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Friday, August 1, 2014

She Wanted to Linger


I saw her come in the door of the restaurant and waved her over. She smiled and hurried to our booth, gave me a quick hug and sat down across from me.

The waitress was right on her heels. She offered her a drink, and my friend ordered exactly what sat in front of me: coffee and a glass of ice water.

But then my fairly new friend said something that made me swallow down hard and skip a breath.

She looked at the waitress, smiled all friendly and said, "Now we're going to be drinking a lot of coffee and sitting in this booth a long time talking, so I hope you don't need this table any time soon."

The waitress looked a little baffled, but smiled and shrugged her shoulders. Then she left to get my friend's bottomless cup of coffee.

The woman who had invited me to breakfast didn't just want to eat and dash. She didn't have an appointment she needed to get to. I don't remember if she even wore a watch, but I know she never looked at it if she did. She never once glanced at her phone or looked restless. She had come to linger.

We ordered eggs and bacon and fruit and such. But by the time we pried ourselves from the vinyl seats of that booth, our waitress was serving the people behind me hamburgers and fries and colas.

Don't you just love it when someone wants to sit and talk and linger just as much as you do? So often we feel that we've been squeezed into a calendar or schedule, we're on the clock, we're one task on a list of to-do's. So when someone makes it clear that they have all the time in the world for you...doesn't it just melt your heart a little?

Before we even delved into deep conversation, my heart was already soft and tender toward this woman who wanted to do nothing more than spend time with me on this weekday morning. And then she listened...with her ears, her eyes, her full attention. I felt valued and loved and interesting and humbled.

She wanted to linger...with me.

What a gift.

Think about the last time someone carved out plenty of time for you. Not just a few minutes on the phone or a quick lunch. Those meetups certainly have their place. But think about the most recent time when someone let you know up front that you were their priority. How did that make you feel?

Nice, huh?

Would you be willing to give that gift to someone in the next few days? You may have to move some things around on your calendar or even cancel something. You may have to get the kids taken care of. You may need to state your intentions up front so that the other person does the same. You may need to take your watch off and turn your phone to silence.

It's worth it.

Lingering. It's one of the sweetest, most precious and rarest gifts of friendship. Perhaps some of us have lost the art of lingering altogether. That's a shame. It doesn't cost much, and it does you as much good as it does the friend who sits across from you. Lingering speaks volumes, even beyond the words you say during the time you converse.

Indeed, we drank a lot of coffee. We said a lot and listened a lot. We prayed together. We ate heartily and laughed and wept and sighed. I don't remember all the words (although I do remember many of them). But I will long remember the message my friend spoke to me when she chose to linger...with me.

How does it make you feel when someone chooses to linger with you in conversation? Would you like to share a for instance? I'd love to hear all about it!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Is Something Eating at You? Walk with Me...


Is something eating at you?

My bet is it's an insecurity. We all have them, you know.

That's right, even Angelina Jolie has insecurities. We all do. Beth Moore said "so long!" to hers here, but they still show up occasionally.

Insecurities are those nagging thoughts that eat away at our confidence, our joy and our sense of purpose.

They quiet our voices when we're supposed to raise them. They stop us in our tracks when we have somewhere to go. They tie our hands behind our backs when we need to lend them to others. They turn our eyes inward and focus on what's missing. They loudly shut out the Still Small Voice that bids us "look up."

You have insecurities. I do, too.

But do you know what your insecurities are? When you learn to call them by name, you sap some of their power right then and there. When you identify them they can't sneak up on you quite as easily.

Tell you what, I'll go first. My insecurities include loneliness, fear of failure, feeling awkwardly different, an insatiable need for affirmation, and the fear of being left behind. Yeah, I've got those...

How can you know what your insecurities are? Examine your thoughts about yourself. See if they fit these stymying credentials:

  • They call you names. They label you, giving you no room for change or growth, no grace for mistakes. Perhaps they call you "a bad mom," "a nagging wife," "a fatty," "a failure," or "a dummy."
  • They focus on what you can't do instead of what you can do.
  • They remind you frequently of the past.
  • They make you feel inadequate, less than, inferior, hopeless.
  • They take God's power and grace out of your equation.
  • They lie. Oh, but they're so good at telling you lies that you often don't recognize the lies. You may have become convinced that they're telling the truth.
  • They trip you up frequently, causing you to stumble into sins you swore off just yesterday...and the day before...and the day before that.
  • They're often the very same insecurities you can easily spot in others. And when you see someone else wearing them, you're disgusted or offended or saddened. Hmm...
Yes, we all have insecurities. But we don't have to let them rule and reign in our lives.

