoy spending time with friends, reading, painting, going to the theatre, cooking a great meal, having fun with the kids, date nights with my husband, travel, learning, etc.  Lots to enjoy, but not as much time or energy to do it all.

Spoons are nontransferable, they don’t roll over to the next day.  I can’t reshuffle my spoons for days where I need more energy.  If I take a lazy day and I don’t use up all of those spoons, I don’t get to keep them.  Each day starts anew.

This means that I am going to be really strategic about how I spend my time.  It means I may need to say no more often than others will like to hear.  I may not have time for that phone call, or to help you with that favor.  A life of spontaneity may elude me.  I may choose to stay home and do nothing.  My ringer may be turned off.  I may choose to conserve my energy for my family.

Why?  Because for this season, I know where I want all of those spoons to be spent.  I have 7 years before my youngest is off to college.  In those 7 years, we are going to see transitions in our family as the older two begin navigating adulthood.

There will come a time, when they are living life… and all of those spoons spent on my kids needs are now mine to use freely.  There will be time for coffee dates, girls night out, a girls trip to an exotic location, and so much more.

What I need today, more than anything, is understanding that in this season my family is my priority.  My husband.  My daughters.  We want to be immersed in these years in a way we have never been before.  It’s funny how when they are infants you see so much time ahead of you to do all of the most wonderful things.  Then one day you are slapped in the face by reality, time has passed quickly.  Too quickly.

Trust me, one day you’ll find yourself in this space (it usually happens when your eldest child starts their senior year).  I’ll give you grace, because I’ve been there.  Until then, please give me grace. I’m navigating a new space in this parenthood journey where I want to hold onto my family a little tighter.

It’s not you, it’s me.

I need you to be ok with that.

Here is a truth, there are people in my life that I call dear friends.  They are heading right into the same space I am in.  We have known each other for eleven years, they were some of my first friends.  We were in MOPS together, go to church together, and our kids would have play dates together.  We would see each other every single week.

Now?  We see each other 2-3 times per year.  They get it.  I get it.  No one has feelings hurt, because we understand the unique needs of this time.  None of these ladies ever has to explain themselves to me, nor have I ever had to explain myself to them.

This is the beauty of friendship, real friendship, that can survive the most trying of times.  The friendships that evolve with time, bending not breaking.  The friendships that will stand the test of time, crazy schedules, changes in life, and all the things that come along with it.

My 40th: Day 3 of 365

hands

My friend Jenny took this picture just a few days ago, when she posted it to Facebook, she added the scripture.   I could say so much about what this picture means to me, and how it has been a reflection of the last year.

Two years ago, the Lord brought these three hands together in only such as way as He can.  I don’t live in the same city as these ladies, not even in the same county, or even the neighboring county.  I didn’t share any mutual friends with them (at the time).  But through a ministry connection, this friendship was born.

We have served alongside in ministry together, as Jenny and Aimee have both spoken at Women’s Ministry Council meetings.  We even jumped into the fray, and tacked a big topic… Diversity and Unity in the church.  We were cautious, nervous, maybe even a little afraid.  But the burden to push forward could not be pushed away.  We know that the Lord isn’t done with us in that capacity either, He is working things out and paving a way for a larger conversation.

Outside of the diversity our skin color and life experiences bring to the table, there is a commitment to God that intertwines our hearts together.  There is also something there which isn’t as easy to see… honesty.  You can’t have a conversation about race in the church, race in the community, etc without baring your souls to one another.  Being open about what you didn’t understand, having your heart broken over the experiences that your friends have lived through.  But, that isn’t the only honesty between us.

We have hard conversations.  We speak truth to each other.  We have conversations that are tense.  However, we choose to push through the awkwardness because our friendship and commitment to serving together is so much more important.  Not even two weeks before this picture was taken, Jenny and I had a really hard conversation.  Only speaking for myself, I walked away from that conversation a bit wounded and confused.  But, Jenny knew this.  Instead of burying my feelings, in the course of the conversation I told her “this hurts a little”.

In the days after, I needed to get my head straight.  Who is Jenny?  She is my friend, not my enemy.  Why was I feeling hurt?  Did I even need to be hurt?  The more I thought about these questions and more, I could only land on what I know of Jenny.   What I know of her is that she is a woman who pursues Christ, and she is responsible for the calling the Lord put on her life.  I know that she is wise, trustworthy, and kind.  I know that she is honest, direct, and she has good intentions.  She is a Kingdom server, loyal, and just like the rest of us she is not perfect.

