Being ‘There You Are’ People

I’m a missionary kid, so I grew up traveling around the country with our family, presenting the ministry in France and raising financial support. There is one event Mom and my sisters and I were invited to that I will never forget. It was a mother-daughter tea at a church. We all got dressed in our finest and showed up not knowing anyone. Instead of seating us with other women and girls from the church they placed us at a table all by ourselves. I remember feeling so uncomfortable and wanting to cry. Mom looked like she would burst into tears, but instead just smiled at us and tried to make light of it. We felt like outsiders. Like we didn’t belong. Like no one wanted us.

 

Have you ever felt like that?

 

This fall I’ve noticed a trend in myself. It’s not a new trend, but I guess I’ve noticed it more and have been able to mull it over a little more.

 

When we have been invited somewhere I get excited for whatever the event is, and then I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach that feels a lot like fear. Butterflies, but not the good kind. I wonder: Who will be there? Will I know anyone? Will I feel weird? Will I dress right? Will people think I’m (fill in the blank with any number of insecurities.)

 

Often I try to protect myself. Who can I invite to make sure I have someone to talk to? What can I wear to boost my confidence? Let me make sure my makeup is just right so I feel put together. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. There are a surprising number of times in social settings when I feel totally out of place. I feel like everyone else has a friend or at least someone to talk to, and I’m on the fringes. I usually feel like leaving right about then. Or crying. Maybe you can relate.

 

Whether it’s a birthday party, a business gathering, a church function or a family get-together, I think there are a three different ways we can go into a situation.

 

Self Absorbed

Here I am! Look at me! I’m the big deal! We can become so focused on setting ourselves up to look good and appear “with it” that it becomes all about us.
Philippians 2:3 in the New Living Translation says “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.”

 

Clearly, making ourselves the center of attention is not a healthy way to go into these situations.

 

Thinking We Are Nothing

No one wants to talk to me. I’m a nobody. No one wants me here. This is just plain unhealthy. These things are lies. If you have these thoughts in your head, capture them right away! Ask yourself if you are thinking things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8) and then remind yourself of what is true!

 

There You Are!

This concept was shared with me recently, and it’s also presented here: What if, when we walked into a room or prepared to attend a function we thought about others? What if we prayed about who was going to be there and how we could serve them and make them feel welcome?
What if, instead of saying “Here I am!” we said “There you are!”
 Wouldn’t that totally transform how we go about… well… everything? Isn’t this the essence of the second greatest commandment – to love your neighbor as yourself? (Mark 12:31)

 

This was an instant load off for me! The burden is no longer on ME to make sure everything thinks well of ME! There is freedom to be friendly, to reach out, to introduce myself and give myself in service to my neighbor – whoever they may be.

 

I genuinely feel like I can breathe better.

 

This past Sunday our family was at a local church in town that I had never been to. My husband was asked to bring the message as the majority of the congregation, including the pastor who is a friend of ours, were at a church retreat. I knew a couple of people, but not many, and I was transported back to those support-building years when we would visit a different church every weekend. I could see the anxiety in my kids’ eyes. What do we do? Where do we sit? Who do we talk to?

 

There was a young woman sitting on the other side of the room all by herself, and I had a feeling the Lord was nudging me to say hello. I’ll be honest, usually I would say “No way, Lord. She’ll think I’m stupid. She’ll think I’m presumptuous – a guest introducing herself to someone who comes here all the time…” But I couldn’t shake it. So I crossed the aisle. And maybe it was a little awkward at first, but it turns out… she was visiting too. And her husband was sick so she was there that morning because it was close by.

 

So you see… You just never know who you might bless… Who you might welcome… Who you might serve… when you say “There you are!”

 

What if, instead of waiting to be welcomed, instead of waiting to be noticed and brought in from the fringes, we poured ourselves out for others? What if we recognized that we’re all broken up, bruised and busted and we all secretly want to be known and loved?

 

As Ann Voskamp says, “what if instead of waiting for good enough things to happen to us we could be the good thing to happen to someone else who’s waiting?”

 

The Broken Way - Ann Voskamp
I was blessed to receive an advance copy of Ann Voskamp’s new book, The Broken Way, and today it launches into the world.

