Listening

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It’s Monday. And that means some of you might need to be cheered up. So here is a lovely throwback song for you!

Now that you are smiling (or annoyed at me for putting this song in your head), you can go on to listen to the sermon that I preached yesterday which used this song as an illustration. It was a tough sermon for me to write, as well as preach, because it is a touchy subject. And yet it is a topic that we often ignore because it is easier to ignore it than to deal with the issues of our hearts. And the topic is…

Money.

But the thing is, God uses money to teach us some very important lessons about how we live our lives. And Jesus talked about money more than any other subject. So apparently we have something to learn when it comes to the way we view and manage our finances.

Take a listen and let’s talk!

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It Matters

I was driving home from teaching PiYo early on Wednesday morning and this song began playing. I have heard it so many times it shouldn’t have caught me any differently than before. But it did.

And then Wednesday at noon we were talking in Bible study about how in our culture we tend to take a step back and not try to change anything because we are either overwhelmed with the immensity of the problem and we don’t think that the little bit that we could do would make a difference or we don’t want to stand out from the crowd and be ridiculed or perhaps even persecuted for trying to go against the status quo.

For all of you who wonder if what you do makes a difference.

  • If helping one person has any impact at all on the world.
  • If standing up for the rights of a group of people changes how they are treated.
  • If making right choices in your life makes the world a better place.
  • If pouring your heart and soul into what you feel called to do affects the people around you.

It does. It is worth it. It is needed.

Change begins small and grows. A fire begins with a single spark. One rock dropped into the water makes ever-increasing ripples.

But even if you aren’t able to see how what you are doing is making an impact on the world around you, it is making an impact on you. You are making a stand and a statement by doing what is right, by helping others, and by giving your best. And in the process you are letting people know that you care enough to do something that may not gain you a thing except a stronger character.

“As long as one heart holds on, then hope is never really gone.”

Keep being the change that you want to see. Even when it is hard. Even when it goes unnoticed.

It makes a difference.

Garth Brooks video: The Change from Big Chief Studio on Vimeo.

The Change
by Garth Brooks

One hand reaches out
And pulls a lost soul from harm
While a thousand more go unspoken for
And they say,
“What good have you done by saving just this one”
It’s like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm

And I hear them saying,
“You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do
It’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know
That it will not change me

This heart still believes
That love and mercy still exist
While all the hatreds rage
And so many say
“That love is all but pointless,
In madness such as this
“It’s like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss”

And I hear them saying,
“You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do
It’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world will know
That it will not change me

As long as one heart still holds on
Then hope is never really gone

And I hear them saying,
“You’ll never change things
And no matter what you do
It’s still the same thing”
But it’s not the world that I am changing
I do this so, this world we know
Never changes me

What I do is so, this world will know
That it will not change me

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I have been turning this idea over and over in my head lately, mostly because I can’t seem to create any.

Balance.

Work. Kids. Kids’ activities. Kids’ activities for which I need to be present. Husband. Home. Bills. Business. Fitness. Health. Cooking. Friends. Facebook. (We have to be honest, Facebook is a thing on the balance list.) Sleeping. Laundry. Netflix. (Yes, Netflix is a thing, too.) Running. Social life. (Wait – do I have a social life?) Hebrew. Did I mention Hebrew?

There’s probably more. I am sure I am forgetting something. I can’t keep all those plates spinning all the time. Some of them come crashing to the floor. Hard. And often. And when that happens, I tend to beat myself up. Hard. And often.