Today I encourage you to spend a few moments with the Lord, asking Him to lovingly and gently show you your insecurities. It'll be ok. I promise. He won't berate you over them. 

Allow Jesus to graciously speak truth over them. It might sting a little at first, but my bet is that His truth will feel more like a soothing ointment on the wounds they have inflicted.


Then, now that you've identified these sneaky parasites, refuse to feed them any longer. Oh, that will be hard. You may be used to feeding them. After all, these are the unwanted guests that linger around the buffet when you have a pity party. They're the feelings that enjoy those self-indulgent little forays and encourage you to throw another one sometime soon.

But sister, that party's dead. The real party happens when you quiet those intruders and start revelling in the grace of God instead. 

You have insecurities. I do, too. But we don't have to let them get the best of us. In fact, we don't have to give them an inch. And it all starts with letting those suckers know that you've got their number. And you're not feeding them anymore!

How do you live aware of your insecurities, but without allowing them to rule? How have you successfully stopped feeding those nagging thoughts?

Each Wednesday I post encouraging thoughts on Walk with Me Wednesdays. I link up my words of encouragement with other bloggers at Holley Gerth's Coffee for Your Heart.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Why I Kept Staying Home


We were munching on chips dipped in salsa and sipping on sodas, but our conversation had taken a more serious turn. Sadness and confusion made her beautiful brown eyes look even darker.

Her third child had reached kindergarten age and my sweet young friend now faced the same dilemma I encountered about 15 years ago.

Do I return to the work force now? Full force? Is my job at home done?

I posted Wednesday a little about my choice to stay home as a full time mom and homemaker for the duration of the time my children were under my roof. But that post wasn't really about that choice; it was simply about staying the course on whatever path God has called you to.

But today I'm stepping out on a little bit of a limb and sharing with you why I chose to continue being home even after both of my kids had started school. Still I'm not stepping up onto a soapbox. It's not my intention to load guilt or stress onto any sweet mama's shoulders.

If, however, like my sweet young friend, you're wrestling with what comes next after dropping your last child off at kindergarten, I would like permission to gently bend your ear. I simply want to weigh in on your own contemplations. I don't want to "start something." OK? No mommy wars, no condemnation, no comparisons. But if you're already feeling a gentle tug toward remaining home after your children have gone off to school, I want to share with you the very things I shared with my friend over chips and salsa.

Because everyone else will tell you why you certainly need to go to work, I want to tell you why you should consider staying home.

Your Job is Far from Over

Just yesterday I drove by a billboard that touted that the first five years of a child's life are the most important developmentally. The sign had a picture of a physician on it, so I'm assuming this is some sort of medically proven fact.

But my experience is that there is still significant development left to take place after year five. I'm all for encouraging moms to stay home at least during the first five years of a child's life, but I think many parents miss the point when they assume that most of the job is done by this stage.

After age five your children are still learning how to take instruction, how to treat other people with respect, how to yield to authority, how to manage their time wisely, how to handle finances, how to eat and exercise in a healthy way, and so much more.


Sure you can continue to teach your child these developmental lessons even if you return to work outside of the home, but you'll find your focus and time limits you.

Keep reading...

Your Focus Still Needs to be on Your Children

Whether they work outside the home or not, parents need to continue to pour everything they've got into training up their children in the way they should go. This doesn't become a part time role just because the kids are now at school a portion of the day. The job is no smaller, but the time and energy and focus allotted to it often are. I think that's a problem of which we're reaping the results in this country.

My mom was a school teacher when I was growing up. And she and my dad gave their all to parenting my brother and me. I do remember her lying on the couch to rest a little most afternoons, but my mom managed to stay focused and energetic enough to engage with us in the evenings and weekends. Truthfully, I barely knew she worked.


That's why I do agree that some careers are better suited to raising children than others. And only you can know if you truly have enough left over after working all day to engage with your children sufficiently in the evenings and on the weekends. But I encourage you to think about this balance carefully.

Parenting Becomes More About Your Child's Timetable

When your children are little, you get to dictate when and where and how you will engage with them. But as they head toward the teen years, their body clocks demand a different setup. Teenagers tend to be hard to crack in the mornings and more eager to talk and engage in the early afternoons. That's not just my experience; many parents and even scientific studies have noted this inner clock phenomenon.