If you, like me and like, well, all of us, have been hurt or bruised or feel broken, I commend this book to you. Perhaps it can be a light on your path like it has been on mine.

The One Degree Experiment

I went for a walk yesterday, and I couldn’t get over the change in weather. It had been warm over the weekend here in Northern Michigan, and on Monday we got hit with frigid temperatures and wind. Today it’s all out snowing all over again. Personally, I don’t mind it – I love the drama of a good snow storm! But it got a lot of people looking forward to spring!

As I was walking through the quiet loop of our subdivision, big parka, hat and gloves on, it occurred to me that the weather lately mirrors how I feel in life right now. I feel like I’m stutter-starting. Like an engine that won’t quite turn over. Start-stop-start… stop. In basically every area.

It brought to mind a newsletter from my chiropractor’s office I had just read earlier in the day:

Some of you may know that our oldest son is studying to become a commercial pilot. I bet if we asked him that question, he would nod his head and emphatically state “yes.” When flying an airplane 1 degree can mean arriving at your destination or landing in deep water. The same principle holds true in our bodies. One small adjustment to our lifestyle can make all the difference in the end. It can make the difference between just getting old or aging well. (via Performance Chiropractic)

One Degree Change Experiment - ordinaryawesome.com - One change for one month, adding one more every month.

I’ve been thinking – one change is doable. I could choose to make one change a month and one change a month carried out over 12 months would mean 12 changes made in a year! That adds up. I’m also convinced that when we make one good change it bleeds into other areas of our lives. Which I need.

The trouble for me starts when I decide if I can change one thing I can certainly change two. And on and on.

So I’m just picking one thing in March. A one degree change. It’s getting five fruits and vegetables every day. need to do this for my blood pressure. I need to do a lot of other things, but like I said – I’m starting with this one.

That’s all! Then next month I’ll stick with that one and pick another.

Would you like to join me?

Here are some ideas of small changes you could make that could really add up:

  • waking up earlier
  • drinking 8 glasses of water a day
  • exercising 3x per week
  • reserving dessert for one day a week
  • setting a bedtime and sticking to it
  • reading a book (or increasing the number of books you already read!)
  • limit eating out
  • kissing your husband more (you determine what that means!)
  • go for a walk once a day

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Coffee Date #2 – Writing, Books and More

Hey guys – it’s been a while, so I thought we’d have a coffee date to catch up and chill. You have your mug ready? In no particular order… I give you my ramblings.

Writing Is Hard

I’m just going to be honest here – I’ve been afraid to write. Afraid of not saying the right thing and not being amazing enough and not having a “plan.” (They call that an editorial calendar. That’s when I start breaking out in hives.)

Then I start wondering if I’ve said all I have to say. But I know there is more. I’ve tried to “think something up” to write about next and it just freezes me up. But this morning, I read this in The Right to Write (if you want to write but are afraid you should check out this book) and it freed me up:

Writing is about getting something down, not thinking something up. Whenever I strive to “think something up,” writing becomes something I must stretch to achieve. […]

We are asking it to do two jobs at once: to communicate to people and to simultaneously impress them.

So there you go. That’s exactly it. I really can’t impress you. I’m just here to share a little bit about what God is teaching me and what’s going on in life I hope that’s cool with you.

I’m not an expert. I have some ideas and some tips for helping life go smoother and I do love food :) I love Jesus and I want to serve him and his people but I’m surely not further along than many of you. So I’m just viewing this as a walk together. I’m doing most of the talking here, but I would love to hear from you in the comments :)

I’ve Been Reading

Oh yes – I’ve been reading a lot and loving it. If you think you don’t have time, just be like me and stick your book in the bathroom. Even if you don’t have any business to do in there you can hide for a little bit and *usually* not get bothered. 😉 You can probably get at least a chapter a day this way – he he

What have I been reading? Maisie Dobbs!! I just finished the third one, and I’m dying to start the next one but then I got The Lake House from the library… Anyone read that one yet?? I’m being like my mom and flipping ahead to see if I can figure out what’s going to happen next! So I guess I’m on a mystery kick – both of those are mysteries. I’m also finishing up Beth Moore’s book, Audacious. 

