Multiply

It’s been so long since I’ve written on my blog that I feel almost as if I need to introduce myself again.  Instead of doing that, I’ll just say that I’m still here.  Today, I had a bit of a come to Jesus moment with myself while I was reading out of the Jesus Storybook Bible with my little 3 year old.

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I was reading the story about Jesus feeding the 5,000 with a little boy’s lunch.  I’ve read or heard this story about 5,000 times and I’ve known the moral of the message for a long time.  Basically, there wasn’t enough to feed the enormous crowd, so Jesus (being Jesus) took a little boy’s measly lunch and was able to multiply it for the masses to have plenty.  So, when it seems like we won’t have enough or when it seems as though we don’t know how we’re going to make it, God can provide.  He can take a little and make it much.

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a little.  I don’t mean that I feel like I have little, I mean I. Feel. Little.  I feel like all I have to offer are a couple of little fish.  I feel spread too thin as a mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister in law, an aunt, a co-worker, a team player, a church goer, a blogger.  I feel too small to make an impact and I often times feel like the offering I have is just a small drop of water on a forest fire.   For a more realistic picture, it’s like I’m only folding 1 of Micah’s white t-shirts in a heap of laundry the height of Mt. Everest.  (Yes, laundry is a very, very real visual for me.)  So sometimes, I hear this voice that tells me things like, “Why are you trying?  You can’t do it.”  Or, “Do you even know if that’s making any type of difference anyways?  Just stop.”

Today, while I was reading that Bible story, the fish and the bread weren’t representative of my finances or my belongings.  The bread and the fish were me and what I have to give.  I felt like God was speaking straight to me on those illustrated little pages with the dimpled hands of my 3 year old pointing to the “fishies.”  Those little hands were pointing out that God can take me (a very small fish in a very huge sea), and multiply my impact.  He doesn’t want me to stop trying.  He wants me to give whatever I have – even if it feels small – and trust that He will multiply it, to spread it, to feed anyone who needs feeding.  I’m one 7 billionth of the world, but even if my words can somehow impact one of the other 7 billion people on this planet, then my words aren’t wasted and they were worth speaking (or typing… or writing…)

Basically, I stopped writing on here for a while because I got caught up in the lie that my story is old news and that my words probably don’t amount to much anyways.  I said I didn’t have time, but the truth is that I didn’t make it a priority, although I have felt for a long while like God was calling me to write (even though I often tell Him that I’m not a gifted writer, or that I am in no shape to be giving someone else any type of spiritual guidance….). However, just like the little boy who came out of the crowd with the lunch his mom had packed him, I can be bold enough to do the same and trust that God will somehow multiply my measly little offering.

In the same way, what do you have to give?  How are you going to let God multiply your impact? I’m going to start writing again and pray that whatever I have to say will somehow be in the view of someone who could benefit from this little fishy.  To you, your offering may seem small or insignificant, but God put you here for a purpose.  He can take your basket of fish (or in my case, my Tupperware of deli meat), and feed a crowd.  I’m taking a spiritual leap and trusting Him to spread my offering as far as it will go.

Forgiveness.

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I’ve heard it said before that unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick.  It’s always resonated with me and I’d be lying if I didn’t confess that I sometimes have to tell myself almost daily not to drink the poison.  Sometimes, I do really well and I temporarily avoid that poison altogether – especially when I go a long time without seeing someone who I’ve allowed to hurt me.  Other times, I drink the entire vial and it’s paralyzing.

The only thing that I can do is to do what feels the most unnatural for me to do, which is for me to pray blessings over the person(s) who I’m struggling to forgive.  I want so badly for them to come to the realization that what they said or did or the way they acted (or didn’t act at all when I needed them to act) was hurtful and I focus way more on justice than I do on mercy, which imprisons nobody but myself.  I think that if they only had the “a-ha” moment and understood how wrong they were that I could finally be released from the resentment I unnoticeably embrace.

Things that don’t make forgiveness magically happen:

  1. Avoiding the person
  2. Disassociating with them to teach them a lesson
  3. Gossiping
  4. Giving them a taste of their own medicine
  5. Trying to ignore the pain

It’s easier to forgive and release ourselves from that anger and resentment when it’s someone we hardly know.  A lady on her phone cut me off in a parking lot today.  It annoyed me at the time, but I know I won’t remember it years from now, nor will I care.  It’s different when it’s a family member or a friend that you trusted and loved enough to not only give of your time, but your acts of service, your money, your encouragement over the years, your own home when they needed a place to just be, your embrace when they were sad.  Hearing hurtful words about how they feel about you or statements questioning your character or integrity are moments you don’t forget.  They are moments that maybe only took a second to unfold, but they have been stinging you for months, years, or even decades.  These types of wounds are the hardest to heal, and it seems like no amount of care will cover the scars.

