Definitely Not Smarter than a Fifth Grader

This week’s Fifth grade Sunday school lesson focuses on the importance of God’s word. We will each get ten paper rectangles to record the things we take time to learn about. Then, each of us will use our rectangles to build a pyramid of our priorities. I’m calling it the Personal Priority Pyramid, or PPP for short. Even though we will write down different interests and subjects, the exercise is intended to show that we should still all have the Bible at the top of our PPPs. I’m supposed to make it personal by sharing about a time when God’s word wasn’t at the top of my PPP and how that wreaked havoc in my life until I reprioritized.

I’m pretty sure this week’s lesson has brought about more growth in me than it will in the Fifth grade girls I’ll be teaching!

It’s not really the lesson itself that stirs up uneasiness within me, or at least, not the lesson as it appears at face value. Sharing about something personal certainly doesn’t cause me any turmoil. I’m more or less an open book. And it’s super easy to think of a time in my life that pertains to the lesson, so that’s not the opportunity for growth.

It took me a while to realize that the reason this lesson makes me uncomfortable is not because it’s not true, but because I so often fall short at remembering it. The experience that jumps to the front of my mind is from twenty years ago if that tells you anything. When I was in college, my area of expertise somehow all of a sudden became entirely about food and exercise. I could tell you how many calories and fat grams were in EVERYTHING, how much and what type of exercise would burn off those calories and fat grams, and exactly what I had eaten every day for the past month. Today, I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning, let alone, last Wednesday. But the devil had a firm grip on me, and it took everything I had to find release. I started taking anti-depressants. I went to therapist after therapist. I went to church. I sang in a choir. I gave up caring about food or weight and ordered pizza. But most importantly, I read the Bible. God led me to His word and guided me through it during that difficult time like He never had before.

If I’m honest, I’m not sure I’ve felt that connected to the Bible since then.

I want to say this lack of connection is all related to the fact that God has filled me in other ways these past couple decades – through the Holy Spirit, through relationships and community, through inspirational Christian speakers and authors, through prayer, through writing and speaking. But the truth is that I’m also – mostly – at fault. The only other time I’ve tried to read the Bible all the way through, I stopped in Isaiah – in other words, before the hero of the story was even born. Whenever I’ve done Bible studies, I’ve tried to recreate my university experience, going to the same passages and books that moved me then. When I didn’t get the same warm fuzzy feelings I got in college, instead of realizing I’m just no longer the same kid who needed a sound, theological proof like the one laid out in Romans, and I should perhaps have picked a different book to study, I just get frustrated and decide the Bible and I just need a little distance from each other.

Of course, I still read the Bible. It’s just really not at the top of my PPP. It’s not the thing I prioritize most to learn about.  I certainly don’t spend as much time in God’s word as I do checking Facebook or the Daily Mail. The non-fiction book I read a little bit of every night is a parenting book, not my Bible. The information I dive into daily, after having perhaps glanced at a verse in a devotional, is my work email inbox.

It’s hard to admit how much the Bible has taken a backseat lately. It makes me feel unfit to lead this week’s lesson. And yet, it actually makes me more fit. Ironically, I know this because my favorite Bible verse tells me so. Of course, that isn’t really ironic, since the Bible truly is the most important book of all. I certainly wasn’t expecting to end this post with a Bible verse when I started it, but as always, with God, you have to expect the unexpected.