I found that when my children first got home from school they were more likely to open up about what happened to them that day than they were later in the afternoon or evening. I was thankful that I was there to take advantage of that window of opportunity. And you'll find with teenagers that there is no prying the closed window open. Once they've retreated to their rooms, their laptops or their game systems, it's difficult to get them to engage in authentic conversation. Sure, you can make them sit at the dinner table with you or go for a walk (and I encourage you to do just that), but you'll be more successful having real and honest conversation if you engage on their timetable.

There's More for You to Do

I'm so thankful I was available to go on field trips, take cookies to an after school rehearsal, volunteer at the school and participate in my church's week day ministries. Sure, those aren't necessities, but aren't you thankful that at least some moms are available for school parties and chaperoning opportunities? You can be that mom. And that's no small role. It's important.

Plus, this is a great season in life for you to invest in a weekday morning Bible study, participate in a Christian exercise group, volunteer at the crisis pregnancy center, spend a little more one-on-one time with the Lord in the mornings, or serve as a mentor mom for that MOPS group you just outgrew. Those investments are not frivolous. Read that out loud this time. Those spiritual investments are NOT frivolous. They are the good part.

But the Lord answered and said to her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

Mary had chosen to spend time at the Lord's feet, listening to Him, focusing on Him. This is no small priority. This is a choice that bears fruit in your own life and in your family. Don't let our culture demean your choice to invest your time and energy in spiritual matters. You are not wasting your time by attending Bible study group or serving at your church. You are investing in eternal things. Do you believe that?


Finally...

I know not every mom can afford to stay home at all, much less all the way through their child's education. But I do encourage moms who are facing this decision to carefully count the costs and the benefits. Don't simply assume that this is a no brainer. Don't just get on board with the culture and follow the same route as the majority.

Look, even my husband grappled with this issue. Quite honestly, I think he would have liked for me to get a job some days. And I did work as a substitute teacher for a period and eventually began freelancing as a writer and speaker. But I knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to continue to focus on parenting my children. And I'm so thankful I did. My husband is grateful I did, too.

Do you have anything to add to my thoughts? I'd love to hear from you. And while I want to reiterate that I don't want this to be an argument or debate, I'm open to hearing any opposing views as well. Let's just keep it encouraging and friendly, though. Right?


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Struggling to Follow Through? Walk with Me


Even before we married, my husband and I decided I would stay home with our children while they were young. At the time, in the early 90s, that decision was even less popular than it is now. And on a newbie pastor's salary, it wasn't easy to follow through with financially. But with prayer and a step of faith, we made it work.

Still, I cannot count the number of times I must have doubted that decision. Not only because we had to watch every nickel and dime, but for a long list of other reasons as well.


Some days boredom drove me to doubt my choice. Other days the voices of our culture mocked my "career" choice. Loneliness, isolation, restlessness, and discontentment raised their taunting voices as well. And more often than not, I just felt like I "wasn't doing it right." I felt inadequate for the creativity, energy and warmth I felt like the job called for. And being a fulltime mom and homemaker simply didn't play out according to the script I had conjured in my mind.

But I pressed on. I prayed... a lot. I sought out the company of other stay-at-home moms. I engaged in the tasks at hand. I reminded myself that even if others did not value or understand our decision, my husband and I had carefully and prayerfully chosen this path...and it was worth staying on.

I'd like to tell you that there came a day when I woke up and knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was doing the right thing and just plain ol' enjoyed my calling from that day on. But that didn't happen. Quite honestly, I doubted the choice to be at home off and on throughout that phase of my life. I wrestled with my commitment all the way through. 

Until it was all said and done.

Today I can look back and tell you without any hesitation that staying home with my children was the right decision. It was a blessing...for me and for them. Good things, many good things, came from that commitment. In retrospect, I wouldn't change a single day I spent engaged with my children and taking care of my home and family.

Today's encouragement has nothing to do with convincing you to be a stay-at-home mom. It has nothing to do with persuading you to invest more in your family. And it certainly has nothing to do with exalting my choice to stay home over others' choice to work.

I simply want you to understand that there are some decisions we make--good, prayerful, and careful decisions--that, once made, are difficult to follow through with. Due to the very benefits and blessings these commitments guarantee in our lives, the enemy will pursue us with doubt and frustration and fears and restlessness from the moment we endeavor to keep them. He will seek to convince us that we've made a mistake, that the price isn't worth it, that there's a better and easier way, that we're not doing it right, and that we might as well throw in the towel.

If you have made a decision--prayerfully and carefully--stay with it. If God has set you on a different course than those around you, if He has asked something from you that others are not giving, if He has planted a passion in your heart that does not grow in the hearts of others, or if He has called you to a ministry that requires great and even unusual sacrifice, press on. Follow through.

