Elbow Grease

One of my favorite things to clean is the bathroom…well, that is, until it’s not. I love a sparkling, good smelling bathroom. I like it when things feel orderly and everything is put in its place. It’s never really grossed me out to clean it well, and I’ve never really minded putting a little elbow strength into it to ensure it is beautiful in the end. Right now, however, my bathroom looks like a zoo – and it smells like one, too. Yuck! While I may love a spic and span bathroom, right now, I just feel too overwhelmed to care.  It’s such a mess, I’m more content to live in the junk of it than put any effort forth to make it shine. They say (by the way, who is they?) our best thinking is done in the bathroom.  Maybe they are on to something when it comes to what my bathroom speaks to me. (Maybe those Scrubbing Bubbles guys really are speaking to me!) I’ve been settling for the mediocre rather than doing whatever it takes to do anything else about it.

Our relationships can be like that. We want a thriving friendship, but many times we are unwilling to put in a little elbow grease to make it work.  We’d rather quit people altogether and float from friendship to friendship, never facing the stuff that makes us stronger. We carry grudges, harbor jealousy, say we are for each other, but our actions just don’t match up. Relationships become only things of convenience. As I look back on many of my relationships, I see a sick person contributing to those that never really developed.  That sick person was ME! I wanted them to do all of the work and pursue me, entertain me, share themselves with me…forgive ME! When they no longer paid me the time of day, I moved on to the next friendship, because I was simply too lazy to make it work, or I just stopped caring.  Ouch!

“But love is born when we misunderstand one another and make it right, when we cry in the kitchen, when we show up uninvited with magazines and granola bars, in an effort to say, I love you.”                                                                            Shauna Niequist

Relationships require sacrifice. We know this.  It’s not a new concept, but we continue to buck up against it.  We just don’t want to get messy.  Do we want a blossoming friendship? Umm…do I want a clean bathroom? Duh! Sometimes friendships says, “Will you forgive me?” Matthew 18 has established itself as the ultimate guide for the HOW part of having thriving relationships. When the truth is established that having growing relationships is a very good thing, knowing how to accomplish that is what I want to know.  How about you?  Matthew 18:15 says, “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend.” Even if you haven’t been hurt by a friend, this truth is golden! We’ve got to put in the work to to get the reward! Today, if you’re anything like I’ve been, you’ve put it off long enough to make things right in a relationship.  Maybe it is a lifelong friendship gone south, or a rift between you and a coworker,  breaking the silence between you and your spouse, or making things right with your child.  Nothing is ever accomplished living in the misunderstood. Tough words may need to be offered today, grudges destroyed and hearts mended. Maybe today, it’s your move to make!

As for me…I’m off to clean the bathroom!

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When You Feel <

 I scrolled through my feed and picture after picture, post after post glared at me like a big ‘ole neon sign that said, “You weren’t invited.” All I saw were my friends, people I had included in my life celebrating their good times, while I sat at home alone. Why did I always feel like I was doing the inviting, only to find myself left out? Over and over in my mind the words repeated themselves, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”(Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31) Some “Golden Rule” that was! I felt like it was broken in my life. Who really even cares anymore? Truth was, as much as I tried to convince myself I didn’t care, I did, and it hurt.

This was years ago, but sometimes the reality that at some point and time we’ve all felt less than still rears its ugly head.  I’m often tormented by the fact that I feel like I don’t always lead very well in this area.  I get all pumped up and lead the charge for an event, open the door for friendship or gather people together for community, only to feel like I’m stonewalled, not heard.  My attitude becomes, “Fine then, see if I include you next time!” (Is there an emoji for nah, nah na boo boo stick your hands in doo doo?) When our trust is broken and people don’t accept our invitation in, or follow our leadership, we’re often left feeling like we’re wearing a t-shirt that says, “I Suck!” Satan would love to leave it there and have another of his victims succumb to negative thoughts that lead to quitting people altogether! Nope, not this girl! I read this week thoughts about turning 40 and how you care a little less about whether people like you or not.  I think there’s some truth to that. Not in a “all you people can just BITE ME” way, but in a way that says, “Yeah, I know people may not respond the way I want them to, but I will keep on loving them anyway”.  That’s hard. If you think that comes easy for me, think again.  It takes me awhile to be OK with that, but putting myself out there for people again and again is way better than never trying. There’s no reward in excluding people from our lives forever.  Staying there leads only to me writing about being lonely, and that’s just a pity party!