Getting Ready for IF: Gathering

For the last few years a small group of ladies and I have hosted IF: Gathering at our church. This year we got a bigger team together and we’re hosting in two churches in our city! IF: Gathering is a conference, a gathering of women in 1600 different sites and homes, in 44 countries, all asking the question – what would it look like IF we lived like Jesus. It’s happening February 5th and 6th by simulcast – so you can watch it wherever you are with the women in your community. IF has been instrumental in my life, and I bet there is a gathering taking place close to you too! If there’s not, you can sign up to host in your home or church (or wherever) too. You can check it out at https://ifgathering.com/thegathering2016/ We’re getting down to the wire and finishing up preparations for our gathering!

My Kids

My kids are fascinated with nature, and especially the development of chickens. We’ve talked about how chicks come from eggs, that it takes 21 days for a chicken egg to hatch, but that the eggs we eat aren’t fertilized etc.

So there I was – sitting in my chair in the living room, when in comes Taylor and heads straight to the hutch where I keep my books.

“Remember that egg we put in there?” she says.

“What?” I ask – thoroughly confused. Sure enough – she opens the hutch and collects an egg from the shelf. I just sat there with my mouth open – the questions flooding in – Is it raw? How long has it been there? What if it had cracked open?? Thankfully she had grabbed a hard boiled egg that happened to be in the fridge… I had to explain, again, that no amount of incubation was going to make that egg hatch. Especially since it had been boiled. Ahem.

Ok – your turn! What’s happening in your neck of the woods??

 

Learning to Choose Joy

Have you ever taken a personality test? I love those. I love any kind of “dig into who you are” tests. Meyers-Briggs. Yes. Random surveys in the mail? Yes. I don’t know – I just get a kick out of them. Anyway, the last one I really remember taking separated people into four different types (or a blend of those four types.) I don’t really remember much about the other three types, but I sure can tell you mine.

Melancholy. I think a lot, read a lot, analyze a lot. And I find joy hard to grasp. Because a lot of times I see the negative first – you know, glass-half-empty.

I’m super fun at parties. Ahem. Ok, to be fair, I do have a sense of humor, but in a real-life situation that calls for choosing joy over whining/worrying/imagining the worst case scenario, well, I tend toward the latter.

Here’s the thing – joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is something we’re given when the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us. But we have the ability to choose it or to squelch it.

I usually squelch it. I definitely don’t seek or choose it. I’ve never written a post about joy… In fact, when it comes to joy, I need to begin with “Lord, please help me want to look for a reason to be joyful in this situation,” because it’s easier for me to whine and complain.

Enter Choose Joy, my friend Mary Carver’s book written with/about her dear friend, Sara Frankl. The best way to explain it is to quote from the inside flap:

Sara Frankl knew she had a terminal disease, but she didn’t let it stop her from living. In the face of immeasurable pain, Sara chose joy–again and again. Her unforgettable message of hope and purpose lives on, even after her death, in her words.
CHOOSE JOY is a compilation of the lessons Sara learned while she was dying, written in her own words and sewn together by her close friend Mary Carver. It is a reminder to see the beauty in life, even when it looks nothing like you hoped or planned.
In a world full of tragedy, choosing joy is no small task–but, as Sara knew, the importance lies in the choosing. Once you learn to make that choice, every day, no matter what happens, joy will come.

I’m kind of speechless about this book. I’m learning so much reading it that I don’t know where to begin. But I’ll try.

1) The suffering of others

This isn’t the primary point of Choose Joy, but it has opened my eyes to what people with chronic pain go through. It has increased my compassion toward those who are confined to their homes for one reason or another. It has made me realize that I need to look outside of myself and my little world more. It’s easy for me to get caught up in the details of my life, and I want to be more aware of people around me who need encouragement.

2) I coddle myself

I’ll just say it – I’m a whiner. Sara was in pain all the time. And as time went on she wasn’t able to breathe outside air without severe physical consequences. Her body just couldn’t deal with it. I complain because I have so much housework to do. Sara worked to find joy in her circumstances. Circumstances that were increasingly challenging. It certainly wasn’t easy for her, but she chose to do the work of finding joy:

I choose the joy. When something is going badly and I’m dwelling on it, I think instead of something for which I am grateful. I swear to you, it’s as simple as that. You just have to decide today, and again tomorrow. And before you know it, you’ll have an attitude of joy more than any other attitude you have at your disposal. (p. 27)
Most often than not, I just choose not to find joy. I choose to complain instead. I’ve got to stop being soft on myself and start working to find joy whatever happens.