The more I pondered about the Jenny I knew, my heart felt less of a sting.  I recognized that I really had no reason to feel hurt.

There are three things that I have taken away from this, that I am holding onto as I venture in the 40s.

  1.  It is far better to recognize the hurt in the moment, than to stuff it and let it stew.  It is not only healthier for me, but it is good for the other person to know as well.  Should there be actual fault, a person can not apologize for something they are unaware of.  If there is no fault, it allows the person to know that you are in a tender place and may need some space to heal.
  2. I need to surround myself with people whom I can be this honest with.  I knew I could be honest with Jenny.  Reflecting on my past, I can think of people who were in my inner circle and I couldn’t be that honest with.  This tells me that I either didn’t really know them in the first place, or that I knew and disregarded the fact that they were not people I could be honest with for the sake of having a friend.  Usually these are the people who will be direct and honest with you about your sins, but Lord help us all if anyone were to actually call them out.
  3. I need to evaluate who is in my circle, it may be time to prune… create boundaries. I want the friendships that I have, moving forward, to be built on good foundation.  It is quality over quantity.  Reciprocal relationships where we are each a blessing to each other, iron sharpening iron.  I want to walk away from phone calls, lunch dates, ministry work, etc feeling joy, peace, and even a belly hurt from laughter.  I can no longer afford to walk away and feel emotionally exhausted, beat up, pressed down, and overwhelmed.

There is a woman that I have been friends with for a very long time, and I thought it was a healthy friendship.  Now, I am not quite so sure.  I never set boundaries, nor stood up for myself in our friendship.  She has a very strong personality and frankly, I am intimidated by her at times.  I thought I could overlook that strong personality, especially since I have one myself.  However, in the last few days I have realized that while I enjoy most of our time together, it’s not always pleasant.

I’m going to take a heavy dose of blame here because I didn’t handle things well from the start.  I didn’t set boundaries, and the friendship became overwhelming.  Instead of sitting her down and being honest, I just imposed distance.  In the moments where she was overstepping her bounds, I didn’t speak up and tell her that she needed to back down.  Many years later, that resulted in a boundary-less friendship.

This came to a head recently, and when I recount our last interaction and how I felt when I left, I wondered if this friendship was really a blessing?  Not only was I asking if she was the the type of friend I needed… but also the reverse.  Am I the right friend for her?  Am I a blessing to her?  Is this a friendship that is salvageable?  Can we put in boundaries, or is it too late?

What to do with this revelation?

Before I do anything, I must take this to the throne.  As humans we are just fallible.  It is amazing what we can justify to keep in our lives, or to let go.  We allow the opinions of others to influence us.  We can have to soft of a heart, or a deep desire to be liked.  We can fear hurting even those who hurt us.

What does God’s Word say about what our relationships should look like?  What kind of character should we be looking for in those we pull into our inner circle?  Who should we avoid?

This doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves from the world at large, we can’t fulfill The Great Commission doing that.  I’m talking specifically about that inner circle, the closest friends, those we want to rely on for wise counsel and solid truth.  The ones we are going to give permission to speak into our lives.

I am going to trust the One who orders my steps.

Gena Version 4.0

40bday1

Today was my birthday.

It was probably one of the best birthdays I have had in a very long time, maybe ever.  Which is awesome considering it was my 40th.

By total coincidence some of my girl friends were planning a spa day, and the date we chose happened to be my birthday.  We all met up at the spa.  My friend Ester walked in with a balloon, that I was then instructed to carry with me throughout the entire day.  Fortunately, most of the ladies didn’t realize it was my 40th … otherwise, I suspect things would have been a bit more out of hand.

After our spa services and lounging in the most amazing mineral pools, we had lunch.  Surprise two was a birthday cake.

Summer birthdays are hard to celebrate, everyone is coming and going.  So it was just nice to to be surrounded by friends, relaxing, and having a good time.  Balloon and cake, that was just bonus.

Then came the rain and we move to the lounge area, hoping it would pass. I was watching the ladies chat and become a bit reflective.  So many people hype up 40, but I was sitting there… relaxed… and happy.   Truly happy.