You see, in His usual fashion, God waited until I was in complete surrender and admitted my weakness before He reminded me that I’ve not been quite so disengaged from His word. In fact, the Bible verse that finally filled me with the assurance that I am more than fit to teach these Fifth grade girls is one that just came to life a couple years ago. It has touched my soul a thousand times recently and let me know that I am okay just as I am, warts and all. For Jesus assures us all that His grace is sufficient. Not only should I not be ashamed when I teach on Sunday, I should share about my weakness, knowing that God’s power will be even more perfect because of it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’”

2 Corinthians 12:9

I pray that I will remember this verse on Sunday and that I can give these girls a real example of what it means to be a Christian. It doesn’t mean we always have to perfectly follow all the rules we learn at church. In fact, it means the opposite – that we have admitted and surrendered in the deepest parts of our souls that we are utterly incapable of living flawless lives. Christ’s light and all of our need for Him shine all the more brightly when we stop thinking we need to be perfect, little Christians and remember that being a Christian has one and only one stipulation – to accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

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From One “Good Mom” to Another

When my babies were born, I was one of those moms who just instantly felt comfortable. Instead of being crippled by worry about the baby or insecurity over my parenting skills, I was at total peace. Nobody was more surprised by my natural maternal instincts and calm demeanor than I was, especially considering how clueless I had been before. At my baby showers, it was actually comical how many gifts were met by my blank stare. Seriously though, why do so many things need to be warmed? Can I get a towel warmer for when I get out of the bath please?

As my kids grew older, my smugness and comfort with motherhood went out the window. All of a sudden, these babies that I knew how to take care of turned into actual people. They had their own personalities! They had their own thoughts. And those thoughts weren’t restricted to to “Give me your boob!” and “Change my diaper.” I know this, because they actually starting speaking their thoughts. OUT LOUD. I had NO idea how to even talk to these little creatures, let alone “raise” them, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

By the time my oldest started school, I was a hot mess as a mother. I questioned everything I did. I always thought I was somehow doing it wrong. I’d look at what all the other moms were doing and try to emulate them – all of them. If neighbor Suzy was using a behavior chart to mete out rewards, then we would get some poster board and create a behavior chart. If fellow room mom Cindy limited her children’s screen time, then we needed to limit screen time, and in the exact same way.

As you can imagine, it was quite impossible to do every single thing that every other mom around me was doing. It’s no wonder I was always falling short in my own mind and felt exhausted from all of the “mom guilt.”

A good friend of mine at the time had four children, ranging in age from five to fifteen. She was one of those “good moms” I was always trying to copy. When she came over with her kids and actually made them wait the recommended fifteen minutes after applying sunscreen (who knew?), a piece of me died inside because my kids were already swimming. Once again, that voice in my head told me this was just one more piece of evidence that I was a failure as a mom.

My perfect sunscreen-applying mentor challenged me to write about what I thought it meant to be a “good mom” as a way to work through my insecurity. I hand wrote out a first draft of my assignment, making sure I didn’t leave any behavior or attitude out. After all, this was going to become my playbook, or so I thought. I edited it, revised it, perfected it and admired it. I felt like I was back in middle school as I hand wrote the final version, like I was turning in a paper for an important grade. Then came the time to review the three-page single-spaced diatribe with Super Mom. I was so proud of myself, and I just knew she would be too! My essay describing a “good mom” was no doubt going to gain her approval as the perfect set of objectives.

I proudly read to her how “good moms” make sure their kids eat healthy, go to bed at a decent time, pray regularly and go to church. I explained that a “good mom” listens to her children, teaches them right from wrong and makes sure they bathe regularly. A “good mom” always sets a good example for her children, sets appropriate limits and helps them to become their best selves. She always sees the good in her children, never pushes too hard and is herself a “good” sister, daughter, Christian, wife, employee, member of society, and of course, she somehow manages to take care of herself as well. It took a while to get through it all.

When I was done, I looked up beaming, expecting my mentor to praise my efforts. I was seriously shocked to get an entirely different reception. All she said was “Wow. No wonder you never feel like you’re a good mom.” but the look on her face said it all. I did not get an “A” on this assignment after all. I had not hit the mark. My expectations of myself, even after I thought I had narrowed them down, were still way too high. I needed to scale back my definition of a “good mom” WAY more before I was even in the right ballpark. She suggested I think more in terms of the basic “essence” of what makes a good mom.