 

3) Change is on the other side of suffering

Emotionally, a hole can be dug inside us so deep that it seems everything good has been excavated from our lives […] It’s in those moments that I pray for God to get me out of His way. It’s in those moments that I stop praying for what I want and start praying for Him to change my heart for what He wants. […] That doesn’t change my physical pain. It doesn’t change the loss. It doesn’t improve my earthly situation. But it does change the suffering. (p.38)
As many of you know, I miscarried two babies. Yet there was so much growing and changing and trusting that came out of that. Even though I have changed a lot because of both of them I have to confess that I have held back in the embracing joy department.

Books play a huge role in my life. And there are certain books that have been absolutely pivotal in my journey through miscarriage. Choose Joy is turning out to be one of them.

I believe joy is the next piece in healing and recovery for me.

Some might think this book is only for those going through intense physical difficulties.

I say this book is for everyone. Because everyone, at one point or another, will experience loss of some kind. It may be losing a job. It may be losing a loved one. It may be losing health. It may be losing the dream of what you thought life would be.

When (not if, WHEN) that happens, we get to choose how we will respond.

Sara’s life is an arrow pointing to joy.

Choose Joy is available for preorder now, and will be released on January 5, 2016.

How To Hear Him Better This Advent

Every time it snows, I wait for my opportunity. When the house is quiet and dark, I tiptoe into the living room and curl up mesmerized in the big front window to watch the flakes fall silently – blanketing the ground, trees, and houses, and muting the world. Is that a rabbit peering from the edge of the trees?

These are sacred moments. The blue light of my phone and voices competing for my attention are traded for the yellow light of the moon and hushed white clusters streaming to the earth – I sigh relief.

I feel small, and I remember One who made Himself small. Jesus who “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14.) I can hear him better sitting in this stillness. I wait in anticipation.

How To Hear Him Better This Advent - ordinaryawesome.com on (in)courage

In the quiet, I realize, and maybe you do too, that I have become full. And not in a good way. Full of expectations for this season, full of plans and pulls. Full of Facebook and Instagram – I just can’t seem to put them down. Full of myself and what I want. I’m so filled up that I can’t put anything else in.

When I feel like this, I know what I need to do, but sometimes I need someone else to confirm it. So if you need confirmation, you have it from me…

Keep reading with me over on (in)courage where I’m sharing my heart for Advent.

P.S. I think you’ll love (in)courage just like I do! Sign up here to receive free daily encouragement from the writers of (in)courage, right in your inbox!

Dear Children – {An Open Letter To My Kids After November 13th}

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

Dear Morgan, Levi and Taylor,

Today we had car trouble and couldn’t make it to church. Daddy went very early since he’s in charge of tech at our church, and I thought I’d do church with you at home. But as the morning went on I was so troubled inside and praying for you and for our world.

You know, because you first saw it with me, that bad men killed innocent people in Paris on Friday, November 13th. We were just settling in for a fun Friday night show, but when I turned the TV on, that’s what we saw. I tried to tell you as much as I thought prudent without scaring you. You know I love Paris since I grew up in France and Daddy asked me to marry him at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

There are so many thoughts swirling in my head it’s hard for me to do much but function and pray.

6 different attack sites in Paris.

129 killed and 352 injured and martial law for the first time in Paris since World War II.

Arrests in Belgium close to friends of friends… How many are in the U.S.? 

Closing borders… People calling for our borders to close… Obviously I don’t want terrorists here, but what happens to legitimate refugees?

What happens next?

I started to worry so much this morning I just gave up the idea of church with you guys.

But as I was peeling potatoes for lunch I heard you in the front living room.

Now Is The Time To Wake Up and Start Dreaming

There is a trend I’ve noticed with myself – I tend to think a lot about what I should do, what I need to do, and very little about what I want to do. And when I do think of things I want to do it is very often complaining to myself because I can’t do those things, telling myself they’re unrealistic, or that they’re not important.

