Princess Poutypants

Seriously. Everything happens at once. Tonight I walked downstairs to replace the filter on my two-month-old replacement furnace when I was greeted by an unpleasant surprise: a leaking water heater.

Immediately my mind went to the “what-the-heck-this-sucks-I-am-not-made-of-money” mindset. I started a pity party for myself (I included brownies). I picked up my cross – and tried to crucify myself upon it because…. Well…. I’m such a great person and all that loves Jesus and…. So, yeah. That happened.

After my tears fell, my daughter reminded me of the story of Job and how he lost everything. But, she reminded me, he remained faithful. She told me, “He lost it all, Mom.” Yeah, Baby Gurl. He did, didn’t he?

Well, that makes a faucet, a furnace, and now a water heater seem inconsequential, doesn’t it? I suppose my Princess Poutypants performance didn’t hold a candle to Job’s troubles. But my girl-spawn nailed it: Job. Remained. Faithful.

I stood at my sink, trying to catch my breath after an exhausting day and this troubling discovery from tonight. I was on the verge of a panic attack. I took one deep breath and asked God to please reveal what He was trying to show me. I actually asked twice to just show me. Please.

Suddenly I felt peace. I heard, Trust me. Not in true words. More of a feeling and a random thought.

My God is the God of Miracles. The God of the Impossible. The God of Making Things Happen. He has this under control.

I, however, am a recovering (sometimes poorly) control freak. He is reminding me He has this situation – and me – in His hand.

My situation is complicated because I have one income. I support this household. Unexpected expenses arise every so often, but this is a bit extreme.

Sooooo…. I have a choice: believe in His promises and who He says He is, or take control and stress myself out. I am promised that He will never leave me or forsake me. To find freedom, I have to hand my struggles over to Him and trust that He will make the impossible possible.

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“In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”
Job 1:22 NIV

“Then Job replied to the Lord : “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”
Job 42:1‭-‬3 NIV

The Journey Begins

If I asked you to jot down the first five words you think to describe yourself, what words would you use? Would they be positive and uplifting, or negative and self sabotaging? Focused on looks or heart posture? Affirmations or derogatorives? Biblical truths or lies from the enemy?

As much as I would love to say that my words would be centered around Biblical truths, I know that it would depend on the day. On a day where I was exhausted, I would likely focus on my shortcomings and excuses. On a day where I was angry, I’m afraid self-loathing thoughts may win. On a day where I have nothing left to give, I would likely lament on how inferior I am as compared to where I should be located. Honestly? 96.93615563% of the time, I would likely not be voicing Biblical truths about myself.

I struggle, friend. On the daily. As a single mother and IT professional, I have to be “on” all the time. I’m an introvert by nature, but my job requires extroversion. I can fake it, but it. Is. Exhausting. I could go days without speaking to another soul if I could. Maybe even weeks. Wow. #ohthatsoundsamazing

It seems as though there is always something requiring my attention. I’m good at dealing with those distractions, but not quite as brilliant at self care. I start healthy behaviors, but then fail in a fiery display of nopeness. I try. Oh, how I try. And fail. Sigh.

Well, my health sucks at this point. Cardiovascular, endocrine, musculoskeletal, immune….. All of these systems are freaking out and – my suspicion – they are failing because of a lack of self care.

I encourage others to see a massage therapist for joint pain. I recommend healthier behaviors to others to help them feel better. I remind diabetics to eat healthy to keep blood sugars in check. But…. I do not apply those rules to myself. I eat whatever is convenient because it’s just me, I’m in traffic, I don’t want to cook and dirty dishes, I have too much to do when I get home, and so many other things. Where do I find time/money for massages when I’m trying to remove all debt? My sugars cannot be bad if I only check them on days I eat healthy-ish.

Friends, these things are distracting me from my purpose. I have to do better. I have to take steps to heal, both spiritually and physically. I must make the time before there is no time left.

The bigger issue is the idolatry that surfaces. I’m choosing convenience over my relationship with Christ. I’m choosing horrible behaviors over treating my body as the Holy-Spirit-housing vessel it is.