The storm wasn’t going to break up, so we decided to call it a day.  Came home, napped, my husband took care of dinner.  It was just the most stress free, relaxing day.

As I think back on it, I realized… I want more of this.  More contentment.  Less stress.  More joy.  Less frustration.  More quality time with friends.  Less spreading myself thin.  More health.  Less struggle.

Ultimately this led to today’s post.  I’ve decided to chronicle my 40th year.  I’m going to post daily, sometimes they may be quips and others a bit longer.  But I want to document what 40 brings.

I thought about Moses.  For the first 40 years, he had it pretty easy.  In a study I found online, from Peninsula Bible Church…

“He was then the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, a totally active person in his own right. According to the Scriptures, he was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was a man of power in both words and deeds. According to “Antiquities of the Jews” by Josephus, he was also a general with a good track record, and had once saved Egypt from the Ethiopians. So he knew he was good. He had always been at the top of the heap, always been adequate for every situation and had proven his ability to command, to lead, to combat, and had already once been a deliverer.”

Do you relate?  I do.  I’ve been a lifelong student, always active, involved in various things.   I have always been in some sort of leadership role or team, as far back as I can remember.  I’ve never felt like I couldn’t do the job before me, proven myself capable and dependable.

At 40 years old, Moses received his first calling from God.

For the last few years, I have felt that the Lord was preparing me for something.  Sometimes the calling seem clear, then there would be fuzzy moments where I wasn’t so certain.  I must confess, I am one of those who likes to see the finish line.  I don’t mind how long it takes to get there… as long as I know what it is I am running to.

I made the decision that I was going to be ok without knowing, and just walk each day in whatever path is being laid before me.  I was going to be ok with not knowing His ultimate destination for my life, my calling.

That was, isn’t, easy.

In April, things began to suddenly take on some momentum.  Big changes, lots of them, were happening all at ones.  Faced with decisions, opportunities, etc.  I sit here on my 40th and I see the call clearer than ever before.

But that doesn’t mean everything falls into place this year.  Moses didn’t walk out of Egypt and encounter the burning bush the same day, week, or year.  He still had another 40 years of moving into the call.

What I hope you take away from this, is that 40 doesn’t need to be something we lament.  In fact, for many of us… it’s just the beginning.

And if you have already passed 40…  good news, God still isn’t finished with you either.  Just trust, yield, and hold on.

You Can Not Hold Back the Dawn

dawn

 “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may endure for a night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.”

Psalm 30:5 AMP 

From a 1959 sermon by Reverend Leslie D Weatherhead entitled: The Religion of the Dawn…

“There is a dawn answer for every situation we encounter.  We cannot pretend there is no night.  Nothing can be done to hasten the dawn.”  But, “you cannot hold back the dawn”

[Christianity] is a religion of unquenchable faith and hope and patience; unquenchable because it believes the permanent thing is light and the passing thing is darkness; that however long the night, whether it be in world affairs or the poignant private world of the human heart, the night will pass.  You can’t hold back the dawn.  All affairs, private and world-wide are in the hands of a God who is in complete and final control and who has decreed the entire conquest of all evil and the final emergence of indescribable good.

Reverend Leslie D Weatherhead

We may face the coming darkness, because we have the promise of a glorious dawn.

Feet Washing…

feetwashingJesus washed the feet of Judas, a few hours later Judas would betray him.

Foot washing displayed different significant things in Biblical times.

It put a person in a servant posture.  It was an act of humbleness and humility.  It was a necessary act.  A repetitive act, as well.

Something I read recently made a great observation about Jesus’ washing of the disciples feet.  First, it was pointed out that there was no servant there to do the job.  Second, they were already in the midst of the meal when Jesus’ took on the task.

When there was no servant there to handle the foot washing, it never dawned on the disciples to do it for each other.

Third, when Jesus began to wash Peter’s feet there was a protest by Peter.  He didn’t want Jesus to do something he felt was beneath the Messiah.  Jesus responded: “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” (John 13:8); to which Peter then asked for a complete cleaning.  Which is exactly what happens when are spiritually cleansed… when the blood of Christ washes away all of our iniquity.

When He was finished, Jesus said “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).