I have eliminated a lot of things that I enjoy in the name of practicality and thrift. I’m not talking about anything crazy, I mean things like getting my hair cut regularly, putting makeup on, painting my nails, wearing clothes that I enjoy or even spending time outside. I have denied myself these simple pleasures, telling myself “I’m saving money,” “I don’t have time – I’m a busy mom,” and “It doesn’t really matter.”

The Real Secret to Building Deeper Friendships

A while back I was whining to Steve about how in the world I would get 150 minutes of exercise in every week, but he wasn’t playing along: “Well, we have been sitting here for two hours watching TV…” I was hoping for a little more sympathy…

Then my good friend Liz called. After we had chatted for a while she said “Hey, I don’t mean to be weird, and I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I know you’re concerned about being here for your family and about losing weight, and I wondered how that was going…” What she meant was –

“Hey, I know you don’t want to die, so what are you doing about this?”

When I mentioned this to my mom, she asked if I was offended. No, I am not offended. I am so glad she asked. I was kind of floored and thankful and weepy all at once.

I was floored because, I mean – who asks that? First of all, weight (and being overweight) is one of those things that is generally off the table as far as discussion is concerned. Am I right? Second of all, it’s definitely taboo to ask how someone is doing actually losing weight.

I was thankful and weepy because I knew this meant I had made the kind of friend who asks those kinds of things. And that’s the kind of friend you want.

There are friends who stay on the comfortable surface and talk about “approved” subjects. The clean, nice, easy, let’s-not-lose-too-much-face subjects. When we don’t go deeper than that, we aren’t building anything. We’re not growing, learning, changing, challenging.

I want to be the kind of friend who gets down to the bottom of things. Oh, I know there has to be some small talk to start out and get to know each other, but that should not last a year in a real friendship. Let’s get past the fluff, and talk about the stuff that really matters. The thoughts that plague us, the doubts, the dreams. Let’s talk about how we need to stop yelling at our kids and ask each other for accountability. Let’s talk about how we try to feel better by shopping and eating and whether we’ve kept our thought life pure.

The Real Secret to Deeper Friendships | ordinaryawesome.com

 

True friendship goes deeper than the subjects that are comfortable. True friendship says “I’m going to ask you this hard question because it’s good for you to have to answer it. And I care more about you than I do about either of us feeling uncomfortable.” Because when we talk about hard things we bring them into the light. When we talk about hard things we share the burden. When we talk about hard things they become less scary. We strengthen spirits and encourage hearts.

Several weeks ago I felt prompted to ask someone close to me about a personal issue. I didn’t do it. I felt I would be overstepping, I felt that person would take offense at my asking, and I persuaded myself that that person was fine without me asking, that person didn’t need the accountability. I sincerely wish now that I had listened to the Holy Spirit’s prompting at the time and asked the uncomfortable question.

Let’s not ignore promptings to check in with someone just because it might be uncomfortable. And let’s give others permission to get beyond the surface with us, and into the things in our lives that really matter. This is what builds real friendship and true community.

What about you? Do you need to have a conversation with someone? Do you need to ask for accountability in an area? I hope you’ll invest in deeper friendships today.

Parenting: The Hard Balance of Protection and Trust

It’s coming up – July 7th – the day, a year ago, on which Taylor all but cut off the tip of her pinky

Parenting: The Hard Balance of Protection and Trust - ordinaryawesome.com(Her hard cast after her surgery, and some sympathy from her brother. :))

Parenting: The Hard Balance of Protection and Trust - ordinaryawesome.com
(Daddy holding her while we waited to have her pin taken out.)

Parenting: The Hard Balance of Protection and Trust - ordinaryawesome.com(Her final soft bandage after her pin came out – 8 weeks after the accident.)

This month, 11 months later, I finally bought another pair of pruning sheers. And boy did I have some talks about those things – when I brought them home and again when I used them for the first time: “These are very sharp. You may never touch them. If you see them do not touch them. You may not help mama by using these.”