I have a purpose, but – unless I am around long enough to fulfill it – it will go to waste and be lost forever. Jesus died on the cross so I could grab fast food? No way. He was beaten beyond recognition so that I could play a glucometer game? Negative, Ghostrider.

So I’m starting a journey. More than weight loss. More than lip service. More than just existing. I’m taking back my life. Not for me, necessarily, but for Him. So that I can do what is asked of me.

I know from experience that the only way to make these changes is through baby steps. I am incapable of making drastic changes that last a lifetime. I am, however, capable of small changes that become habits. I need to learn to love myself and speak truth and prophesy over my life.

This is a journey. There is no end date. Each day needs to end with a nugget of wisdom gained. A truth revealed. A step forward. A gesture of respect toward myself.

I must allow myself to ask for grace, and I must grant it. I need to focus on progress over perfection. It all boils down to better choices. Weighing the options. I’m ready

I have an amazing support system in place, for which I am grateful. God places those we need on our paths. He has set me up for success.

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“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”
1 Corinthians 3:16‭-‬17 NIV

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:1‭-‬2 NIV

Promises, Promises

There are many things I am. I am a mom. I am a writer. I am creative. I am blessed. I am highly favored. I am chosen. I am a child of God. Those are some highlights.

There are also many things I am not. For example, I am not forsaken. I am not alone. I am not unloved. I am not unloved. I am not unwanted.

Sure. I can sit here and list these things like they are second nature. Easy peasy. Even more importantly, I can encourage you with the truths of who you are when you need it. I can see it clearly for others. When I try to apply those truths to myself, though…. That’s where I board the struggle bus. Heck. Ya know what? Scoot over. I’m driving this struggle bus most days.

I mean, I know who I am. I know whose I am. I feel it. Until I don’t. And when I don’t? Oooooh-weeeee. That’s where it gets ugly.

When I spend too much time in my own head, I can rationalize being the only person ever to be too far gone for forgiveness. The only person in history beyond the reach of God’s grace.

Sounds ridiculous when I say it. I can see that clearly as well. But, man. I have a real issue cutting myself some slack when I fall short.

I can rationalize myself right out of an abundant mindset with my own headgames. I don’t remember reading about self sabotage when I learned about spiritual gifts…. *insert eyeroll here*

The promises given to me by my Heavenly Father are eternal. They are generous. They are perfect. They are abundant.

So, why do I allow my own thoughts to convince me that God should revoke His promises to me, and only me?

Someone else may do something better or differently than me, but that doesn’t mean I forfeit my inheritance as a result of being “outperformed”. It means that they each have a similar – but still unique – calling. There is no comparison because we each have a specific purpose. They may cross at times, but they do not infringe on each other. They don’t “squeeze each other out” or even compare one calling against another.

Our God wants to bless each one of us. There will never be only one artist, one writer, one trainer, one coach, etc. in His Kingdom. There will be many. However, each person will offer a unique spin on their assignment.

We are not clones of each other, so we have not had the same experiences. Each experience shapes who we are and how we reach others. An abuse victim sees things differently from someone from a healthy family environment. Each perspective is valid. Each perspective is important. Each perspective is unique. Each perspective will reach a separate group of people.

Dear friends, we spend so much time worrying about scarcity that we forget His abundance. Instead, we must remember that there is more than enough for each of us. We are more than enough in Christ. He uses the broken to heal the broken. He loves each of us completely and uniquely. He blesses each of us in ways that speak to us as individuals.

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“And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”
2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
John 10:10 NKJV

No Big Deal

It can start as something so simple you don’t even recognize it. It’s just something that causes you to stop and think for a second before you disregard it as you go on about your day. No big deal, right?

Ahhh…. But it is a big deal because it fills your heart with discontentment. The seed is planted and it grows. It’s one of the enemy’s favorite tools to use against you. I’m talking about comparison.

Comparison isn’t just looking at someone else and seeing the difference between our lives. Comparison works its way into our hearts and expands, squeezing out what we know about ourselves and our God as we focus on what others have or feel. Comparison causes us to focus on our lack.