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.
Galatians 6:9

You may not feel it every day. You may not receive the affirmation you expected from others. You may not see immediate success or reward. It may not always be fun and exciting. You may have days filled with doubt and restlessness. Others may drop their batons and quit.

You hang in there.

The reward is coming. The commitment is worthy of the price. God has not left you out on a limb alone. Trust me, the day will come when you look back and know without hesitation that God has rewarded your diligence.

And those days when you didn't feel so diligent, when you lost your vision, when you doubted and almost quit? God's grace takes care of all those days. Don't you worry about those. He knows we will sometimes grow weary and doubt. But He calls us to press on.

But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.
2 Thessalonians 3:13

I hope these words of encouragement will help you to press on and follow through with whatever God has called you to do. And I'd love to hear about it if there is a particular calling you are struggling to follow through with. I'd be glad to pray for your perseverance and success.

Press on, sweet friend. Press on!

Today I'm linking up with Holley Gerth and other bloggers, offering you encouraging words at Holley's Coffee for Your Heart.


You'll find other encouraging posts in my Walk with Me Wednesdays series.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Are You a Brave Bible Student?

"So I Just Read Proverbs 13, And It Made NO Sense To Me... HELP!!! The Bible Is So Good Yet So Confusing!" 
- a young friend on Facebook

I smiled when I read my young friend's plea for guidance this morning. She's fresh out of high school, on the verge of stepping out into the world where she will have to make so many decisions for herself. She's a smart, beautiful and delightful young woman.

And she typed for all her friends to see, "HELP!"

Of course I felt a little awkward responding to her plea. Who am I to assume that I know the answers? All of her friends would also see me offering a reply. Would I look like a know-it-all? Would they assume me to be arrogant? 

I prayed for guidance and typed her a simple response that would lead her to discover truth on her own.

"You might want to try reading Proverbs 13 herehttp://bit.ly/1kp0VSH in the Message version. It makes it a little simpler to understand. Take each verse on its own. Proverbs are maxims or wise sayings. They are not promises; but are generally or almost always true. Each verse in Proverbs 13 stands alone as a wise saying that we should consider when making life choices. One action results in good things; the other in our demise. See if that helps..."

I wasn't sure that was what she was looking for, and I was still nervous about the perceptions of others. But how could I let this opportunity for growth slip by? And, according to the Facebook status, she had posted her desperate cry for help 13 hours ago, and no one had responded as of yet.

I admit, I was a little relieved when she responded to my reply, just minutes later with:

"Thank You So Much! (: "

And then I thought of you...my blog friends. The Lord used this little unexpected situation to put two questions on my mind for you.

  1. What do you do when you read something in God's Word that you don't understand? Do you ask God for help? Do you seek guidance from someone you respect, someone whose life indicates they follow God's teachings? Or do you brush aside the mystery, allowing confusion and lack of knowledge to mound into destructive fortresses of doubt?
  2. What do you do when someone asks you about a teaching in the Bible? Do you get flustered and send them elsewhere? Do you simply offer them "what it says to me?" Or do you prayerfully consider how to give the seeker truth, biblical counsel and even tools for sound, responsible study on their own?
Trust me, I'm not preaching to you here. I've ignorantly skipped over many passages I should have delved further into. And I've gulped with fear when questioned about difficult doctrines or hard sayings of Jesus, rambling through my response with little confidence and looking for a quick exit. Maybe I was able to handle my young friend's question this morning simply because I could take my time with it and she wasn't sitting across the table from me. 

But I'd like to challenge you and me alike with one word today:

Brave

We need to be brave enough to ask...

and...

brave enough to answer when given the opportunity.

Why? 

Brave enough to ask...Because life and death are in the balance. Because God wants us not to be ignorant, but to know. Because He has revealed Himself to us and wants to be known. Because you are meant to grow and thrive and live with freedom. Because the Bible tells us that with the help of the Holy Spirit we can understand His Word.

Brave enough to asnwer...Because He has equipped you and promised to give you the words to say. Because He is gracious enough to fill in the gaps when we leave holes in our answers. Because people are in search of a little hope, some truth to stand on, answers. Because it matters.

Lord, make us brave. Give us the gumption to ask questions when we are confused. And give us the courage to answer when we have learned and others are seeking. Make us brave.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Road Trip!!! With Two of My Dearest of Friends

We talked and ate and sat in the bubbling jacuzzi and hiked and talked and ate and shopped and talked...