I’ve been hurt before, and the only way I healed was to pray – not to pray for justice or for the other person to realize what they’ve done….. not even for them to change.  Unconditional love means we don’t give up on people – even when they hurt us.  Years ago, I got hurt pretty heavily.  For months, I let it fester.  It ate at me.  As soon as I would start to pray about it, I found myself just venting in my head and justifying my thoughts.  I had to audibly tell myself to stop and I made myself write a prayer on my for that person.  My prayer was simply for that person to experience abundant blessings,  for that person to know who they are and WHOSE they are.  I prayed for this person to have a blessed family, a happy home, an incredible life.  In addition, I prayed very specific blessings over that person.  I prayed that prayer once a day for a while and I promised myself I would pray that prayer every time I started to feel like drinking that vial of poison again.  I can honestly say that I no longer have resentment, hurt, or even a smidge of bitterness toward this person.  I don’t think about the hurt I felt anymore.  I don’t hold onto it.  I’ve been released and it feels so good.  I also have a great relationship with that person now and I consider myself blessed to call this person my friend.  Trust took some time, but that’s ok.  Forgiveness and trust aren’t the same thing, but I’m happy to say that God restored my trust in this person as time went on too.

The point of this post is to encourage us (myself included) to stop replaying the hurt in our minds.  Who has hurt you?  Who do you struggle to forgive?  What name pops in your head?  Pull out your phone, a sheet of paper, write an email to yourself, do whatever you need to do to write down a prayer for this person.  Instead of asking God to change them, ask Him to bless them.  No alternate agenda, just blessings.  See what happens to your heart.

 

Obedience

I think the word “obedience” often has a negative connotation.  We might hear that word and think of times when we were punished for breaking the rules in school, or we may hear it and associate the word with a lack of fun.  We might think of the straight and narrow, or the stern tone of the deliverer of our consequences when we weren’t obedient in the past.  I want to challenge you to think of obedience differently.  Obedience changed my life and set me on a completely unanticipated path to a very visual and life giving blessing that I would have missed out on entirely had it not been for obedience.

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If you are a parent, think of it this way…  Have you ever given your child a direction because you knew that if they followed that direction, it would set them up for something good?  I often think of teaching my kids to not fear the water.  There have been many times when I’ve stood there in the water with my arms out and told my kids, “Jump!”  I knew they’d be safe.  I knew I’d catch them.  I knew they’d love the feeling of the water all around them and the celebration of all of us waiting for them to trust me and leap.  If I switch the perspective to my child, they’re often scared.  Even though mom or dad has never missed and has never encouraged them to do something that would harm them, they still fear the unknown.  The water looks deep.  What if it’s cold?  What if Mom doesn’t catch me?  What if it makes me uncomfortable?  All the while, I know they’ll not only be ok, they’ll be glad they did it.  I just need them to trust me and know that I’ll be in the water with them.  Listen to my call and obey.  Jump!

When I first felt like God was calling me to offer my womb as a surrogate, there were a lot of unknowns.  But because I had a relationship with God, I knew He’d be in the water with me, arms wide open, ready to catch me.  I jumped.  Sometimes, the water felt cold.  My Father was always there in the water with me, holding me, and assuring me that I could trust Him to keep me afloat.  He called me to jump, and the experience wasn’t only a lesson for me that I could trust Him and that He is faithful, but that I’d be glad and excited that I got to jump.  I can handle the cold temps and I can handle the uncertainty because He’s in the water with me, holding me and assuring me it’s ok.  He’s excited that I jumped in and so many are standing around the water, celebrating with me.

I don’t think God is calling all of us to jump into the waters of surrogacy, but I do think He’s calling us all to jump into the water with Him and to obey whatever it is He’s calling you to do.  What’s He calling you to do?  Will you jump?

 

2 John 1:6 says, “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.  As you have heard from he beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”

Rejection.

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It never feels good to be rejected.  I have often let the fear of rejection determine the road I take.  Some of the earliest memories I have of feeling rejected were in elementary school, and even at a very young age, I’d let that fear keep me from pursuing something I desired.  “What if I can’t?  What if it won’t work out?  What if people laugh at me when I try?”  We have a crazy amount of opportunities to either be accepted or rejected.