We all battle against ourselves. We want what we don’t have. We imagine “that pretty girl” would never understand how it feels to be rejected because she is so beautiful (yet people want her only for her looks). “That rich boy” never knew a hardship (but he lives a private life of abuse).”That popular girl” never met a stranger and is so outgoing (but her parents haven’t looked at her in weeks). “That poor kid” has no idea what a good life means (yet laughter echoes throughout the home).

The truth is we all make assumptions that are inaccurate, unfair, and judgmental. We have no idea what is going on in someone’s life.

Personally, I compare my body type, appearance, intelligence, marital status, parental status, style (I have none and I’m okay with that), occupation, house, name, foot size, skin tone, transportation, etc. to everyone around me.

“Well, they are a dual-parent household with two incomes” is a personal fave of mine. Just because they have two people in their household doesn’t mean their lives are any easier. It doesn’t mean they have more money. What it does mean is that they have multiple people working in their household. That’s it. Yet I can come up with how they should be living on a tropical island like they are part of “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”! Remember that show? Oh. No? So I guess I’m old. Moving on…..

When I start comparing, I get jealous. “See? They’re better at [insert task] than me! I’ll just let them do it and I’ll quit.” But, friend, there is such a huge issue with that approach!

Point one: our God is the God of Abundance. There is more than enough to go around. He doesn’t take from me to give to you! He gives to both of us. Abundantly. When we use the gifts He has given us, there is always more to come.

Point two: God created you for a unique purpose. He created me for a unique purpose. You can’t fulfill my purpose any more than I can fulfill your purpose. He is counting on your flavor of doing something to reach some people while He is counting on my twist on a task to reach other people. Your purpose is specific to you. Nontransferable. You cannot give your purpose to me because your experiences are not mine. He will use our unique experiences to reach different people.

Point three: comparison paralyzes us. When we focus on what we cannot do rather than what we can, we lose our edge. We are too focused on what others are doing to work to complete our assignment.

Point four: so many people are counting on each of us. When we delay or forfeit our purpose, there are Kingdom impacts. We must focus on God’s will rather than our own and clear our minds of comparison so that we can reach who He intended us to be for His plans.

When we focus on who He created us to be – without giving in to the temptation to compare ourselves to someone else – it’s so much easier to remember that there is more than enough to go around because we serve a generous God. The God of Abundance is in control.

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“But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.”
Galatians 6:4 NKJV

“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Galatians 1:10 NIV

“No” is a Complete Sentence

Get up. Get ready. Feed the kids (the furkids, anyway – that human kid is way too picky and opinionated, and she can handle her own morning meal choice). Rush to work to sit in traffic. Wait for elevators (high-rise work life). Scramble to your desk. Rush to meetings. Maybe get to pee and grab water, but maybe not. Maybe lunch is real, maybe it’s a figment of your imagination.

The workday is done. Now reverse. Wait for an elevator. Rush home to sit in traffic. Feed self, maybe human kid (depends on the available choices and hormones of said spawn, of course), definitely furkids. Unwind. At 1:46am, remember 52.6 things that have to be done by 6:45am. Go to sleep. Maybe. Or doze. Or obsess over the crazy crap that fills your mind.

When you see your days laid out, a few things become clear. First, jeez – we are totally missing the point here. Accomplishing little with no downtime. There has to be more. Secondly, we are completely overwhelmed. Finally, there is no time to add any other tasks, but we will certainly try it anyway. Yay, peer pressure! *insert eyeroll here*

We go-go-go and believe that resting somehow equates to laziness (it really doesn’t, beeteedubs). Having an empty slot on a calendar has somehow become proof of a failure. Forgetting about the $5 needed for a classroom function in 3 hours is yet another example of how we suck as a parent.

For the love of all that is holy! Enough is enough! We have to learn to say no as an act of self-preservation. No, we do not want to attend a fundraiser for heated toilet seats at the local public school after a long day, but we say yes anyway. Oh! And we “would be honored” to bring 569 custom decorated cookies to honor the cause! Sign. Me. Up! Whatever happened to “cold seats build character”?

Sweet Jesus in Heaven above. No. Just say NO.

