Thursday, March 30, 2017

Practicing- Pause and Pray

It isn't easy loving others. A part of my own spiritual journey has been spending time with a few different counselors, priests, ministers, and psychologists. I'm a huge fan of therapy and not ashamed to tell anyone about what I learned or how much it helped me. Through many sessions the best tool that I received was how to learn to respond to others instead of react to their actions/words. I have peace and joy in my life because I have learned how to have self control when someone says or does something hurtful. Ok, reality check, I have lost it a few times, and I always regretted it because I knew better and it didn't help. In each and every moment I have choices:  
React and Lash Out. 
Sulk Away and Attack Myself by questioning my own self worth
Try and Ignore it
Be angry and think of ways to retaliate 
Cast Judgement on the other person or myself



It is not easy to pause and pray at first but it becomes somewhat second nature after you do it for a while. What happens when I Pause and Pray? While I am pausing I step as far back from the situation as possible. Sometimes, I can pause just for a minute. Other times it takes hours, days, or months. In my prayer I ask for help. I ask God to help me see the bigger picture and know if he can't show me the entire picture, because he's still working on it, I ask him if he can show me just enough to help me understand as much of the situation as possible. This is particularly important when it comes to handling conflict with others. 

Here are some questions I ask myself during the pause:
What was their perception of my words/body language/ tone of voice during the situation? 
What was their intention? 
What would make them react to me in the way that they did? 
Was it really about me or are there things that I just can't see that have absolutely nothing to do with me but everything to do with the other person's fear? 
How should I respond? 
Should I even respond? 
What will my response change about that person's behavior? 
Did they intentionally mean me harm? 
How will they feel tomorrow if they discover that they hurt me? 

While I'm going through these questions I often find that the only thing I truly have control over is myself. Most often, I'm not choosing to ignore people's behavior towards me. Instead, I'm choosing to allow it to have a hold on me and to take away my joy. I'm choosing to ask God to work in that person and to work in me. I'm asking for God to show me the other person's point of view. I'm choosing to trust that if and when I need to respond he will place the words on my tongue. When the words are God's words they will be kind. It's not easy, but I find it's worth it and it's how I live with a peaceful heart. If time goes on, and I can't let it go, I may have to go back and ask the person some questions or express how I perceived the situation and felt. The majority of the time, I realize it's not something that holds enough value that I need to speak up. I find I can hand it to God and let it go. 

I also go through one other exercise that brings me peace. 
TRUTH or LIE - I ask myself what I know to be true about myself. I ask myself what I know to be true about God. Then I repeat what I heard and ask myself is that a truth or a lie. If what I heard was harsh, hurtful, and meant to cause harm to my spirit, I know it wasn't God's truth about me. If it's a LIE, I ask God to take it and reveal his truth about me. I've learned that while I can stand up for myself, I don't need to defend myself or my actions when I'm living the life I'm called to live. Instead, I trust that God knows my heart. He designed it, and his truth is always revealed. Even if someone never sees the full truth I remind myself what's important. I know my truths and God knows my heart. 

Today, I would love for you to take a deep breath, close your eyes, and visualize how you are showing love to others.  Even if you are not a believer like me, consider what it would feel like to respond to others in a way that will bring you peace even when they are not doing the same for you. What would that look like for you? How do you think your heart will feel if you shift it from reacting in anger to responding with Grace? 

When in doubt remember: Pause and Pray. Ask if it's a Truth or a Lie. Respond with Grace!


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What makes me the person you describe?

     When you think of me, if you are someone who thinks I'm a nice person, do you understand why? I use nice person because that's a phrase I've heard my whole life, "You are so nice."  I polled Facebook because I wanted to know what words came to mind when friends thought about me or heard my name. Here are some of the words from the comments: Helpful, Welcoming, Humble, Kind, Genuine, Encouraging, Giving, Committed, Faithful, Joyful, Caring, and other similar adjectives. I also appreciate that I can be seen in some of people's eyes as fun and funny. :) I am grateful that people choose to  paint a picture of me with positive words. If you commented and now you are reading this, Thank You!

     It's difficult for me to write things about myself because you may be someone reading this who doesn't think I'm nice at all, and if that's the case, I am sorry I didn't treat you in a way that showed you the person I wake up every morning with the intention of being, the person I feel called to be. If I knew that my words or actions caused you harm, I would have sought another way to interact with you.

     Have you ever wondered why I am the person described? Have you ever thought about what it is that makes me nice? I promise, I'm not amazing, a term I also hear.  I live a life far from perfection, and I make a lot of choices that are not always the wisest. What is it though that causes me to strive be the person friends described in comments on Facebook? The answer, My faith in God and my heart's desire to follow the works of Jesus.  I hope you'll stay with me here as I write about what this means to me, and why I choose to be this person because I do believe it is a choice.  I'm not here to tell you what to believe or how to think. I only want to share with you some insight as to who I am and what it is that helps decide how I will live my life and how I will respond to others.