Candy, myself and Michelle the afternoon
we headed out for Tennessee. Roadtrip!!
Recently I had the opportunity...no, I TOOK the opportunity, to get away for a little girfriend trip with two of my oldest, dearest friends. The three of us are all celebrating our 50th birthdays this year, so we decided to reunite for a four-day celebration in the Great Smokey Mountains. We frequented Gatlinburg and nearby Sevierville several times on high school band trips.

Our "cabin" in the Great Smokies. You can rent it here.

The porch where we ate all of our meals...
well the ones we ate there. We ate out a lot!
Inside the cabin. You KNOW you want to rent this place!
Interestingly, these are the same friends (minus one who is a year younger than us) that I took my senior trip with right after high school graduation. That year we went to Candy's lake house; this year, right at about 32 years later (can that be possible!?!) we went to Michelle's mountain cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Me, our friend Jeanna (who's a year younger and
still a dear friend, too) and Michelle
at Candy's lake house in 1982.
Michelle and I have been friends since we were about 9 years old, and Candy and I became fast friends when we met in the 7th grade. We both played the French horn in band. (Candy and Michelle have their master's degrees in music; I sold my horn years ago!) Throughout all of our middle school, high school and college years, Candy, Michelle and I have remained tight, close friends. These are the gals I did life with during all those formative, fabulous growing up years.

Me and Candy on the dock at her lake house,
probably Labor Day weekend, 1981. Candy
had hair down to her tail bone until just after
high school graduation.
Candy and me with our beloved high school band director, Mac Bowman.
Michelle and me at Univeristy of Georgia graduation, 1986. I look tired!
I cannot tell you how much I love these two women! They are both fun, godly, beautiful and precious ladies. We live in different places now, and only see each other maybe once a year or less. But we can pick up conversation like we just left off yesterday and talk up a storm! You know we solved all of the world's problems on that trip.

Candy and Michelle catching up with one another
while we explored Cade's Cove, a unique
Appalachian settlement in the Smokies.
We were make-up free during the days. That's how good of friends we are!
As the three of us caught up with each other, we discovered that one or the other had read books, seen movies or enjoyed music the others needed to experience. So on the car ride home Candy wrote out a list for each of us of the tips the others had given about media choices. I have books and DVDs to last me all year now.

Getting away with these two gals for a few days was one of the highlights of my 50th year. We relaxed so well together that we got completely off any schedule that we might normally keep. As we headed out for dinner each night around 8 o'clock and finally said goodnight around 1 a.m., we laughed that we'd have to keep our schedules a secret from our husbands because they didn't know we were capable of keeping such late hours!

Candy and me posing before shopping and dinner.
Hiking up to Laurel Falls.
Candy and Michelle have been constants in my life. The only thing that has changed between us is the distance between our homes. Yes, we do go for months without talking or texting sometimes. We are all busy women with full lives. But there have been countless times when one of us have needed the others and we've always been there for one another. Not only that, but we've continued to enjoy each other. We still deight in our conversations, our laughter and our commonalities. And we have roots with each other. There's just something about having deep roots that intertwine with another's deep roots, you know? We have history. I like that.

I absolutely adore these gals! And aren't they so pretty? Even sans make-up?

The skies opened and pour rain right after we took this picture!
What about you? Do you have childhood pals or friends from your youth that you still keep up with? Do you have an enduring friendship that gives you stability and comfort? Why not send a card, type a quick text or arrange time for a long heart-to-heart telephone call with her? It will do your soul good to reconnect. Trust me.

We worked really hard at taking the perfect selfie of all three of us
those four days, and finally got this one. I'll spare you the others!!

We will definitely be doing another one of these girlfriend trips.
What took us this long? (Well, kids, careers, families!!!)
Thanks for letting me share my trip with you. Have you taken a similar trip with girlfriends or sisters? (Candy is on her 50th Birthday Sister Trip right now with her three older sisters!!) I'd love to hear where you went and with whom!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ready to Glow and Grow? Walk with Me!

I had started out with the best of intentions, but once again I had failed. Or at least, I thought I'd failed. By my standards, I was a complete failure.

What did I fail at? Oh, you name it, I've flubbed it up.

  • That teachable moment with my kids
  • The job interview
  • A new recipe
  • A vocal solo
  • Pitching my book proposal to a publisher
  • A difficult but necessary confrontation
  • Driving home without getting a ticket
  • The romantic dinner I planned for my husband
  • My well intentioned to-do list
  • The speaking engagement I failed to show up for (just once!)
  • My effort to keep. my. mouth. closed. and listen.
Just because I'd like a little company here, I'm going to assume that you've messed up a time or two as well. Am I right?