I like what Jen Hatmaker says about balance in her most recent book, For the Love:

If I had to recite the top questions I’m asked in interviews, conversations, and e-mails, certainly included would be this one: How do you balance work and family and community? And every time, I think: Do you even know me? Balance. It’s like a unicorn; we’ve heard about it, everyone talks about it and makes airbrushed T-shirts celebrating it, it seems super rad, but we haven’t actually seen one. I’m beginning to think it isn’t a thing. Here is part of the problem, girls: we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Back in the day, women didn’t run themselves ragged trying to achieve some impressively developed life in eight different categories. No one constructed fairy-tale childhoods for their spawn, developed an innate set of personal talents, fostered a stimulating and world-changing career, created stunning homes and yardscapes, provided homemade food for every meal (locally sourced, of course), kept all marriage fires burning, sustained meaningful relationships in various environments, carved out plenty of time for “self care,” served neighbors/ church/ world, and maintained a fulfilling, active relationship with Jesus our Lord and Savior. You can’t balance that job description.

unicorn

She’s right, you know. Balance is like that mythical unicorn. It doesn’t exist. There will be times in our lives when we are more attentive to one or two areas of our lives and less attentive to others. And those areas will naturally change as our lives progress.

The problem comes when we start the ugly comparison game. This game was a losing one before social media, but has become downright destructive in the current online culture. We see everyone’s best posted on Facebook. We see all the great ways to be a wonderful parent, sexy wife, efficient worker, gourmet chef and bikini model all over Pinterest. We see everyone else’s selfies of girls nights out on Instagram. And when we do, we start comparing our lives to everyone else’s and assuming we fall short. But what we don’t realize is that we are only seeing a small sliver of everyone else’s life through a filtered lens. Sure, they may be doing a great job homeschooling their children, but behind closed doors could be suffering a severe bout of depression. Maybe they have a fantastic relationship with their husband, but they are struggling with an enormous debt load.

The point is that we all struggle with balance and none of us achieve it, or if we think we have, it lasts a millisecond and is gone. The real problem isn’t balance, but rather giving ourselves permission to focus on what is the most important and, to quote a song I am sure we are all tired of hearing, say “Let it go” to what isn’t on the top of the priority list right now.

For me right now that might mean that I have to study Hebrew instead of watching an episode (or 10) of House on Netflix. It might mean that I don’t get to go to the 50,000 in-home parties that my friends have because I have a volleyball game to watch or a PiYo class to teach. The important thing to remember is that we can’t do it all, and we shouldn’t put that kind of pressure on ourselves. Living a busy life with many commitments is hard. Living that same life under the shadow of constant guilt for not doing or being enough is impossible and eventually will take its toll.

So, take heart and remember that while the picture of the unicorn is beautiful, it is in fact fictional, just like the idea of balance in the life of a busy human being. Give yourself grace, stop with the guilt, and do your best at what is most important today. Tomorrow you can re-evaluate what needs to be most important then.

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One of my favorite bloggers, Jenny Lawson of thebloggess.com, released her second book yesterday. It is called Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things. In it, Jenny talks about her lifelong battle with mental illness. Humorously. Sounds like an interesting combination, doesn’t it?

Jenny says that, “We all get our share of tragedy or insanity or drama, but what we do with that horror is what makes all the difference.”

We are all broken. For some of us it takes the form of mental illness. For others it is physical. Sometimes it is in our relationships with others. Sometimes it is in our relationships with ourselves.

But the thing that Jenny encourages us all to do is to choose to be Furiously Happy. To be irrationally joyful and vehemently happy. This is sometimes easier said than done, but when we can’t pull that off on our own, we can always read a chapter of Jenny’s book. Because it will make you laugh.* I promise.

Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir made me laugh out loud. Often. Her blog and book have been a source of (edited) readings to my family and friends. So if you like humor, she is a good source for it.

But what has really drawn me to Jenny’s work is the fact that she taught me this: depression lies. Over and over again when I am in the midst of a rough patch, I remind myself that depression lies. It says things to me like:

  • You aren’t good enough.
  • You are a terrible wife/mother/health & fitness coach/pastor/housekeeper/[insert lots of other things here].
  • The best thing for you to do is just give up and lay on the couch binge-watching Netflix.
  • You loser, you just spent the entire evening on the couch binge-watching Netflix!
  • You will never get better.
  • You are going to fight me the rest of your life.

But when I remind myself that depression lies, eventually I can get to a place where I replace the lies of depression with the TRUTH of who I am.