We are so driven by the perceptions of others that we agree to absolutely ridiculous demands just to try and fit in. Can I be honest, honey? You don’t fit in – because you were not meant to fit in! You were born for a divine purpose. A unique reason. You have been set apart! Not to run yourself ragged and fall over at a soccer field from sheer exhaustion, but to build God’s Kingdom.

We get so caught up in the desire to be super parents that we lose sight of our kids. We strive to be the best worker and hate going to work. We have to be the best whatever that we forget the reason we said yes in the first place. Why? Because we are so. Freaking. Tired.

We always want to “do” and, when we can’t, we feel like we have to give a three-minute narrative on why we cannot fulfill our self-imposed duties.

Want to know a secret? We don’t need to explain. “No” really is a complete sentence, friend. It’s your sanity. It’s your reality. It’s a lifesaver. No. Just huh-uh. Can’t. Nope. Nothing else is needed.

Focus on setting limits for yourself so that you can refocus on your priorities. Spend time with God. Limit your distractions and commit to remain in the moment. When we are distracted or exhausted, it is so easy to forget to spend time with God.

Say no so that you can be restored and rest. Your purpose awaits. Dear, sweet friend, you never have to be anything more than yourself. Ever. God created you to fulfill a purpose that is uniquely yours. No one else can do what you have been called to do, so save your strength and stay focused on Him. Embrace your blessings. Let go of the constant motion. Rest in the Lord. Seek His guidance.

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“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Romans 12:2 NIV

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28‭-‬30 NIV

New Year, New Word?

Last year, instead of making resolutions, I followed the lead of others and focused on a word. One single word that would be used to keep me on track through 2018. I mean, 2018 couldn’t be as crappy as 2017, right? My word for 2018 was “fearless”.

Why “fearless”? My entire life, I have let fear rule my actions. I was too afraid of being deemed a failure to do many things I wanted to do in life. If someone saw me mess something up, they would judge me. If I failed, my failure would be visible to everyone. Fear ruled my life – and I allowed it to continue.

So 2018….. I did several things I had never thought I would do. I put my writing on display. I embraced my goofiness. I decorated ornaments, and put them up for sale (and people bought them!). Was anything perfect? No. Was there room for improvement in everything I did? Absolutely! Did people criticize? Oh, gosh, yes. But it hit me: I would be criticized if I did nothing and I would be criticized if I did something. It mattered not what I did or didn’t do because the scrutiny would have occurred regardless of what I did. My bonus: by stepping out, I found peace and joy – and a hobby! In the middle of smack talk. Despite the whispers. In spite of the haters.

So all that to say: that word thing kinda worked! It kept me focused just enough on my goals without limiting my means of getting to my destination. I didn’t obsess over my goals. I didn’t totally annihilate myself over missteps. I didn’t self sabotage to become a self-fulfilling prophesy of failure. Instead, I actually made great strides in accepting the grace offered. Perfect? Heck no. But I’m better than I was last year.

Enter 2019. I decided to focus on a word again. Not abandoning “fearless” because that journey still has some miles to go. More like piggybacking on last year to build more. I prayed for my word in ’18, so I prayed for my word in ’19.

At first, I thought my word was “enough”. You are enough. You have enough. You have had enough. Ok. Got it. Then, as I sat still and cleared my mind, I realized it was actually supposed to be “grace”. “Grace” kind of takes “enough” and expands it.

You are enough because grace has washed you clean.

Scriptures and quotes about accepting and giving grace flew through my mind for two days before I figured this out, by the way. I am clearly not a genius in this area….

Anywhooooo….. “Grace” in 2019. Grace for family. Grace for friends. Grace for strangers. And, most of all, grace for myself. Grace has been given to us and so we must give grace to others.

We don’t deserve grace and we cannot earn it, yet it is freely offered without strings attached. It clears the slate. Elevates us to our rightful positions as children of God. Covers us in God’s eternal love.

Honestly, I do better at offering grace to others than offering grace to myself. Or accepting it. I’m working on that, though. Now I have my daily reminder to keep me moving forward.

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“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—”

Ephesians 2:8 NIV

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 4:16 NIV