I was dumbfounded. How could I have so misunderstood the assignment? Isn’t it good that I got specific? What exactly did she have a problem with, I wanted to know. Isn’t it good to have high standards? Why shouldn’t I set the bar high for myself? Maybe instead of saying it was a description of a “good mom” I could just rename it to be my “ideal for parenting” and we could quit talking about it already.

But she wouldn’t drop it. When I argued, she argued back.

“You talk a lot about how one of the most important aspects of being a ‘good mom’ is leading your child to know God and specifically, the Christian faith. Does that mean that a Jewish mom is a ‘bad mom’?”

Well, no. Of course not. A Jewish, or Muslim, or Atheist for that matter, can still be a very good mom. I could think of examples of people I knew in all those categories immediately.

“What about the bathing thing? My youngest daughter absolutely detests baths, and I can’t remember the last time she got one. It seriously may have been a month. Does it make me a ‘bad mom’ that she doesn’t take a bath every night?”

This was really rather shocking to hear, but even with the knowledge that it may very well have been a month since one of her daughters had bathed, there was still no question in my mind that Super Mom actually was a super mom.

I thought about what it means to be a “good mom” some more. I prayed about it. I licked my wounds. I read The Glass Castle, a book that was recommended to me that tells a story of a far-from-perfect mom who ends up shaping her daughter into an incredible woman, because of both her weaknesses and her strengths. I thought about how the most “perfect” mom can end up with daughters who struggle with perfectionism their whole lives trying live up to her. And then, finally, one day, I realized Super Mom was right. I needed to seriously cut myself some slack.

And I was set free as a mom.

Here’s my new version of what it means to be a “good mom”:

  • Love unconditionally
  • Encourage your children to be themselves
  • Set limits
  • Teach
  • Try to be the best role model you can be
  • Trust your gut instincts
  • Know your children ultimately belong to God

This list was met with a very different reaction from my friend, but honestly, it didn’t even matter. I no longer cared what she thought. Through the journey, I had come into a new self-confidence that has yet to be shaken, even though it’s been several years since this exercise.

At the end of every day, if I can honestly look at the list above and say that I did my best trying to do those simple things, I know I am a good mom. No matter how many days it’s been since the last bath. No matter if we talked about God or prayed together. No matter when bed time ended up being. No matter how many cookies were eaten.

Even on days when the kids fall asleep in their clothes, without brushing their teeth, in my bed, after having swum immediately after applying sunscreen (gasp), I’m still a good mom.

Being a mom is hard. A lot of blogs have been written about how we all need to quit judging each other, but I think the real problem for most of us is how hard we are on ourselves.

If you’re struggling today with whether you’re a good mom, let me be the mom to help you simplify your expectations of yourself.

Do you love your child unconditionally, just as he or she is?

You’re a good mom.

Do you do your best to set limits and/or teach your child, even if things don’t always go exactly as planned?

You’re a good mom.

Are you trying your best and trusting your gut, even if it means doing something you swore you would never do before you had kids?

You’re a good mom.

We have so much less control than we often think we do. Let’s not spend the precious moments we have with our children worrying that we aren’t good enough. Today, I know I’m a good mom. Join me and let yourself off the hook too. You won’t regret it.

 

 

 

Secret #6: Be Present

Ironically, this post about being in the current moment is something I wrote six months ago. Our computer crashed (again) last month, and this time, I lost some of my writing that was just in MS Word documents. Hopefully you can overlook my hypocrisy here, because I really feel the need right now to have all the blog posts I have published anywhere in one place, that is NOT a local hard drive! Tomorrow, I promise I will start posting again about what is going on with me RIGHT NOW!

Be Present

“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

Psalm 118: 24

The sixth and final secret to seek God is to be present.

Lately, it seems we are bombarded with messages about this very topic. Verizon had an ad campaign that featured the hashtag “#bepresent.” Over the holidays, American Airlines ran a great commercial with the tagline “This Christmas, enjoy the gift of presence.” As a society, it seems we are less “present” than ever.