Remember the earlier point about it never dawning on the men to wash each other’s feet?  We have been commanded to be Christlike, to posture ourselves a servant for others.  To wash the feet of those who we love, and even those who will betray us.

We may wash feet with bowls of water, expensive oils, and perfumes.  We may dry those feet with soft towels or strips of linen.  Or, we may wash their feet with our tears and dry them with our hair (Luke 7:44).  We wash their feet when we drop off meals while they recover, or mow the lawns of the elderly.  We wash their feet when we grasp their hands, and provide a shoulder to cry on.  We wash their feet when we speak blessings over the friend and the stranger.

We wash their feet when we posture ourselves to serve, not be served.

The Apology I Didn’t Know That I Needed

TheapologyIdidntknowineededIn my previous two pieces, I shared about my experiences with this year’s Gospel Coalition Conference.  First, I shared my personal retreat reflections which helped me recognize that I had some issues where I was harboring some anger towards people that I needed to forgive.

Then, in the second piece, I shared how my mentoring session with Serge.org showed me other areas where anger had been rearing it’s ugly head in my life.  Anger is a sneaky sin, that can mask itself in many ways.  Some seeming obvious, others much more subtle.  I knew that I needed to address these issues.  There were people I needed to forgive, including myself.  I needed to preach the Gospel to myself every day, reminding myself how the Lord sees me vs. the lies I have been told.

The third reflection was the two moments in which someone who had never wronged me apologized for the wrongs others have committed.

This first time happened during my serge.org mentor session.  As you may recall in the session I shared about my ministry work, obstacles I was facing, and how I felt like a failure in certain aspects of the work.  While my mentor, Hunter, did shift the conversation to a more personal direction… the first thing he did before taking that turn was to apologize.  In fact, perhaps it was my response to the apology that confirmed for him that the personal direction was the path he needed to travel down.

He recognized that the obstacles I was facing were very wrong, and hurtful ones… and he apologized to me for it.  I have never expected an apology over any issue in my life.  Maybe I set my expectations too low, or experience has taught me that apologizes come less often than deserved.  Regardless, I have never expected a person who has never wronged me to apologize on behalf of others.  This apology was spoken directly to me, not in generalities and with complete sincerity.  It ushered in validation that I didn’t know I needed to hear, but clearly I did.  I needed to not only hear the words, but I needed to hear a man speak them.

His apology was still sinking in, when I attended a workshop on Pastors and Women in Ministry.  At the beginning of the session we were given instructions to put questions on cards for the panel and pass them forward.  In the latter half of the workshop, the panel members would try to get to as many questions as possible.  There was no way to get to them all and the moderator did a great job of trying to collate similar questions into one general concept.   One of the questions dealt with Women’s Ministry Leaders who didn’t feel supported by their church, another one came up about women who didn’t feel like their church valued their expertise or ministry skills, a third question about how to disagree with your Pastor respectfully when you are a woman with higher education in the field or expert on a subject, and some women just wanted to be trusted to lead well.

These questions were answered, but you could tell one of the panelists was uncomfortable by the similarities of the questions.  It was his turn to address the next question, but he paused with the need to address the questions of the hurt women in the group.  In a microphone, to a room filled with women and Pastors, at a workshop that would be recorded and listed on TGC’s media page for the conference for the world to hear… Pastor Sandy Willson spoke to the hurt women with a very simple, “I am so sorry.”

It was sweet, tender, and genuine.  It was spoken to the group at large, but in many ways I felt like it was directed right at my heart.  Tears filled my eyes.  Twice in one day, I would hear and receive an apology from a man who never wronged me.  And, twice it would impact me more than I expected and bring in a sense of peace.

In honesty, I suppose there are some people I wish would say they were sorry for treating me a particular way.  But, I believe pride has prevented that.  Which has allowed me to more forward knowing that until they deal with their pride, and apology will never happen.  I didn’t expect that I would need to hear from just anyone that they were sorry for the events that occurred.  I had no way of knowing how their apology could lighten my load and make my steps toward forgiveness come with such peace.

I find myself able to let go of it not only toward the specific people involved in those situations, but also realized that I had been projecting their behaviors on others.  I was lumping all the apples in to the bad pile, allowing one bad apple to spoil my feelings toward an entire group.  Instead of tossing the bad apples aside, and being thankful for the good ones.