Ask yourself if you’ve ever experienced any of these scenarios below.  Did any of these scenarios ever lead to acceptance or rejection?

  • Asking a friend to play with you as a kid.
  • Trying out for an athletic team or musical ensemble.
  • Applying for a job.
  • Applying for college.
  • Applying for a scholarship.
  • Asking someone to be in a relationship with you.
  • Sharing something intimate about yourself to your family or friends.
  • Being in the “in crowd.”
  • Being a part of a community.
  • Sharing your ideas with your co-workers.
  • Asking for a raise.
  • Applying for a loan.
  • Asking someone to love you.
  • Trying to adopt a child you’ve longed for.

I could’ve continued that list, but if you have ever felt rejected in any of the above scenarios or any others, you aren’t alone.  What I find comforting is knowing that people I love and admire have often been rejected too, but it does not keep them from pursuing their passion.  If anything, it only motivates them to overcome.  If we let rejection define us, we may never reach our potential and we may never experience joy that could have been on the other side.  Sometimes, the answer is “No” and it needs to be no.  If that’s the case, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that we were pursuing something that would not have ultimately been fruitful and it’s time to start pursuing something that will be.  Other times, the answer might not be “No,” but it might be, “Not yet.”  It’s so hard to swallow the “not yet” when we feel like we know what would make us happy, but in reality, there’s maybe a better time or some other work in us that needs to happen before the “not yet” becomes a “yes.”

Recently, I was at a meeting for work when I heard someone say that we need to look at our obstacles as “opportunities.”  Maybe you were rejected from the job you wanted.  But, what if there is a reason…  What if there’s something better for you or a lesson you were supposed to learn in order to grow?  Does it mean you should stop searching for a job?  No.  Does it mean you should start searching for a different job?  Maybe.  Rejection shouldn’t put us to a stop.  Rejection should inspire reflection, which should motivate us to action instead of crippling us with fear. 

Don’t let the fear of rejection keep you from pursuing your dreams and goals.  Maybe  rejection isn’t your obstacle, but rather your opportunity for something greater.

Validation

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Technically speaking, validity relates to measurement.  You might cook a meal for your family that you think will need more of something.  Let’s pretend we’re talking mashed potatoes (those sound heavenly right now.) One way to test this would be to allow a family member to taste a sample of the potatoes you’ve whipped up to validate whether or not the mashed potatoes are satisfactory the way they are, or if they will indeed need some doctorin’.  If your spouse puts that spoon of potatoes in his mouth and says, “These mashed potatoes are better than Paula Dean’s,” we often swell up with a sense of accomplishment, and boom!  We have validation that we did it right.  If he takes that bite and says, “They’re ok.  I don’t usually like them this chunky,” we oftentimes feel an immediate letdown and our heads are filled with whispers like, “I can’t get anything right.”  That’s validation that we’re no good.

In the emotional and spiritual realm, we often look for validation from those we interact with in order to satisfy us.

During my first year of teaching, I was a mess.  I loved the kids, but I often questioned whether or not I was impactful.  When I didn’t receive any feedback from a particular colleague, I did not feel validated.  I felt like I wasn’t measuring up and it was a constant guessing game in my mind on how I might win this colleague’s validation or approval.  I kept looking for affirmation from her.  I never found it.

I remember singing at church when I was younger and how several adults told me how pretty my voice was.  I felt validated.  I measured up.  A few years later, I sang again and nobody said anything.  I immediately started questioning and doubting my abilities.  Was I not good anymore?  Are they not saying anything because they are trying to be polite by not saying anything negative?  I decided I wasn’t a “solo” person anymore.  All because I was fearful I wouldn’t be validated.

When I had my first child, I went from being described as “glowing” in pregnancy to getting told that if I REALLY prioritized my child, I would find a way to stay home with her rather than going back to work.  Validation during pregnancy that I was a glowing ray of sunshine followed by a feeling of judgment and inadequacy as a first time mom led to me not feeling validated.

When I used the approval of others as my stamp of validation, I always ended up feeling like I was falling short and I never felt good enough.

At one point, I went through a very personal challenge with a relationship that caused me to question where I received my validation.  What tool am I using to measure my satisfaction with myself?  How was I determining if I was enough?

I remember hearing someone say to me in a sermon, “Know who you are and WHOSE you are.” 