When I am present – or focused on what is right in front of me right this second – I am closer to God. I put myself in a right relationship with God when I recognize that all I can really control is what I do in this moment. When I’m trying to do five things at once, when I’m obsessing about the future or the past, or when I’m escaping from reality through unhealthy habits, I make myself too big or too small. I forget about God.

Let me give you an example. Earlier today, I decided it was so critical to get this devotional written that I needed to do it while I walked the dog. I had the brilliant idea that I could dictate the post into my phone’s notes app! It was really going to be a beautiful devotional. I was going to start it off by telling you I had secretly made a New Year’s resolution to take walks, and that I wasn’t living up to it, but when I just remembered to “be present,” I realized that it didn’t matter because right in this moment I WAS taking a walk. Somehow, it sounded so much better in my head. I was going to wrap it up by talking about that American Airlines commercial and how you can’t have “the gift of presence” unless you experience the “presence” of the Holy Spirit. Seriously, you would have loved it.

Unfortunately, you will never get to read it, because as I was trying to be Super Woman, I missed something that was right in front of me, and it caused me to stumble, literally and figuratively. I didn’t notice that one of the sidewalk squares was quite a bit higher than the others, and I stubbed my toe. Hard. It was the kind of toe stubbing that radiates through your whole foot. And then through your whole body. And then makes you limp. And quit trying to be Super Woman.

From that point on, I awoke to the irony of my situation and decided that I would actually just try to “be present” for the rest of the day. At first, I had to really focus on what my five senses perceived to stay in the current moment. I realized it was a beautiful day! I heard birds chirping, felt the sun and wind on my face, and noticed how insanely cute my dog is. For the rest of the walk and after I got back home, I had to continually re-focus my thoughts back to the present. I was shocked at how many times I had to do this! I began praying to God to help me stay in the current moment. Instead of reaching for my phone, or Facebook, or some other distraction, I asked God to guide me and show me the next step whenever there was a moment’s pause.

I have heard many people talk about how life is best lived when you just focus on doing the “next right thing.” The trouble is sometimes I can’t quite figure out what the “next right thing” is. Is it to do the next load of laundry? To reply to the back log of emails in my Inbox? To play a game with one of my kids? Because I was so focused on staying in the present today, it was easier to pause, take a deep breath, pray for guidance and discern what the “next right thing” was.

God is in the now. He’s right here. Right now. He wants you to rely on Him one step at a time, one moment at a time. He wants you to “be present,” not because the word “presence” is a really cool word that can have lots of double meanings, but because when you live in the current moment, you let go of everything else. You have to. Every day, every moment, really is made by the Lord, as the Bible verse above states. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

The Ultimate Teacher

When I was a kid, teachers took role by calling each student’s name out loud. When you heard your name called, you responded with a loud “Present!” I don’t think any of us understood what the word “present” meant or why we said it. We just said it to let the teacher know we were there, because that’s what we were taught.

Ironically, this memory of saying something I didn’t fully understand helps me today to understand what people mean when they say be present.

Just like I said “Present!” to mean “I’m here!” in school, another way I know that I am present today is when I answer with an “I’m here!” when called upon.

For example, if I’m in a room with my family but off in my own world, I won’t answer right away with anything like an “I’m here!” if someone calls out my name. I’m not present even though my body is physically in the room. Similarly, I am not present on a spiritual level if I don’t respond when God calls me.

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”

Isaiah 6:8

What a beautiful verse! The next time I hear God whisper into the deepest parts of my soul, I hope and pray the words “Here am I. Send me!” come to mind. I know this hasn’t always been my first reaction to God’s calls.