Yesterday I posted about how my friend Candy introduced me to the Glow and Grow philosophy for handling our "failure" or even our successes. You might want to read it here. But I thought today, for our Walk With Me Wednesday, we'd walk through this simple process together. And I mean let's really get out a pen and paper (or a journal if you keep one), and put this thing into practice. You might be amazed at how encouraging this simple process can be.

So go get your paper and something to write with. Ready? No, really, go get something to write on and with. Alrighty!

Jot down something that happened in the last day or two that you've regretted a little. It doesn't have to be a big project gone bad or a complete disaster. It could simply be a conversation that took a wrong turn, a to-do list with few checks on it, a promise you broke to your child, or that quiet time that kept getting pushed down in your day and finally never occurred.

Now, let's glow a little in that frustrating moment. That's right. Even in our biggest failures we can usually find something we've done right. If nothing else we had some good intentions, right? Here are a few examples:
  • I botched a new recipe and had to throw it out - but at least I tried to make something new!
  • I failed to pick my child up on time from VBS - but I got her there on time and I owned up to my mistake and apologized.
  • I snapped at my husband about something silly and ended up arguing with him - but later I apologized and we went for a long walk together.
  • I received a rejection notice from an editor - but I made a new contact and put myself and my writing out there. I showed some courage.
Now it's your turn. Look for the silver lining...and bask in it a little. You're not a failure, you know. You may have made a mistake, even a costly one, but you are not defined by that mistake. You glow, girl!

Ok. Before our pride starts excusing our mistakes and blaming our problems on someone else, let's take a little ownership here. The next step in Glowing and Growing, of course, is to grow from our mistakes.

Instead of dooming ourselves with unhealthy labels and pathetic self-talk that says things like, "You always..." or "You'll never..." or "You dummy!" let's determine to assess our mistakes from God's perspective.


For I am confident of this very thing, 
that He who began a good work in you 
will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6


God is still at work in you. You are not defined by your mistakes, but they can be used to perfect you if you own them and learn from them.

So, considering the thing you feel like you "blew," jot down at least one lesson you learned from the mistake, maybe more. Go ahead; write it down. Somehow writing it down has more sticking power than just silently considering it. Here are a few examples uses the case situations above:
  • I need to gather all of my ingredients before I start cooking/baking the recipe. That way I'll be more prone to include everything it calls for.
  • I might need to set a timer on my watch, phone or kitchen timer so that I don't lose track of time again.
  • When I'm already feeling insecure about something (such as the recipe I botched) I'm more prone to snap at whoever is in my path. I need to deal with my insecurities instead of letting them rule me.
  • If I want to sell an article to this magazine, I need to research their audience and typical articles a little better. 
Your turn. Remember, don't use the "grow" step to beat yourself up. Instead turn the failure, the criticism, the rejection as a platform from which you can better see how to handle a similar situation in the future. Don't let the failure shut you down; let it compel you toward something better.

You know, gals, we all mess up. I mess up every single day. But we can choose to use those little (and big) failures as stepping stones toward growth, or we can label ourselves poorly because of them and quit. That's not God's desire for your little mistakes... or the big ones. He is our Redeemer. And when we hand Him the good (glow), the bad (grow) and even the ugly (our feelings about it all), He can redeem what we may have lost in the flub-up. He can make all things new.

Would you like to share your Grow and Glow with us? We'd all be encouraged by your transparency, you know!

I'm linking up with Holley Gerth and other bloggers who are offering encouraging words today on Holley's Coffee for Your Heart.


You'll find more Walk with Me Wednesday posts here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Glow and Grow! or Blame and Shame?


I'm cleaning out my desk today and one of the fattest files I'll be tossing has weighed down the file drawer for over a decade now. It's my "rejection" file.

I don't know if most authors keep their rejection letters or not, but I held onto mine for years. Of course, after a while I no longer received rejection letters.

I received rejection emails instead. I think I even took the time and paper and ink to print many of those and stash them away as well.

Why did I keep track of my rejections? I just knew there would come a day when the "acceptance" file would bulge bigger than the "rejection" file.

I was wrong.

Sure, I've had plenty of success as a writer and speaker, but the acceptance letters, emails or phone calls never outnumbered the rejections.

So today I'm ditching those downers.

But before I do, I want to tell you the more important reason for keeping them all these years.

You see I think we gain from our losses.

Recently, as I listened to the rain come down on the metal roof of our cabin in the Great Smokey Mountains, I talked with two lifelong friends about the ups and downs of life. My friend Candy told Michelle and me a sweet story about how our 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Mike Campbell, had approached her after a little snafu they encountered together as principal (Mr. Campbell later became the middle school principal) and band director (Candy had returned to her middle school alma mater as band director).