  • I am good enough.
  • I am a good wife/mother/health & fitness coach/pastor/housekeeper/[insert lots of other things here].
  • Sometimes it is okay to rest on the couch and binge-watch Netflix. But today, I can binge-watch while I clean up the living room.
  • I am not a loser for letting the couch call me in to its warmth. I am not a loser for binge-watching Netflix. Sometimes a busy woman needs some down time.
  • I will get better.
  • Even when it puts up a fight, I will win over the depression.

Sometimes it is hard to get to this place of speaking TRUTH over the lies of depression, but the more I remind myself of the lies, the more the truth is able to be heard.

I have been walking through this journey for a long time now, and recently have walked through it with a friend who doesn’t yet recognize the lies of depression. I am trying to help her learn this very important lesson. One that I was able to learn because Jenny shared her story.

I am not saying that simply by reading a book you can conquer your own mental illness battle, but I am saying that you get to choose how you will overcome. I choose to be Furiously Happy.

I am broken because depression lies.

I am Furiously Happy because I am a Daughter of the King.

Will you share your broken and happy stories with me today?

*Disclaimer: If you are easily offended by bad language, find a different book or blog to read that makes you laugh. Because Jenny isn’t afraid to throw out strong language.

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Overflow

This past week I visited the University of Tennessee campus for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) gathering, Big Tent. It was three days of great inspiration. I haven’t yet had a chance to sit down with my numerous pages of notes and process all that I heard, but there were some high points and quotes that I would like to share with you today.

  • In Christ. A new creation. A tag-line for all of us.
  • The characters that make up the word “happiness” in Chinese are “open” (which consists of a door and hands joined) and “heart.” Gives a pretty good visual of what is necessary for happiness – opening our hearts to others.
  • Even though some of Jesus’s disciples doubted, they were still sent.
  • We participate in the systemic reality of poverty n our nation because we like a bargain, we like the cheapest price, and our passion for getting a bargain is keeping people in poverty.
  • The average salary of a CEO in a publicly traded company is $10 million a year, which comes out to about $5,000 an hour. So in three hours a CEO makes what someone earning minimum wage makes in one year.
  • When it comes to working with millennials, it doesn’t so much matter about the particulars of our beliefs, but rather that we live out what we believe.
  • Old structures can’t support new vision, which means structures must change in order for change to occur.
  • Reading and writing poetry helps us practice better theology.
  • Conditioning and habits makes us dull or makes us deep – we choose which one.
  • There is a difference between knowing God and knowing about God, just like there is a difference between knowing someone and knowing about someone.
  • God acts first and we respond. God loved us first and so we love. God gave us grace and thus we have gratitude.
  • Felt needs often outweigh discernment and that should not be. You cannot rush discernment.
  • If there is a problem with modern Christianity it isn’t that it leans too far to the right or to the left, it is that it doesn’t lead.
  • When we align ourselves with the identity of the Living God amazing things happen.

This covers about 1/10th (or less) of the stuff I heard over those three days. It was an amazing time of learning, meeting new people, and worship. Even though you don’t have all the context for where these ideas came from, I hope there is at least one idea that sticks out to you and you can think about and consider further.

Let me know which of these ideas strikes a chord in you!

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Consequences and Grace

As a parent the fine line between consequences and grace is one that I find myself sitting on often.

It also happens in other relationships as well – spouses, friends, co-workers, church goers, and random strangers who don’t know how to drive others.

No matter how we look at it, there are consequences for our actions. When a child behaves badly discipline is necessary. When we make bad choices with our money, we pay the price.

It doesn’t matter how much we don’t like the consequences, they just are.

Except when they are not.

Sometimes we don’t punish our kids for something because we see their heart of repentance and we offer grace. Sometimes we receive unexpected and undeserved grace instead of paying the price for our bad choices.

This is a hard one for me! I want to show grace. I want to receive grace. But I also want to see people who have made mistakes have to learn to deal with their consequences. I want justice.

Is this how God feels about us? Is he torn?