Just like I can get distracted in the physical world by any number of things and miss what is right in front of me, I can easily miss that God is right in front of me. To truly be present on a spiritual level, I have to practice the other five secrets for seeking God:

  1. Be Still – Before you can answer God’s call with an “I’m Here!” you must spend quiet time with Him so you can recognize His voice and block out any other distractions.
  2. Be True – It’s impossible to be present if you are not comfortable in your own skin. You must first learn to be true to who you are, even if it is different from everyone else around you.
  3. Let Go – To be present – in a place where you answer “I’m here!” when God calls your name – you have to surrender everything in your life to God.
  4. Get Uncomfortable – Sometimes the places God asks you to go are so far outside your comfort zone that your immediate reaction is to say no. It is only when you realize the truth that transformation requires you to be uncomfortable that you can say “Yes! I’m here!” to God.
  5. Change Your Perspective on Pain – It is most difficult to be present when we are in pain. But when we change our perspective of pain so that we see it as a teacher, and as a path to spiritual progress and peace, we can say “I’m here!” to even the most difficult tasks.

In what areas of your life can you work to be more present?
Is God calling you to do something that you have yet to respond to with an “I’m here!”?

Being present doesn’t mean we say yes to every opportunity to serve that comes our way, but it also means we don’t always say no. It means that when we hear our teacher take role, we are awake and alert. And when our names are called, even if we don’t understand fully what we are saying, we respond as we have been taught and say “Here I am Lord. Send me!”

This post was originally published as a series of devotionals called “Six Secrets to Seeking God” on The Sisterhood’s website (http://www.tothemoonsisterhood.com).  

Secret #5: Find Purpose in Pain

One look at the news confirms that suffering is a universal condition. Pain does not just apply to the people of Bible times or third-world countries – it is everywhere. Even in the lives of those of us who could easily classify all our problems as “first-world problems,” hardship is real.

The fifth secret to seeking God is to change your perspective on pain.

I can’t count the number of times I have said to one of my children, “You’re okay. You’re okay. Stop crying.” I had to learn the hard way that my words, while well-intentioned, were not always the best way to parent. After many dollars in therapy, several books on parenting and a lot of trial and error, I realized I needed to tone down my nurturing “it’s okay” instinct and just let my kids hurt sometimes. It’s natural to want to protect our children from harm, but kids also need to know that it is okay, in fact healthy, to feel pain.

Just like we must allow our children to feel pain sometimes, God allows His children to experience trials and tribulations in this life because He ultimately knows what’s best.

Now, I certainly don’t want to make light of or trivialize suffering. I can’t possibly understand why certain things happen the way they do, and I am not sure that “everything happens for a reason.” What I do know is that walking through even the worst kind of adversity can make you stronger in a way that nothing else can.

So often in today’s society, we think any time we have a painful thought or physical ailment, we must try to heal it or stuff it as fast as possible. We view pain as weakness, but pain is an inevitable part of life, a necessary experience that helps us grow physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. In the Bible, pain and suffering are repeatedly discussed not as weakness, but as strength. As gifts to be celebrated.

“More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Romans 5:3-5

What hardship are you trying to outrun today?
What suffering are you trying to go around instead of through?

Could it be that God put something difficult in front of you to produce perseverance?

If there’s nothing distressing you today, thank God! Ask Him to strengthen you and prepare you to embrace the next difficulty as an opportunity to develop character.

If you are struggling with something, cling to the truth in Romans 5:3-5. If you don’t have the energy to rejoice, find a way to at least hope. Hope that somehow, some way, your current pain will create endurance, perseverance, character and even more hope within you. It will be a hope that surpasses your current limitations and understanding. For we have a hope through the Holy Spirit that “does not put us to shame.”

My Crazy, Unexpected, Empowering Natural Childbirth Story

The best example I have from my personal life of when pain strengthened my faith was one I never would have expected to have. Before I had my first child, I was completely against natural childbirth. I don’t mean that I respected every woman’s decision but just personally intended to get an epidural. I mean, I thought you were just plain crazy if you chose natural childbirth!