So, what do we do when we feel less than? Do we just go on that easily? Probably not.  Like every good thing, we have to work at it.  We can’t stay in limbo waiting around for others to reciprocate, to follow our leadership, to invite us to hang out.  We gotta keep on living, people! As much as it may not make us feel included, or a part of lives, we do it! Why? People matter. While we may just want to matter to someone, there’s another someone who needs to know they matter to us…to GOD! Yesterday I read these words…”Rarely have I witnessed assumptions turn into facts.” This is something to consider when we allow our lives to be defined by what we see on social media, think we hear others saying or perceive that we are being treated like. The enemy would like nothing more than have us “think” these things are our truth.  It’s been a long road for me to know my truth and settle into that.  I still get so insecure when I am left out, and I believe the lies I’m not wanted, but I no longer live there. It’s taken me shifting my focus to truly making others feel that they are important.  Is it always answered in return? Sadly, it’s not, but I’ve got to keep on keeping on.  Friend, I pray that today, you find your identity in the One who loves you most! He includes us every, single time.  He never leaves us out.  Something we’ve probably known all of our lives, but maybe today we needed a good reminder.  You are not less than! You are MORE! Live in the MORE of who, and Whose you are today.

Somebody You’re Not

When I was a little girl, I spent most of my time pretending.  Any given day, I might be the Bionic Woman, scaling the oh, so tall heights of my swing set and jumping off to chase the bad guys. Or, some days I was Anne of Green Gables, skipping along in the “meadow” to find my kindred spirit, or losing myself in a book.  I always loved to imagine that I was in a faraway land, another time period, outer space, you name it.  I was such a shy, insecure girl, the idea of being someone else was much more appealing than just being me.  As a kid, it works to imagine, so that we learn to create, or that we dream so we understand how to reach for the stars and hit our goals, but as an adult, pretending to be someone else is not doing me, or anyone else any favors.  I’ve fallen in the trap so often of believing I must be someone different to be accepted.  I must make others believe that I possess talents that I absolutely do NOT have in order to be included.  We see everybody doing it.  Kids face the pressure every single day to fit in.  You must play a sport to sit at the cool kid table, or you must sing to be considered “talented”.  The artsy types are labeled “geeks” and the smart kids are “nerds”.

There’s a whole lot of time being spent striving to be someone else rather just being who God created us to be.  One of the most detrimental things we can do for ourselves is to live, or lead others, from that place of insecurity. Living in that place of believing we are not good enough to be liked, loved, used or wanted can cripple us from achieving any God-sized dream we’ve set out to achieve. I’ve wasted countless time and energy trying to please others, giving little attention to pleasing the One who made me to be just who I am.  The time I’ve spent on believing I had to have it all together in order for God to use me has left a trail of missed opportunities. What if we all just allow God to use us from right where He has us?  Embracing that place of vulnerability and admitting, “No, I do not have it all together” or “That’s right, I’m not going to pretend anymore” can, and will, produce so many more opportunities to influence others.  There’s a deep desire from us all for authenticity, an authenticity that is not just limited to seeing it in others, but we, ourselves, crave knowing that we can be more authentic and it will be a difference-maker.  I don’t know what may be holding you back today from knowing that it really is OK for you to just be you and God will use you.  Being on a stage, leading others in a group, having everyone know your name is not where it’s at.  It is in the getting our hands dirty, exposing our struggles to others in the real and raw moments that we say, “I absolutely do not have it all together, but I won’t wait until I do for God to use that place in my life to matter”.  Where I stand now in my life is no matter the opportunity, whether it be speaking about what He’s doing in my life from stage, or in the intimacy of a one on one conversation, that I speak from a place of “more real, less hiding”. By that, I simply mean that I have to begin to see everyday as another day to live fully in who I am and know that no one is looking for me to have it all together.  People are looking for a life that reveals, “Oh, look God has got work to do in her and she’s letting Him do it.”  He’s got a whole lotta work to do in me.  Pretending otherwise is not going to impact lives, and I don’t want that for my life.  I want you to see today that it’s OK to come out of hiding.  We like you just the way you are.  God uses you just the way you are.  That thing you’ve been doing – pretending you have to have it all together – stop it.  Start today to just be real and say, “I don’t have it together, but that won’t stop me!”   Listen, the struggle we face to just believe that He’ll use someone else will never end, but today believe, He’s not looking for somebody you’re not, but He’s looking right at you.  He believes in you.  It’s time you believe, too!