After explaining how she and Mr. Campbell got their wires crossed about the date of an upcoming band performance, Candy told us, "He said to me, 'Candy, the way I see it, with every situation we need to glow and grow. The glow here is that you had a great concert last night. I couldn't have been happier.' He paused and added, 'The grow? Well I can't think of one this time. You exceeded my expectations!'"

But Candy went on to tell us that Mr. Campbell, whom she still considers to be the best principal she's worked for in her 27 years, used that principle with every failure, every mistake, every misunderstanding.

Every situation presents an opportunity to glow and to grow.

Glow
  • What went right?
  • What's the positive element?
  • How did you shine?
  • What improvement was made over last time?
  • What was gained?
  • How did you succeed?
Grow
  • What did you learn from the mistake?
  • What could you do differently next time?
  • What might make it go even better?
  • What character trait was put to the test?
  • What critical input did you receive that you should seriously consider?
  • What advice was given?
So before I toss those rejection letters, I'm going to glance back over those acceptance letters one more time. I'm going to glow in the radiance of a little approval and payment offered! But I'll also read the rejections again, looking for areas in which I've grown since first receiving them. I'll glow in that acknowledgement as well.

Finally, I'll reckon one last time with any criticisms or encouragements tucked away in those rejection letters that I need to take to heart afresh.

I choose to glow and grow. Not one or the other. But both.

Now let me ask you a few questions.
  • Do you both glow and grow in the big situations of your life? Or are you more prone to only glow, ignoring sound advice and criticism? Or maybe you only grow, beating yourself up and never acknowledging that you did do at least something right.
  • Do you help others glow and grow? When you're talking with a friend about the project you endeavored together, do you carefully consider both the lessons learned and the shining moments? Do you encourage your friend by both complimenting her and offering advice when appropriate?
  • Do you practice the glow and grow philosophy as a parent? Or do you just expect your child to grow from their mistakes without ever letting them glow in the spotlight of your praise and appreciation? Or do you shower love on your child when she does something right but blame and shame her when she makes a mistake? Beware. You're setting up a pattern of conditional love that she'll be trying unsuccessfully to navigate for the rest of her life.
How do you handle the teachable moments of life, for yourself and others? Do you blame and shame? Or do you glow and grow?

Michelle, myself and Candy on our recent
girlfriends trip to the Great Smokey Mountains.
We've all done a lot of growing and glowing
over the years!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

This Will Not Last Forever - Walk With Me...


Dear Friend, today I'd like to remind you that this will not last forever. I know, some of you have situations that prompt you to say, "But Kay, this will last forever. This situation, this burden, this conflict, this physical problem...it's not going anywhere. It will last forever."

But here are two caveats to that assumption.

First of all, nothing on this earth, except for the souls of people who have been redeemed by Christ, will last forever. And while ten more years, 25 more years, may seem like forever, in comparison to the eternity of bliss Christ is preparing for us right now, those years are a blip on the screen.

There will be a day when every trial will end, every difficulty will be resolved and every burden will be lifted. This will not last forever.

But secondly, if you insist (as I often do) on focusing on the exhausting length of the trials some of us face on this earth, still this is not going to last forever.

The situation may not change, the burden may not be lifted from your shoulders and the conflict may not resolve. But you will change. Your will become stronger and more adept at carrying the burden (which you don't carry alone any how). And you will become wiser and more capable of navigating the conflict.

So while the situation may not change and indeed may "last forever." The pain you are experiencing from it now, the weariness that it presents, the confusion it causes, and the fog it has left you in will not last forever.

Be of good courage, my friend. God has promised that He is working something mighty big and beautiful in your struggles.

For momentary, light affliction
is producing for us an eternal weight of glory 
far beyond all comparison, 
while we look not at the things which are seen, 
but at the things which are not seen; 
for the things which are seen are temporal, 
but the things which are not seen are eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:17-18

God wastes nothing in your life. If you are experiencing the pain of a difficult circumstance, He will use that pain to bring great, glorious gain. Press on, dear friend. God is at work.

I'm joining Holley Gerth and friends at her weekly Coffee for Your Heart link up, offering encouragement and hope. You'll find more encouraging blog posts here.


Each Wednesday I invite you to Walk With Me... for a few minutes of encouragement on life's path.


Monday, June 9, 2014

The View from the Beginning


Running late for the show, we still took the time to buy popcorn and drinks. And, large drinks in tow, we definitely had to stop by the ladies' room before sitting down for a two-hour movie. When we entered the dark theater we assumed the previews would still be rolling.