In 2 Samuel 11-12 we see a good example of consequences for actions. King David, who should have been off at war with his troops, is at home and sees this lovely woman bathing next door. He sends for her, has his way with her, and sends her back. Not long after, Bathsheba finds herself pregnant, but since her husband was off at war (where David should have been) it will soon be obvious it is not Uriah’s child. When David gets word from her about the child, He sends for Uriah to bring news from the front lines. David tries, unsuccessfully, to get Uriah to go home to his wife, but Uriah will not go. So, David sends him back out and orders that he be sent where the fighting is fiercest so that he may be killed in battle. David’s plan succeeds, and he brings Bathsheba into his home.

But the problem is this, God saw it. He knows what happened and He sent Nathan, the prophet, to confront David about it. David repents of his sin, but there is still a consequence to be had. David’s child dies.

There it is. Consequences for his actions. Yes, David had more children, and Bathsheba even bore Solomon, the heir to David’s throne, but there were still consequences for what he did.

But what about us?

In the New Testament we hear over and over of the story of Jesus, God’s Son, who came to this earth as an infant, grew up and lived a pure life. He was charged for crimes He did not commit and suffered the consequences for not His actions, but ours, as He died a criminal’s death on the cross. He gave us something that we didn’t deserve – grace. We shouldn’t be forgiven, but we are. We shouldn’t be loved and cared for by a God that we turn away from, but we are.

How are we any better than David? Why did we get to experience such significant grace?

And yet, there are still sometimes that we get what we deserve in the short-term – consequences. And other times we get what we don’t deserve – grace.

I don’t always know how to reconcile that. Especially the justice-seeking side of me. Especially the grace-giving side of me.

I guess what it comes down to is there is a fine line between consequences and grace and I will never, on this side of heaven, understand why sometimes we have consequences and sometimes we have grace on this earth. But I do know that if we will receive it, ultimately we are all eligible recipients of the eternal grace of God. And that is more than enough.

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Coming off of a weekend of craziness tends to lead to a Monday that is rough. So, in order to combat the “Monday Blues” here are some of my thoughts today.

  • Theme parties are fun. Plan one. Invite friends – old and new. Plan a fun menu. Throw in some silly dress-up items. Have fun. Last month we did an 80’s party. This weekend was Hawaiian. Don’t stress over it. Just let it happen. You will be glad you did.
  • Pineapple Cheese Ball Hawaiian Party Friends
  • When was the last time you tried something new? I went down to Forest Park and watched a movie on Art Hill Friday. It was the first time I had done that. Was the traffic terrible? Absolutely. Was the parking situation less than ideal. Most certainly. But watching “Clueless” with friends on the hill outside in the beautiful weather was so much fun and worth the trip.
  • Sometimes you just have to kick off your shoes and dance. Even in the summer heat. Even if you get soaked with sweat. Even if you and your friend are the only two on the dance floor. It does wonders for your soul.
  • And my public service announcement for the day via Jen Hatmaker is this:

Happy Monday everyone!

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I had a great month of blogging in October 2014. It is now June 2015. Since the end of October I just quit blogging. No real reason, just haven’t done it.

But I need to do it. Blogging helps me process ideas. Blogging keeps me motivated. Blogging makes me work on my writing.

So, I am adding it back to my to-do list. At least once a week. Baby steps to get me back into my routine of three times a week.

Here goes. And it’s Monday, so here are my musings for today.