When it came time to have my first child, things didn’t quite go as planned. I barely made it to the hospital in time. My water broke in the lobby while the receptionist asked if I’d pre-registered. I was fully dilated by the time some nurses pulled me into the closest room they could find, and my daughter was born before they could get an IV in, much less have an epidural administered.

Three years later, when it was time to give birth to my son, my outlook was very different. Because of how easy my recovery had been and how magical my time was with my daughter those first few days, I actually chose to have natural childbirth!

Before I continue, please, please, please do NOT think I am in any way suggesting that every woman should choose natural labor!!! I understand now that whether a woman schedules a C-section or has the baby in her bathtub, her choices are very personal ones that only she can make. I no longer judge anyone! Every person’s journey is unique, and I only give my natural childbirth story to show how pain, by its nature, has the capacity to transcend the human realm of existence. It’s important not that you experience the same kind of pain that I felt, but that you don’t run from whatever difficult situation you encounter when you follow your inner voice.

Back to my story, giving birth to my second child was much different than my first. First of all, my labor lasted 9 or 10 hours, not 30 minutes. My son was over a pound bigger than my daughter. And even though I didn’t go into the experience to be “empowered,” or to have an experience to share with others, once again, God had other plans. As I experienced the worst pain I have ever felt, I had no choice but to give up. I could not face it by myself. The pain was so bad, the only thing I could do was to cry OUT LOUD for God to help me. I literally said “God help me” OUT LOUD over and over again, until finally my beautiful son was born.

It was through that pain and vocal trust in God that I got a different kind of view into His nature that I had not seen before. I experienced first-hand God getting me through something I could not do by myself. I realized deep down in my soul that really, truly, even when I am not enough, He is.

Time and time again, I have recalled my natural childbirth experience, and it has empowered me. I say “God help me” over and over now when I don’t think I can get through something, and I KNOW He will get me through it. If He pulled me through the worst pain imaginable, He can pull me through anything.

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’”

Matthew: 19:26

I’d read the verse above many times, but until I’d experienced it first-hand, I didn’t really get it. For you to take the knowledge from your head to your heart that truly all things are possible with God, you cannot run from all of the pain in your life. The pain in your life is an opportunity for you to experience the truth that God can do things for you that you cannot do for yourself. His power is truly capable of doing those things which are impossible without Him. I’m living proof.

Love Lives Here

Worthless. That’s the only way I can think to describe the way I feel right now.

I know I’m not worthless. And that even if on some level, I AM worthless, it’s okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway.

That knowledge is not helping me right now.

I know it’s okay to feel this way sometimes. I am taking my own advice to write about where these feelings are coming from to help battle them!

Feelings of worthlessness are always tied to fear in my experience. Fear that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I keep reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying.

I try to remember just how many times I’ve been here before. And how it always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. Why would it be any different this time?

Well, let’s see. For starters, I dove head first into planning an event based on ZERO knowledge or experience as an event organizer. I have never taken a marketing class, am totally uncomfortable pushing people to come to things, and did no market research to see how similar events fared in the area.

Nope, I just dove in.

I wasn’t alone, but I feel alone. I was the initiator. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for me. I brought it up. I suggested that we have this event in Plano. Sure, others dove in after me, but they wouldn’t have even though to dive in if I hadn’t done it first.

We rented an entire building and planned for thousands of women to show up to our event. We spent thousands of dollars. We got incredible workshop leaders, speakers and other talent to come perform. We printed and distributed thousands of flyers and post cards. We created a Facebook event and posted like crazy in it. When we noticed we weren’t getting the response we had hoped for, we doubled down and spent even more money to advertise on the radio.

As of right now, we have sold exactly 50 tickets to the event. 50.

I’ve talked through a new layout for the building given the low numbers. We are closing off the biggest room in the building, so we don’t look quite so foolish. But I still feel so foolish. Especially after I asked the event coordinator if she’d ever seen anyone in our situation, and she just point blank said no. Nice.