But we were wrong. Although the movie couldn't have been in progress for too long, we had definitely missed the beginning of the show. Still, how much difference could a few minutes of scene-setting make in understanding the movie? Right?

And indeed, as the movie progressed and a few gaps in our comprehension surfaced, we were able to fill in those gaps with our imaginations and clues from the rest of the story. We left the theater feeling like we'd seen the whole picture.

And I would have maintained that assumption except a few months later my family wanted to rent the movie my friend and I had watched that day. As I sat on the sofa and watched the beginning minutes of the movie, I realized I had actually missed some key scenes the first time I'd seen it. And by the time the story ended, my appreciation of the movie had grown exponentially. True, I had been able to follow the plot line just fine the first time I saw it in the theater. But this time, after viewing the beginning of the show, the movie had a sweeter feel, a more triumphant ending.

I had seen the full picture--
from the very beginning--
and it made a difference.

We might like to think that beginnings aren't really essential to the "rest of the story," but they are. That's why we love to hear how married couples met. We women love to tell the stories of birthing or adopting our babies. We listen attentively as our friends tell the stories of their earliest memories, their childhood, their family of origin.

The beginning sets the stage. But it also sets the wheels in motion, determines the direction, establishes the purposes and sets the tone.

The view we gain from correctly understanding our beginning matters, too. So much of how we relate to the world, to other people, and, especially, to God is determined by our understanding of

The View from the Beginning

You might like to read or skim
as your devotional Bible reading today.
Genesis means "beginning."

Our Bibles, God's chosen revelation in Word to man, starts off, "In the beginning..." That tells me that God wants us to grab our popcorn and drink and get seated before the lights dim and the story begins. He wants us to know the beginning of the story. Our story, His story, is not one of those that can be tapped into halfway through the show. We need to have a clear understanding of the beginning.

What do we need to know about our beginning? From a brief perusal of Genesis 1-3, I identify at least a dozen premises that are important for understanding "the rest of the story."
  • There is a God. 
  • That God created all that is in the world.
  • That includes people.
  • People are designed in the image or likeness of that God.
  • God was pleased with His creation.
  • God created the man and woman differently.
  • God gave people a purpose and work to do.
  • God was good to give people choices.
  • Man and woman chose to disobey the God who created them.
  • Thus, sin entered the world...and God's perfect world broke.
  • God sought out man and woman after they had sinned.
  • There are consequences to sin.
  • God loved people enough to keep us from living forever in our sinful condition.
  • God initiated a loving and merciful plan to redeem people and restore the world.
And that's just after a cursory perusal of the beginning. Perhaps you noticed other elements of the beginning that are crucial to establishing the setting for His story. Please share your observations in the comment section :)

But what does all of that have to do with my my-world view, the way I see and operate in my little corner of His big world? (Because that's what we're addressing in this Your World, His View series, after all.)

Here are a few questions to answer about how you operate in your little world based on the view from the beginning:
  • Who is in charge of my world? Not just the big world, but my world?
  • How can I have a relationship with the God who created me? Does He want to have a relationship with me?

  • What is my purpose in my world? Or at least, where can I discover my purpose?
  • What is my role as a woman? Is it really different from that of a man?
  • Why do bad things happen to me and my loved ones? Does God even care?
Truth is, we've all formed answers to these questions by the time we're adults. But are your answers based upon the view from the beginning, found in the book of beginnings, the book of Genesis, specifically the first three chapters? Or have you filled in the gaps with your imagination or clues you've gathered from the middle of the story the way I did the day I missed the beginning of the movie?

Why not take a few minutes today to think through or even write out your answers to these foundational questions? They're not academic, you know. They're everyday-where-the-rubber-hits-the-road questions. They are the foundations for so many other questions that life throws at you on any given day. Questions pertaining to our marriages, our careers, our prayers, our worship, the way we raise our children.

Maybe you'll realize that you've filled in the blanks on so many of these questions without really thinking about the view from the beginning found in Genesis 1-3. I encourage you, then, to pop you some popcorn, grab a soda, maybe even some chocolate covered raisins, and sit down to view the beginning of the story. This life, this very real life, is one of those stories that really hinges on a powerful beginning. You don't want to miss it.

Has looking at the view from the beginning changed the way you interact with your little world recently? How?

I'd like to recommend my Bible study The View from My Front Porch if you're looking for a more in-depth approach to building a biblical worldview.
You can order it on Amazon.com or on my By Kay page.