What exactly does that mean to me?  That means that I’m designed for a specific purpose and God created me uniquely.  My purpose was so important, that in this world of billions of people, He created me with a very specific idea in mind.  I was physically and spiritually designed to fulfill a calling much more meaningful than what someone else’s desires or expectations might be for me.  I’m not meant to live up to everyone else’s expectations.  It’s kind of a relief to know that I no longer have to live up to the expectations of others, but that I can trust God to equip me with the skills I need in order to fulfill my purpose. 

  • If you feel like you aren’t enough. 
  • If you feel like you can’t measure up.
  • If you feel like you always fall short. 
  • If you are exhausted from what seems like taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back.
  • Where does your validation come from?

Lately, I’ve been asking myself the following when I need to make a decision:

  1. Is it healthy?
  2. Is it life-giving?
  3. Is it a blessing to others and nourishing to my soul?

When I sense that someone is dissatisfied with me:

  1. Is this MY problem?
    • If yes, then how can I learn from it and be better?
    • If no, then how can I release myself from the need of pleasing someone while still being loving and kind?

It’s easier said than done, but know WHO you are and WHOSE you are.

When we let other people define our worth, we will constantly question ourselves and doubt our worth.

Needing validation from others sneaks up on me more often than what I’d like to admit.  I have to remember though, that Jesus Himself had haters.  (That was my attempt at sounding cool while referring to Jesus.)  And as Taylor Swift says, “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”

Know where your worth comes from.

7×7 Prayer Challenge

Prayer Challenge

I’m guessing that if you’ve scrolled through your Facebook feed recently, you’ve seen a lot of people asking for prayers. We could all use a prayer, but sometimes, I feel like God lays certain people on my heart to pray for very intently.  It was near the end of 2017 when a sweet friend of mine went through a very traumatic experience.  There was nothing I could do for her to help her heartache go away.  All I knew to do was to pray, but it didn’t feel enough.  I decided to make a commitment to continually pray for my friend.  Shortly after, this little prayer challenge was born.  It’s actually very simple.

7 People.  7 Days per week.

  1. Ask God to put 7 people on your heart.
  2. Write a prayer for each of those people and save those prayers in the notes section of your phone.
  3. Set an alarm on your phone for each day of the week.  Title those alarms with the names you are praying for.  (For example, your Monday alarm might say, “John,” and your Tuesday alarm might say, “Beth.”)
  4. Wherever you are when that alarm goes off daily, stop what you are doing, open that prayer in your phone, and say that prayer for that person.

Who Should I Pray For?

  • Someone who you know is hurting
  • Someone who you know needs to find Jesus
  • Someone who you struggle to get along with or someone who you find offensive – not a prayer for them to change or to learn a lesson, but for them to be immersed in blessings and the overwhelming power of God’s love for them
  • Someone who is struggling to meet a goal or fulfill a desire
  • A child of yours or a spouse
  • A co-worker you don’t know well at all.
  • The future spouse of your child (even if your child is only 2 weeks old!)
  • Your child’s teacher
  • Your pastor
  • A leader you respect
  • A leader you struggle to respect

 

My Why.

Remove the Veil

I’ve been putting this off for a long time.  I’m busy, but I’m also scared.  Scared to make the leap, and most of all, scared to let go and be as real as I know I need to be.  I hope you’ll come here and find comfort, inspiration, empathy, and authenticity.  I hope we’ll learn together how to be bold without sacrificing kindness.  My life looks pretty good on Facebook and Instagram, and the truth is that my life is good.  I’m blessed beyond measure, but I have a ton of imperfections and struggles that I’ve hidden from people for the sake of privacy pride.

My Hope.

I want to give people in the cyber world a breath of fresh air by showing them transparency.  I’m done comparing myself to the versions of people I see on Facebook.  I’m ready to reveal my issues to you.  I’m ready for you to see that I’m not perfect and that my family isn’t perfect either.  I’m ready for you to see me without my makeup.  Without my kids all hugging and smiling.  Without my pride.  I’m ready to be real and for us all to take one huge sigh of relief together as we acknowledge that beauty isn’t found in the fairy tale.  Beauty is found in the crazy, the sweat, the deep set wrinkles, and the mess.  Fluff is just fluff and I don’t want to be a fluffy woman.  I want to be strong, and to be strong, I have to be ok with showing you when I’m not.

As I remove my veil, I hope you’ll remove yours too.  I hope you’ll look around and see a whole new social media without the perfect appearance.  I hope you’ll find a community of women who care more about joy, growth, and empowerment than they do about an airbrushed, filtered image.

My Mission.

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Take off the blindfold. See behind the screen.  Abandon the mask.  Real, authentic beauty is behind the veil.  Remove the veil.