We’re trying to figure out how best to let the vendors know that we are not going to be anywhere close to the 1,000 women we had projected in our vendor information sheet. We don’t have too many vendors, so I guess that makes it a little better. A week ago, not having a lot of vendors was a major concern; now, it’s a bit of a bright spot. Hopefully the few we have won’t kill us.

As I stew in my self-pity over what a total idiot I am, it’s not helping that since the beginning of the year, we have had one mini-crisis after another. Both my husband’s and my work computers, and our home computer have completely crashed. Everyone has been sick, at least once. We’ve had a flat tire, major health issues with people close to us, and now, both our cars, our roof and our fence have major hail damage. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.

You might think these things should not contribute to my feelings of inadequacy, but when I’m in the mood I’m in right now, I can find a reason why I’m responsible for just about everything. I hadn’t kept the virus software up-to-date on the home computer, which is why it failed. I obviously don’t make my kids wash their hands enough. Why else would they get sick so much? If our garage wasn’t such a disaster, we could have put both cars in the garage and avoided hail damage. Since I am without doubt, the biggest slob in our family, of course that is my fault. Today, the Monday of the week of the event, my car, which was totaled from hail damage but was at least drive-able, decided not to start.  Obviously, I shouldn’t have let it go past the inspection due date.

It’s all so very selfish when you think about it! As if it’s all about me!

I keep telling myself it’s NOT about ME, but the truth is if I am really going to be able to surrender my ego in all of this, I have to share where I am with others. Especially with other women. So if you are reading this, thank you for being part of my solution today. I need you. We need each other.

At the event I’m planning, I’m also speaking. I’m talking about how it’s okay to just be REAL and live a life that is completely exposed. I’m speaking about how we walk around hiding our vulnerabilities and fears from each other, but they end up coming out anyway, in ways we never intended. There’s a better way. And it starts with being real. And honest. And vulnerable. And authentic. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness.” We cannot be afraid of showing our weakness, because His power is made PERFECT in weakness.

If I’m going to speak authentically at this event, I have to lay my current weakness out on the table now so I’m not a hypocrite.  While I’m still hopeful that in the next two days, we will sell hundreds of tickets, realistically, I have to accept that we may very well have only 60-100 women. And I have to share that an hour ago, when I started writing this, that prospect made me feel worthless. I knew I wasn’t worthless. And that even if on some level, I WAS, it was okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway. But that knowledge wasn’t helping.

What has helped is writing about my feelings and thinking about sharing them with you. I imagine what you will say and how you will encourage me. That you might tell me of a similar situation you were in and how it turned out better than you expected. That you might remind me that it’s not over yet. After all, since I’ve been writing this, a reporter called and said she was going to publish a story about the event on Thursday! God has worked bigger miracles than this before. I wouldn’t put it past Him to do a last-second surge just so we’d always know it was HIM and not US.

Maybe you will reassure me that it doesn’t matter who comes, or how many come, it’s about the women who are there. In the Old Testament, there is a story where God is willing to save an entire city if there is just one person worthy. And because of Jesus, we are all somehow worthy. That means he wouldn’t hesitate to spend thousands of dollars even if it was just to save one person. If He wouldn’t consider that wasteful or worthless, how preposterous that I would somehow think I know better!

I am now so excited about this event. I see now that it is going to be amazing no matter how many women show up. How foolish I have been! But not because I dove in too quickly. No, that was just being human. How foolish I have been to worry so much about how I look.

To be so afraid that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I am glad I kept reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying. And sharing.

I’ve been here many times before. And it has always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. I know it won’t be any different this time.

 

 

Secret #4: Get Uncomfortable

GetUncomfortable“Transformation doesn’t happen until you get outside of your comfort zone!”

My attendance at the exercise class where the instructor yelled this was short-lived, but her words have stuck with me. They remind of one of my favorite Bible verses.