    I'm not going to read off a bunch of scripture and quote from the Bible in this post. The Bible is an incredible book though, and it's an important part of my life. I often go there when I'm feeling lost or looking for reassurance that I am following the right path. However, what I believe in first in foremost is my heart. My heart is connected to God, to Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and he speaks to my heart. If you watched the movie The Shack you saw a scene where Mackenzie walks to the front of the church during an alter call. As I watched it brought forth my own childhood memories of revival week at the Baptist church in my home town, and I was about 8 1/2 years old. I will never forget the song that was playing during the alter call, "Just As I Am", by Charlotte Elliott. I remember the feel of the smooth wooden pew curling at the edge under my fingers where I was holding on, the soft velvety cushion under my legs, and I remember feeling a physical pull and hearing a whisper in my ear, "GO!" - "Go right now." I waited as the song went on from one verse to the next, "Just as I am - though toss'd about - With many a conflict, many a doubt, Fightings and fears within, without, -O Lamb of God, I come!". Finally, I told my mom, "I have to go!" I didn't even know where, and my mom, I think, thought I was trying to get up to go to the bathroom before the service ended, but I got up, and I went down into the front of the church, and I knelt down. My mom says I was the only one who knelt, and that it was the first sign I was born to be an Episcopalian, haha, but I also remember that people followed me, adults followed me, to the alter. While I know they weren't actually following me, but answering their own call to their hearts to "Go", I like to think that God called me to go first so that others could release themselves of their fears by seeing a small child kneel in the front of the church, a sign that she believed Jesus was real and she wanted him in her life. It was in that moment that I was told to ask Jesus to come into my heart, but it wasn't until many years later as an adult that I had my own revelation about what that was really all about.

     I was always a child who talked to God. I have known God since I was a little girl. Walking down the street, playing in my room, going to bed at night, I talked to God about everything. If you ever see me talking out loud and you don't see anyone with me odds are very good I'm talking to God. I actually didn't realize until I was much older that not everyone talks to God. It seemed so natural to me. I felt his presence and it was a part of my every being. I have always known that my life has purpose and that God had a plan for my life. I didn't know what any of it meant or what the plan was, I simply believed then as I do today that we are each here for a much bigger purpose than we envision.  As I got older and life got more complicated there were moments when I did not talk to God because I was busy and talking to him wasn't a priority, but for the most part, even on the dark days, I knew I could call out to him and he would hear me. I'll save the moments that appeared dark for another day, but I want to go back to that "Ask Jesus to come into your heart and to forgive your sins and he will come" think that happened when I was younger at the alter call and again at summer camps and youth groups. I kept hearing over and over to ask God into my heart, and I prayed each night for him to come into my heart. I wish I could remember the moment, but I know I was in college when I discovered that someone forgot to tell me that God never leaves. Maybe you already knew this, but I did not. I prayed each time for God to come into my heart and to forgive me of my sins. I had no idea that my sins didn't send God away. I thought that I had to invite him back in each time I made a mistake. Shame is a terrible feeling, and I believed that God left me in the darkness, and that it was up to me to ask him to come back once I'd realized my mistakes and only then would he be there. I never thought he punished me, but I thought he left when I wasn't actively following him. I thought maybe I was too disappointing for him to watch and it was up to me to call him to come back. Have you ever thought this way? 

     I have a tattoo. Some of you are cringing and others are thinking, it's not a real one because it's so small, but it's not about you. It's for me. I have a tattoo of a cross and a heart on the inside of my right ankle. It's smaller than a quarter.  I have it because I wanted a permanent physical reminder of God's love for me. I wanted something small, not obvious, but in a place I could easily see. I needed something for the really hard days so I would be reminded that I never had to ask God into my heart. He was already there. He created it, and he isn't going to leave it even when I choose not to follow him. 

     That day of going down to the alter wasn't about asking God to come into my heart at all, or it shouldn't have been, it was instead, me recognizing that he was already there and me choosing to say, "It's ok God. I know you are there, and I'm going to choose to live a life where I will strive each day to listen to you. I want to live a life where I allow you to take my hand and guide me along the path you created for me before I was even here on earth. " I do not believe on that day I  "got saved". Instead, I believe I chose to accept salvation and made an agreement with God to work towards living a life filled with joy, the life he designed for me. 

     I am not perfect. I am forgiven. We are all given free will because God is a loving God who wants us to live a life of joy. We are allowed to choose, and he doesn't hold our choices against us, but he does work to help us feel his love. The day I chose to "Go" was the day I used my free will to decide to follow God's plan for my life instead of choosing to create my own path. There is a quote that FAITH is the antidote to FEAR. My going was me choosing to live a life with FAITH and to walk towards a life of JOY and away from a life filled with fear. 

