To My Mom

Sometimes, I find something months before I want it to go live. This is one of those posts. You’re seeing it on Mothers Day, but I’m typing these words a few days before Christmas, several months earlier. I heard this song a couple months ago and made a note in my ongoing list of writing and blog ideas. So, I’m obviously not a mama’s boy, but despite that discrepancy, it speaks to how I feel about my mom. I love her. She’s provided for me. She’s loved me. She’s corrected and encouraged me. She’s let me see her imperfections, and she’s been a good role model. She’s let me grow up.

I love my mama. We have a bond that time and circumstances will not break.

Happy Mothers Day!

 

Weeping Isn’t Weakness

d2278391983000372506fe14410f2b22Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning. (Psalm 30:5b)

When was the last time you wept? Why?

When was the last time you had a season of weeping? What was your reaction to it?

How do you respond to others’ weeping?

In today’s verse, we often focus on the second part more than the first. We want to know joy comes in the morning, that weeping is limited. But it holds a firm place in the seasons of our lives. We notice the joy in the morning more because it is a change from the weeping of the night. Perhaps we appreciate the joy more because of the difference between it and weeping through the night. The joy of the morning seems to be the hopeful part, but the hope is tied between the two.

Weeping can create a path to joy. Sure, we can have joy without weeping. We can have joy simply because God is who He is. But there is still a time and place for weeping. Sometimes it is because we are grieving or hurt or angry or confused or heartbroken at the injustice of the world. The night of weeping might last much longer than we want. And it might come and go, like the pattern of the night and day.

A season of weeping doesn’t mean weeping is constant, then it is done, as if we can turn it off and on like a water hydrant. Weeping reveals a wound that needs some healing, and healing often takes time. Weeping isn’t a weakness. It is an important part of life. Whether we weep inwardly or outwardly, it shows a vulnerability that only God can cover and bind, because only He truly understands. Even our own reasons are often guesses based only on the pieces of the puzzle we understand. We are too close to see it all. God is too close not to.

Sit in the dark in silence for at least three minutes today or tonight. You might have to find a closet or lock the bathroom door or wait until kids go to bed. What do you notice in the darkness and in the silence? What can you experience under those conditions that the light and noise drown out? How can you appreciate the darkness more?

I Gained More Than I Lost

When my dad died, I didn’t feel as if I lost him. To be sure, I am lonely without him. I miss him tremendously. Silent tears often fall as I think of and miss him. I could get lost in the “what ifs.” I could easily become consumed by the “if onlys.” I could think about what I won’t have without him, and I do have those thoughts sometimes, but I have something more powerful:

Memories. Appreciation. Life lessons. Laughter. Advice. Discipline. Compassion. Generosity. Sacrifice. Mentoring. Encouragement.

1437017200015I gained more than I lost. There is no way that the unknown future with my dad could outweigh the certainty of our lives together. Not that our lives were perfect. But they don’t have to be in order for me to appreciate the good that I had with my dad.

We have to say goodbye throughout our entire lives. Goodbye to friends, teachers, caregivers, acquaintances, classmates, classrooms, houses, pets, dreams, innocence, assumptions, health, dependence and independence, abilities, talents, accolades, titles, and so much more. You’d think we’d get used to saying goodbye, but it’s still difficult much of the time. But seasons don’t last forever. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t live each season to its fullest and savor what we’ll need to sustain us into the next one.

My dad’s death left a huge gap in my life, but his life filled that gap well. And just because he’s now gone doesn’t mean the blessings of our relationship can’t continue to encourage and nourish me. Even when it’s difficult, I will choose to count the gain more than the loss.

What loss are you experiencing? How will you respond?

 

I Would Rather…

We often use the phrase, “I would rather…” with a wistful tone, wishing for something we don’t have. Sometimes we say it with irritation to express what we’d rather be doing. But what if we flipped our perspectives to claim we’d rather be where we are, doing what we’re doing, instead of our other options?

For example, maybe you’d like a newer car, but there are other things that take priority, such as an education, dance lessons for your daughter, or a thrifty vacation experience with friends or family to make memories together. Would you rather be driving a new car or doing those other things that you’ve prioritized? Despite feelings of being in out-of-control situations at times, we have more choices than we might care to admit because of the responsibilities that come with them. When we get down to the basics, we will admit that we indeed have chosen what we’d rather do.

Instead of complaining, what if you took the high road and began to see the choices you have in front of you?

What if you accepted the responsibility of responding well, so that you make the best choice and move on instead of what focusing on what could have been? Maybe your situation isn’t ideal, but you can still prioritize relationships, faith, and so many other choices. You get to choose how you react to what’s going on around you.

When you say “I’d rather,” do you focus on what you don’t have and what you can’t do, or do you take responsibility for choices to set aside some things for a season in order to prioritize other things? Your approach and perspective matter. Contentment requires you to focus and choose well.

I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Little-Girl-Looking-over-Fence

Life In and Out of The Sweet Season

Have you ever had that “sweet season,” when you just seemed to be content and peaceful? You appreciate where you are, who you’re with, and what you’re doing. Even though life isn’t perfect, it feels like “all is right with the world.” You have a sweet friendship, a sweet job, a sweet reprieve from health concerns, or something else that spurs you to breathe a deep sigh of contentment.