I even bought an apron to wear when I’m using them so I don’t inadvertently put them on the ground and turn my back – now, they’re always on me if I have them out, and on an inaccessible shelf any other time. I want to eliminate all chances of an accident happening again. I want to protect my children as much as I can.

Pruning shears aren’t the only thing I worry about. I find myself praying this kind of thing for my kids:

“Please, Lord, keep them safe, don’t let them get hurt or sick… Protect them from unkind people and tragedy…”

Once in a while I even think, “We’ve made it this far… maybe we’re safe from something really bad happening…”

But the reality is we will not always be able to shield our children. Not at age 3 or 29 or 52. 

Here are a few thoughts I’ve been mulling over when it comes to protecting my kids:

What You Need To Know About Your Worth, and God’s Goodness

Steve and I have always wanted four kids. Steve comes from a family of four children; I come from a family of six children. Our plan was four. And then I miscarried. Twice, and both times in the second trimester – you know, the “safe zone”. A year apart almost to the day. It seems my body isn’t carrying babies anymore. Let me tell you – this was not part of my plan. It’s been painful letting go of this dream, this reality that could have been, but never will be.

I have had it in my head that mothers of four or more children are more amazing than the rest of us. I have felt that if you’ve got 4, 6, 10+ kids you’ve got to be some sort of super mom. I’ve been over here wondering why I didn’t make the cut. I’ve asked myself: Is it my lack of patience? My less-than-stellar organizational skills? Have I done enough damage with my three, so God thought He’d better stop me before I really mess things up?

If you’ve ever had thoughts like mine, lean in for the truth – the number of kids you have does not quantify your worth as a woman nor how good of a mom you are or would be. We live in a world of sickness and imperfection and sometimes our bodies (my body) just won’t do the things they technically should be able to do. We could go into all sorts of discussions about the sovereignty of God, and the mystery of His plan, and how He uses suffering in our lives… Those are good discussions, but sometimes not helpful when you’re just plain hurting.

What You Need To Know About Your Worth, and God's Goodness - ordinaryawesome.com

But I do want you to hear this – not only is the number of kids you have not a reflection on you – it’s also not a reflection on God. I did some real bargaining with God while I was pregnant this last time. I had just gotten used to the idea of not being pregnant again. We were in no way trying, and here I was – pregnant. I flat out told Him I didn’t think I could trust Him if He took that baby away. I shook my head at Him and told Him He had better not. I was almost mad at Him in advance. When I miscarried that baby at 16 weeks – the baby that had surprised us, the baby I hadn’t allowed myself to be excited about until I passed into the second trimester… well, it felt cruel. I felt God had wounded me personally. I didn’t see how He could possibly be kind because this felt mean. And I was really mad.

I’ve had to slowly crawl out of what felt like a pit. As I have, a picture has developed in my mind – of my left hand holding my reality, and reaching with my right hand, over my left hand to grab hold of the Bible – the truth. After almost a year, I have come to see and understand that I can choose to believe things about God based on what I am seeing with my eyes – I can interpret God based on my reality – or I can choose to believe the rock-solid, never-changing Word that God has given us about Him over what I am experiencing. I can choose to see my reality through the lens of truth.

My circumstances, and Satan, the slanderer of God, may say to me: “He’s mean. He doesn’t care if you hurt. He doesn’t care if you suffer. He doesn’t want you to be happy. He can’t possibly be good.”

But the facts are that God the Father sent His Son to live a perfect life, feel pain, endure sorrow, experience betrayal, suffer a gruesome death FOR ME.

The truth about me as a Christian is:

I am part of “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (1 Peter 2:9)

I have been chosen by God and adopted as His child. (Ephesians 1:3-8)

I am complete in Christ. (Colossians 2:9-10)

(And I could go on.)

The truth about God is:

“The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” (Psalm 103:8)

He has “plans to prosper [me] and not to harm [me], plans to give [me] hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

Dear friend, I hope that you will reach over your circumstances to take hold of the truth in God’s Word. I am still working on this. Maybe you are in the middle of pain and heartache, but I can say for sure that the wrestling is worth it. Fighting to believe the Truth is worth it. Coming out on the other side knowing more fully that Jesus is for us is worth it.

So. What will you choose to believe about yourself and about God?