     I love this song,  "My Story" by Bid Daddy Weave, and the lyrics.  I could tell you my life's story in two different ways, and in one version you wouldn't realize it was me. It wouldn't make sense because you would hear things you might not believe have happened in my life. I'm not going to tell that version though. I will continue to work towards telling my story in a way that shows God's Grace, Compassion, Love, and Positive Light. Yes, there have been moments I'm not proud of. There have been moments when I did not want to forgive someone, but I did because I realized that by holding onto the hurt I was holding myself back from being the person I am called to be. I was missing moments of joy. There have been moments when I thought I simply couldn't make it. There have been moments when I absolutely did not love myself or understand how anyone else could love me. We all fall short, even the nice people who always look happy on the outside. Giving Grace to myself is a daily difficult task. The difference in my life, what makes me the person you see, is my unwavering belief that God is GOOD. No matter what you believe about Jesus, historically we know that when he walked on the earth he was kind, compassionate, caring, authentic, faithful, loving, forgiving, joyful, nonjudgemental, and welcoming to all people. I will never be as good as Jesus, but I am good enough to be loved by him and so are you! In return for the love we are asked to simply pay it forward and love others in the same way.  How amazing is that? 

So the next time you wonder about me and my positive outlook on life you'll know the answer. I believe that God is Good, and I have faith he loves all of us the same. He lives in my heart because he designed it. You see him in me because I choose to listen to him and allow him to help me make heartfelt decisions for my life. The life I live is a gift from God and my way of saying Thank You  for this gift is by choosing every single day to find ways to love his people and myself. Whether you believe is not up to me. What's up to me is making the decision to give you love from a joyful heart. What you do with that love is up to you because I'm going to keep on loving you unconditionally. 


P.S. - I bet you are a nice person too.
I want to leave you with this. Have you seen or read The Shack? I know it's controversial, but there were many things that stood out to me. Here are a few quotes that I found thought provoking from the movie:

"Forgiveness is not about forgetting. It is about letting go of another person's throat.”

“Just because I work incredible good out of unspeakable tragedies doesn't mean I orchestrate the tragedies. Don't ever assume that my using something means I caused it or that I need it to accomplish my purposes. That will only lead you to false notions about me. Grace doesn't depend on suffering to exist, but where there is suffering you will find grace in many facets and colors.”

“I don't need to punish people for sin. Sin is its own punishment, devouring you from the inside. It's not my purpose to punish it; it's my joy to cure it.”

“You... were created to be loved. So for you to live as if you were unloved is a limitation, not the other way around... Living unloved is like clipping a bird's wing and removing its ability to fly... A bird is not defined by being grounded but by his ability to fly. Remember this, humans are defined not by their limitations, but by the intentions I have for them; not by what they seem to be, but by everything it means to be created in my image. Love is NOT the limitation; love is the flying. I AM love. ”

― William Paul Young, The Shack

Sometimes, you have to wait....

When I started this blog, I didn't intend on all of my posts to be spiritual. The reality for me is though, that I'm sharing many of my inner personal thoughts here and that means, sharing my faith.

For a long time now I have been praying over something specifically. Last week, I was having a conversation with God about the situation. Yes, I am a person who chooses to talk out loud to God. Usually, I am in my minivan and hope that people think I'm simply talking with one of my children..... HAHA! I asked some specific questions last week. I was feeling unsure over some things, and I wanted hope and to know that I was headed in the right direction with the choices that I was making. 3 hours later, I had a very specific response to that conversation with God from one of the people I had specifically prayed for. I don't believe this kind of thing is fate. I truly believe God hears all prayers. In the moment I received the response I was reminded that yes, God hears my prayers and as a wonderful priest once told me, "Sometimes, God answers you right now with a yes. Sometimes, he says, No. and Sometimes, he says, Not right now." I truly feel that God was showing me he heard me and that I had asked for one thing he could answer right then and help me with but the other thing is way bigger. The other thing is also not just about me, it's so much bigger than me. For that, I feel him saying, "I hear you. I heard you. I need you to be still and know that I am God, and I will answer you when this fits into the plans that I have made. Be patient."

As a parent, I have this happen with my own children. Sometimes, I tell them No. Sometimes, I tell them Yes. Sometimes, I tell them Not right Now, but I hear them, and I am doing the best I can for where we are right now.

Is there anything you are waiting on God to answer?

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Letting Go and Letting God

Have you ever tried to hold onto something even though you knew it was not filling your heart with joy? Have you felt that each time you grabbed a little tighter you instead felt little pieces of joy breaking away and in place of joy found that fear was filling the parts of your heart that had once been full of joy?

Letting go and Letting God isn't always the easy choice. Have you ever thought you were letting go of something only to realize later you were waving at God with one hand and asking for help while still holding on tight with the other. Letting go with both hands doesn't mean you don't care what happens. It's taking a leap of faith and fully trusting that God will catch it and you. If faith is truly the antidote to fear what's the worst thing that will happen if you choose faith over fear?

In preparing for my upcoming coming move, I'm realizing there are a lot of things that I'm going to have to truly Let Go and Let God. Starting today I am going to follow the advice of a friend and start a God bucket. She suggests writing down the things I need to let go of and physically put them into that bucket. My bucket might be a paper cup bucket, HA, but it will be something tangible. Today, I am making a choice to let go with both hands. I am choosing to use those hands to pray instead of to hold on. I am choosing to focus energy on the things that fill my heart back up with joy.

If you could not be afraid, what would you choose to let go of today?