  • My daughter graduated from 8th grade last week which means I have not only a teenager, but one that is going into high school. Not to mention my son is headed to junior high. It blows my mind how fast time has gone, but I am so grateful and proud of the young woman and young man that they are becoming. Spending the day with each of them for their end-of-school-year trips gave me another opportunity to watch them interact with their friends and be thankful that they are making wise choices in friends and in life.
  • Planning events is amazingly fun for me. I love to pull together details and people to make something happen. But what is even more fun is watching it come together to make a memorable event. I got to do just that last week for my daughter’s 8th grade class. Watching them dance, laugh, take silly photos, and otherwise have a great time made my night.
  • In 37 days I will be at 1 year since I began (again) a journey of transformation following my knee injury and surgery. PiYo became for me a gateway to a life-change I could never have anticipated. I had a goal of becoming certified to teach this extraordinary class in 2015 and realized that goal at the end of February. I have been teaching for over two months now and I LOVE it. In addition, PiYo, 21-Day Fix, 21-Day Fix Extreme, Shakeology, and various 30-day challenge groups I have run have helped me to achieve a 50+ pound weight loss.
  • This summer I am excited to be starting a health and wellness program for the youth in our community. I am in the midst of research and writing curriculum and planning schedules and in two weeks we will begin. I am looking forward to teaching and sharing what I have learned with them, hoping and praying that we can help them see how important it is to care for both their physical and spiritual health. Partnering my passions for Jesus and for health is amazing, and being able to do this program by also building partnerships and relationships with other organizations in the community makes it even better!
  • I love lists. I love to check things off of lists when they are complete. And when I make lists, I am very good at following through and completing the tasks listed. But when I don’t make lists, I get all kinds of distracted by whatever pops into my head. So I am working on my list-making this summer. When I am working on one task and another one pops up, instead of chasing that rabbit, I will simply add it to my to-do list for later, and keep focused on the task at hand. And my new favorite app for lists is Wunderlist. Not only can I make myself to-do lists, but I can also SHARE the lists with others. My hubby and I are currently sharing our grocery list so whoever has a chance to run to the store can grab what is on the list. When we think of things we need, we add it to the list. When we purchase something on the list, we check it off. Simply amazing.

What are you musing about on this Monday? Questions in your mind? Things you are grateful for? Fun you had over the weekend? Goals you are setting for yourself this month? Let me know in the comments!

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2014 Top 10

Happy New Year! We made it to 2015! It seems impossible to be 15 years in to the 2000’s!

Looking back over the year, there are so many things I have to be thankful for, but here are 10 of the many:

  • My husband, Mike.
  • My daughter, Anne.
  • My son, Ty.
  • My parents moving in just 5 blocks from us.
  • A new job crafted just for me, provided by the Lord.
  • More time with my family.
  • God’s provision in multiple areas of our lives.
  • New epically uplifting friends.
  • Ending the year over 20 pounds lighter and 17 inches smaller, despite losing running as an outlet.
  • And God, who has blessed me abundantly.

Here are the 10 blog posts that you liked the best during 2014:

Why don’t you take a moment and make a list of at least 10 things that you have to be thankful for from the last year. And look forward to all the potential 2015 holds!

 

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Fragile

I am feeling fragile today.

I feel like if someone were to touch me I would just shatter into a million pieces.

This is how depression feels sometimes.

Some people think that if you can get out of bed and function than you can’t possibly be depressed.

They are wrong.

Some of us have such strong personalities that we don’t want anyone to know we are struggling.

Some of us have such a strong sense of responsibility that even though we want to quit, we can’t.

Some of us have children to get to school and jobs to do, so we don’t have any other choice.

I can’t explain it. I don’t know why I can be fine one morning and by that evening the depression gets the upper hand. I don’t understand why I can’t just make it go away. I don’t get why my chest hurts and I can physically feel the heaviness settle in.

But I do understand that I am not the only one who feels this way. I know that those of us who struggle with this illness are often misunderstood by those who don’t. I know that we can feel isolated and alone when the bottom drops out.

And that is why I am writing this post: to let you know that you are not alone. You have comrades-in-arms to help you in the battle. You have friends who know how you feel. And even when it feels like it will never get better, you need to be reminded that depression lies. (Thank you Jenny The Bloggess for keeping that truth in front of me!) No matter what you feel in the moment, know that it will get better. It may take some time. You may need to take some time for yourself. You may need to seek counseling. You may need to get or tweak medication. But it will get better. Don’t let the lies of depression win. Keep fighting. Even if that means you need to stay in bed for a day and start over the next day. Keep fighting. You are worth it.

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