There’s a part of us that wishes we could stay in the sweet season, but we can’t. We can easily become discouraged when we don’t accept the reality that we can’t stay there forever. We need to thank God for the sweet season but not expect Him to keep us there. We would miss out. We’d miss the lessons of hardships and challenges. We’d miss the trust we find when we need to cling to Him through doubts and trials. We’d miss the relationships He forges through the tough times. We’d miss the conviction of correction He gives us when we get complacent or rebellious. We’d miss the appreciation of the sweet season in comparison to the chaos of the seasons surrounding it.

The sweet season isn’t the goal here on earth. It’s the exception that gives us a glimpse of hope and a moment or reprieve. It’s an invitation into appreciation, not an expectation of what we deserve to maintain throughout lives. It’s a gift, not a right.

Appreciate the sweet season, but remember the appreciation mainly comes from the context within the rest of your life.

Receive it as a blessed treat. Enjoy it. Let it prepare you for the next season, which may not be as sweet but still comes with plenty of opportunities to choose contentment and appreciation.

Good to Drink

faucetMoses led the Israelites away from the Red Sea into the Desert of Shur. They traveled for three days in the desert but found no water. Then they came to Marah, where there was water, but they could not drink it because it was too bitter. (That is why the place was named Marah.) The people grumbled to Moses and asked, “What will we drink?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, and the Lord showed him a tree. When Moses threw the tree into the water, the water became good to drink.  Exodus 15:22-25

God can turn the bitter into good. He can turn useless into useful. He can turn disgraced into gracious. It’s what he does best: God redeems.

God invites us into relationship with him. He continues to work on and in us as we choose him over and over again. As we deepen our trust in him and share more of our lives with him, he molds us into who he created us to be. We’re created in God’s image.

We don’t always have a good attitude about where we are or where we think God is. We get self-centered in our perspective so that we think we’re worse off than we are. We grumble, just as the Israelites grumbled about their living conditions. Keep in mind this was shortly after God helped them miraculously escape Pharaoh’s army. He guided and provided. They grumbled.

We’re not much different. Life isn’t the way we think it should be, and we grumble. Sometimes God lets us grumble for a while. Sometimes he develops us through patience and perseverance. Sometimes he brings someone godly into our lives to help us, like the Israelites and Moses. He cried out to the Lord, and God showed him a way to make the water good.

Who is making your life good right now? Not good by your own standards but good by God’s standards.

Who loves you with God’s love despite your grumblings? Who shows God’s patience and mercy to you through his or her own patience and mercy?

How are you making someone else’s life good? With whom are you being patient despite his or her grumblings? Show God’s mercy. After all, he shows you his mercy, turning bitterness into goodness when you allow him to do so.

Live It. Think about someone who is in your life right now who leads you away from a self-focus and grumblings and points you toward God’s goodness. Call, text, or write a note of appreciation.

Deception Destroys

decptionWithout trust, you are alone. Deception doesn’t build team. It erodes trust. And deception doesn’t have to be bold-faced lies.

As I work with ministry teams, I often find people talking about growing their teams by bringing more people on board without realizing the potential they have in growing the existing team them have. Without facing issues of team unity, bringing additional people on board will only spread to more people. In the excitement of growth, the issues might be temporarily masked, but when trust isn’t intentionally built, relationships deteriorate.

If you make promises you can’t keep, you erode trust. That’s not to say you are always going to be able to fulfill every commitment you make, but when you can’t do something you said you’d do, you need to reach out and ask for help. That means, if someone on your team respectfully reaches out for help, you need to refrain from (often behind-the-back) chastisements of “Why can’t she just do what she said she’d do? What if we all dropped the ball?” Reaching out for help is not dropping the ball. When you say you can get something done, get it done…and involving additional people can actually be beneficial, because more people get to share ownership. Cultivate a team that trusts each other enough to be able to fully rely on each other to get it all done…together.

If you don’t give recognition and commendation, you erode trust. It’s easy to keep pushing forward to continue working on the next thing. Take a breath and savor what someone’s done. Show appreciation. A word of encouragement goes a long way. Chronic lack of appreciation goes a long way, too, but it’s not the direction healthy teams grow. A smile, a nod, and a simple “thank you” invites people to take a breath of affirmation, encouraging them to take the next steps with renewed purpose. Recognition also comes in the form of acknowledging others’ ideas. It doesn’t mean accepting every single idea, but building trust certainly involves respecting the person who shares ideas. When the idea is tossed aside with a smirk, the person who shared is less likely to share in the future. People also don’t feel valued when all ideas are included without discernment of what fits and what doesn’t. After all, if all ideas are valued the same, there really is no value to them.

If you aren’t trustworthy, you erode trust. It’s not just what you say but also what you do. Passive-aggressiveness erodes relationships. If something is wrong but you’re unwilling to face it, the anger, frustration, and irritation is felt under the table. Team members know something is going on but may feel pressure not to bring up the elephant in the room. Many people believe they are being honest with everyone when they say nothing is wrong, because they’re not being honest with themselves. They believe they’re being transparent, because they won’t admit what’s wrong even to themselves. In the process, they can make it seem as if the very thing that they believe is wrong with others is actually what is stirring up within themselves. Even though the anger and frustration they seem to feel for others may not actually be related to the people they seem to target, it feels as if it is, and it can quickly damage the health of a team.

Building trust takes time and effort.

Many want to assume it’s a default setting, but it’s not. Be sacrificial and build–or rebuild–trust. We’re called to do life with others, and that requires self-sacrifice, difficult conversations, and uncomfortable confrontation at times. Focus on God. You can trust him. His way never involves deception of any kind. Let’s strive to fully reflect him as we serve and work alongside others.