You may feel overwhelmed but don’t underestimate what God’s doing through you. God has a history of using limping people to change history. Mark Batterson, “Draw the Circle”

Riding Down the Road

Just two weeks ago, Jeff and I were riding down I-85, spending a Friday together just like we always do.  I couldn’t even tell you the nature of our conversation, but I can tell you, without being overly mushy, that it was one of those moments I felt completely 80877overtaken by how much more I love him each and everyday.  I remember saying to myself, “I hope I remember this moment forever” – the way he looked when he spoke, the light in his eyes when he laughed.  This ordinary day, no special celebration, no special occasion, but just an any other kind of day that time stood still and I remembered.  I remembered from where we came, that first day I met him at Charleston Southern University, he being so  flirtatious and me, shy and smitten when I looked into his eyes.  I remembered our wedding day, a day we made a covenant with one another, a day when I never felt more beautiful and he never looked more handsome.  We rode along and I remembered days when we had absolutely nothing, no idea how we’d pay for groceries, but we’d sit down at the dinner table of the last bit of food we had in the house and we’d still laugh and we’d still pray and believe that God had us right where he wanted us.  He’d hold my hand and I’d believe him when he’d say we would be alright.  Years later, I’d hold his hand and believe him when he’d tell me that God’s timing was perfect and one day he just knew I’d be a mom.  He reminded me that God is faithful, and I saw that to be true when a couple of years later, I watched my husband lift our tiny firstborn up in the delivery room praising God for giving us the desire of our heart.  I’ve held his hand and walked down the road of hurt and meanness from people that said they loved Christ, but we had a hard time feeling that love.  We laughed again and prayed again, believing that God had more for us, that He knew our desire to lead people to love like Jesus and extend a hand outside the walls of  a church building.  So, we dreamed big dreams together, we trusted He’d meet our needs and He just asked us to obey, and we did.  A new church, a new ministry, we didn’t, and still don’t always know what we’re doing.  Throw three more kids in the mix after all those years ago He blessed us with our first, we just walk along, making a lot of mistakes, a lot of memories, but the singular thing that has stayed the same is we’ve done it together.

Life is just plain hard and yet it’s also so full of highs.  Walking beside someone that loves and believes in me can still be something I so often take for granted.  A list of errands, appointments, mediocrity that takes over, busyness – they all take my eyes off what matters.  I’m not much of a fan of Valentine’s day when it comes to celebrating all of the commercialism of it (although it is the one time of year I try to get my hands on an assorted box of chocolates), but what I do love is that it never hurts to be reminded of what is right about the loves in our lives, when we spend so much time trying to point out what’s wrong.  For me, riding down a road, holding my sweetheart’s hand, laughing and dreaming brought it all back into focus.  There’s no one I’d rather share my life. There’s no one I’d rather dream big dreams. There’s no one I’d rather walk through dark days.  Choosing everyday to walk through it all with him will always be my greatest decision.

Take time to just remember today.  You are loved!