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

Romans 12:2

Whether we are working out our bodies or trying to stay spiritually fit, the same truth applies. Transformation requires you to get uncomfortable.

Good managers are acutely aware of this. Right when you get really comfortable with something, they re-assign you to work on something else. They never let you settle in too much, because they know that’s not how you grow. In his book, From Good to Great, Jim Collins talks about how the truly great companies set stretch goals by defining them as BHAGs, or Big Hairy Audacious Goals. Good managers know that you have to set these types of stretch goals at every level to be successful.

To say that God calls you to go outside your comfort zone is an understatement. He calls you to do things that are so uncomfortable, you almost want to laugh. He called his disciple Peter to actually walk on water. Even though Peter had just seen Jesus walk on the water, it was still hard for Peter to understand how in the world he could do this! After all, Jesus is God, and Peter is, well, NOT God.

“‘Come,’ he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said. ‘Why did you doubt?’”

Matthew 14:29-31

Jesus called Peter to walk on the water, not because He relished the opportunity to watch Peter squirm, but because He knew it would demonstrate God’s incredible power and the importance of faith. God calls us to walk through things that make us uncomfortable, not because he knows we can handle it, but because He knows we can’t. He knows we’ll be forced to rely on Him, and that’s the whole point. When you go outside your comfort zone and take a risk, you have to trust God. When God comes through for you, as He always does, not only is He glorified, but your faith is strengthened by the experience. You are “transformed by the renewing of your mind.”

Today, I challenge you to seek God by following the calls He puts on your heart that make you uncomfortable. Smile and say hi to someone who looks like she needs a friend, even though it feels awkward and intrusive. Forgive someone that you have every right to stay mad at. Talk to your husband about that issue you’ve been hoping will go away but just isn’t. Call that relative or friend you haven’t talked to in ages who keeps coming to mind. Make amends for your part in an argument even if the other person was more at fault. Join that choir you keep talking about wanting to be a part of.

Allow God to transform you by stepping out into the waves and trusting Him. He won’t let you down, I promise.

One of the most “uncomfortable” times in my life was at the very end of my pregnancy. I wasn’t in constant pain, just UNCOMFORTABLE. I heard someone say this is God’s way of preparing you for labor. You are so uncomfortable and ready for the baby to just GET OUT, you are pretty much willing to go through anything. I have a good friend right now was beyond uncomfortable at the end of her pregnancy. She couldn’t sleep. She couldn’t work. She couldn’t even get comfortable enough to just lay in her bed and watch TV.

Sometimes discomfort is God’s way of preparing us for something else. And just like a pregnant woman has to go from extraordinary discomfort to labor pains before she knows the joy of motherhood, when you stretch yourself outside your comfort zone for God, you don’t always transition immediately from awkwardness to Holy Spirit-filled serenity. Sometimes, there is pain in between. Don’t be discouraged if you take a risk and the result is not what you hoped for. Just keep pressing on, one step at a time, and trust God’s word that He will eventually lead you to a better place.

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.”

1 Peter 5:10

This verse promises us not only that our suffering is temporary but that God will make us stronger through it if we let Him. In the next topic, we will go beyond just getting uncomfortable, and talk about changing our perception of pain. For today, whether you are feeling mild discomfort or going through something much more painful, take heart and let hope be enough.

All of us mommas know that my friend’s discomfort today will be worth it a few days from now. If her experience is like mine, once her sweet baby boy enters this world, today will be but a fleeting memory, replaced by a new kind of joy she can’t even begin to imagine. She has the hope of that joy. She has an idea of what it will look like. But, as a woman who hasn’t yet had a healthy child, she doesn’t really know. Similarly, we all go through new things that are uncomfortable and just plain icky, where all we have is hope. As you take steps to be who God calls you to be, lean into those uncomfortable moments and remember that sometimes discomfort precedes joy and transformation beyond your comprehension.

Originally published on The Sisterhood blog (tothemoonsisterhood.com)