And so, I want to pass this gift on to you.  Whomever you are.  I know that at some point someone treated you unfairly, spoke unkind words to you, broke your heart and your trust, and I know that sometimes these wounds are deep.

I am so, so, sorry.  I pray the Lord comforts you, that there will be people He will put in your path that will lift you up, and that you can forgive even those who don’t ask for it.

The Christian Word for Anger

thechristianwordforanger.png

Anger is funny, funny thing.  It masks itself in many ways.  Some are more obvious (like withdrawal, sarcasm, and the like).  Others are a bit more subtle, which was revealed to me just after my Personal Retreat and during the course of The Gospel Coalition conference.

If you recall in my last piece, my twenty four hour Personal Retreat revealed that I was holding onto some anger that I didn’t realize was there.  People I needed to forgive was a priority on my list.  But the Lord wasn’t done revealing to me the ways in which anger had penetrated my life.

During the conference, I had an opportunity to sign up for bonus events being held alongside the conference.  One of which was an event put together by Serge.org, which not only had a two morning breakfast with speakers from their mentoring and leadership team but offered a one hour mentor session.  I jumped at the opportunity to speak with a veteran in the ministry field for advice/direction/suggestions for the ministry work I was involved in.

In my session with Hunter Dockery, I laid out exactly what my ministry work was about and where I saw it going.  Then I shared some obstacles I was facing in that process.  I thought that this was the place Hunter would be able to help me.  I wasn’t prepared for the fact that Hunter was less interested in the work, and more interested in me.  How was I personally being affected, how was my marriage, etc.  This was personal, and exactly what I needed to explore… I just didn’t know it.

I’m going to spend my time on this piece speaking to just one of the questions I was asked, but I’ll probably talk more about this in future blogs.

As I shared about some of my obstacles, and how I felt as if I was failing those I was serving… Hunter basically asked me how I felt about those who were impeding the work.  I said that I was frustrated, and that is when he laid it out there…

Frustrated is the Christian word for angry.

Well, crap.  If frustrated is the Christian word for angry, I may be angrier about more things than I realized.  Between my personal retreat and this moment, I was seeing things with more clarity.  I imagine it like a large room that is completely dark, without any single light source but multiple lamps scattered through the room.  The Lord was taking me one step at a time, turning on one lamp at a time.  Illuminating the room a little bit more versus flooding me with more light than my eyes could handle in one flip of a switch.

I was being put into a position where I would have to face and own these feelings, in order to correct them.  And the only one way that was going to happen, was to keep turning on more lights.

I’m thankful for my time with Hunter, not just because he helped me to see this underlying emotion but instead the greater gift came with the next question.

“When you imagine the Lord speaking directly to you, what does He say?”

I imagined a God who was frustrated with me.  Those were not my exact words to Hunter, but something that I understood later.

Well, if frustrated is the Christian word for angry… then I realized that I imagined that God was angry with me.  Let down.  Disappointed.   It was in a flash of clarity that I realized that while I believed God’s promises for others, truly and deeply… there was a part of me that saw myself still broken.  That my daily mistakes and failures were evidence that I still wasn’t living up to the par.

Hunter said words that will stick with me forever.

“You need to preach the Gospel to yourself, every morning.”

I’ve since thought about that, and made a choice that I need to shut down and replace the words that roll through my head.

liesthewebelieve
Chart based on a presentation by Lysa TerKeurst on Proverbs 31 Ministries First 5 App.

  I had listened to too many lines, believe the lies, labeled myself based on what others have said or done, and it became a liability that was holding me back from living in the freedom gifted by Jesus Christ.  The Gospel wasn’t just something to share with unbelievers but something that we believers need to be reminded of constantly.  The world tries to overwhelm our senses to the point we forget the promises that God has made to us.

This is an issue that I am still working through, with the Lord’s help.  Lamps are still being turned on.  However, I find myself already more at peace as I preach the Good News to myself, every morning.

And a few times throughout the day, as needed.

Because God so loved the world (and Gena) that He sent His only Son, and whoever (this means Gena too) believes in Him will have ever lasting life.

Jesus paid the wages of (Gena’s) sin.   You (and I) are new creations in Christ, washed clean by the blood of the lamb.  Sons and Daughters (including me) that were adopted into His family, where nothing can separate (even me) from Him.