I was talking with my friend yesterday about the pressure we tend to put on ourselves to “get along” with everyone, to “like” everyone, and to even be “friends” with everyone. I am air quoting the fool out of that sentence because the interpretation of what each of those looks like is different for everyone.
Some of us are people pleasers so it is harder. We want to like and be liked by everyone. And if we don’t or if we aren’t then feelings get hurt. Typically the feelings that are hurt are caused by the missed expectations we placed unbeknownst to the other person. Man, oh man, we are silly sometimes.
We continued talking and sharing with each other about how we’ve grown out of those tendencies to fret over, or even guilt ourselves over all of that. But still those feelings come up and we have to check ourselves (before we wreck ourselves or start acting foolish). I mean, sometimes life just feels like an extension of adolescense that no one signed up for, am I right?
And we all have friends (some more than others), but it’s almost as if we have friends specific to different places… like we have work friends, church friends, school friends, play date friends, family friends, and the list goes on and on. It’s not that we wouldn’t still be friends with them in different settings, but it’s just that those are our friends related to or formed from those specific places.
Have you ever thought any of those friendships were headed one direction and then all of the sudden you’re like, “wait I thought we were headed to Happy Friendshipville, but we somehow got re-routed to Crazy Town!” …surely I am not alone. Maybe it wasn’t that dramatic. Maybe you just got to know someone and realized they weren't who you thought they were, or maybe that you didn't have as much in common as you thought. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. We are all different.
So after talking with my friend she shared something her mother had said to her that helped put all of these feelings and irrational thoughts into perspective. This isn’t verbatim but you’ll get the gist…
There’s someone for everyone,
but you don't have to be everyone’s someone.
…that’s some good stuff right there. Let that marinate for a minute or two. Now flip it over. Soak the other side in. Okay, ya got it?!
have to be
That was never how friendships and relationships were designed. I think our pride and need for approval have developed some of those false precepts about what those should look like.
How exhausting is it to try and be the “someone” that “everyone” is looking for?!
And if we are being honest, it’s likely disingenuous aka NOT REAL!
Proverbs 18:24 (ESV) tells us, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
The same verse in the NKJV reads, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Those seem to say two different things, but I like what John MacArthur’s notes say regarding the NKJV of this verse…
“The best text says 'may come to ruin' and warns that the person who makes friends too easily and indiscriminately does so to his own destruction. On the other hand, a friend chosen wisely is more loyal than a brother.”
"Indiscriminately" means to do something in a random manner. I can be pretty random at times, but I will tell you that choosing my friends is not the area that I would want to do things randomly. I believe we should have a criteria for choosing friends and, as Christians, we should look to Christ and His love and treatment of others for just that.
Yes we are to love others, to serve others, to meet the needs of the least of these, but friendship is deeper. It is more guarded, more trusted, and more sacred than being everyone’s someone.
So look around...look at your circle, your community, your tribe, your PEOPLE. Are you investing your time and energy into a few intimate and lasting relationships? Or are you trying to be everyone's someone?
Because after all, the only “someone” that will ever be meant for EVERYONE is Jesus, and there is only ONE of Him.
I’ve been trying to focus my thoughts and really think about what God would have me share with y’all…and there’s just so much good He’s doing in my heart, mind, and spirit lately that I just figured I’d share that.
Now, this "good" I’m talking about isn’t what you might think. Life isn’t going perfectly... and it never will, so let’s just put that out there… but I’m just getting a clearer picture of who I am apart from God. The wretch that I am without the saving grace of Jesus.
“Ashley, that’s sounds awful!” …maybe, but isn’t it such a sweet place to be? Maybe you don’t know because you’ve never been there.
Several years ago I heard this saying and I don't know who said it or the exact words, but it was and is impactful…the better we think we look, the further we likely are from God…the messier we look, the closer we likely are to God.
When we pursue the world, when we look at our co-workers stats, our best friend’s marriage, the neighbor's house, a stranger's misbehaving kids, we usually start feeling a little better about ourselves. Maybe not always though. Sometimes we feel less than, and covet things, but when we want to feel better we usually look at others like “at least I'm not doing THAT, or like THEM,” and suddenly we feel inflated with a false sense of purpose, or status, or security.
See, when we pursue Christ, when we learn about who He is, the example He set through stories in the Bible, we realize that we aren’t great. We get a lot of things wrong on a daily basis. We only have Him to compare our lives to, and in order to ever love well we must have His love, forgiveness, and heart inside of us.
God has been drawing me closer to Him lately (isn’t He always?), but lately I have been really receptive to it. I’ve been ready to meet Him when He’s calling me and follow His leading. Why does it take us so long to do that? Why will I need to re-read this in a few weeks, months, a year, because I’ve since forgotten that He never leaves or forsakes me? It's because I’m fallen, imperfect, sinful… we all are, and we all struggle with this. But in this time of closeness and pursuit of the Father, I want to share what God is showing me.
I’m prideful. (I often call out in others what I wish I could change in myself.)
I have high standards for my kids. (But maybe they're a little too high sometimes.)
I’m prone to raise my voice. (There are time I over react too quickly.)
I’m Christ to my children. (But am I the best representation of Him? Not always.)
I need to memorize more scripture. (How can I instill in my children what I don’t know in my heart?)
My husband is not my enemy. (But sometimes I treat him like that.)
The word of the Lord is relevant. (The world’s gonna tell you otherwise…don’t listen.)
This time with my children is short. (But yet I put things before them…shame on me.)
…I can write all these truths to myself, and y’all, I know they're true, but I still fail at righting my wrongs. That’s why I’m so thankful for God’s grace and the gift and power of forgiveness.
In this sweet, but difficult time of growing closer to God, I am seeing how much of a mess I am, but it’s all good. Without Him I’d still be that hot mess, but not know of my need of sweet Jesus, the salvation that He offers, the gift of the cross, and the debt that I no longer have to pay.
So yes, it’s all good. Even though it looks and may sometimes seem all bad. And if you’re reading this and you’re confounded because you’ve never experienced this, please don’t think, “well, I must not be growing closer to God…maybe I’m not a Christian.” Don’t let those words penetrate your heart, unless they are the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Pray. Ask God to show you how He’d have you respond… Maybe it’s through re-direction down a path you're taking that you know isn't good. Maybe it’s taking time to sit with Him and just open His word and read it. Just His word. Or maybe it’s reaching out to me. Ha, I don't know what God could be up to, but I know I’m just sharing my heart! Please leave a comment or shoot me an email if you feel like you’re in a spot and you just need someone to listen… to talk to…to receive prayer from.
You never know, God may be on the verge of wrecking your world in the best way possible. It may not be pretty, but man is it gonna be good!
With love & laughter,
DISCLAIMER: While typing this, my 2.5 year old had two pee accidents one of which I think he did just so he could get ANOTHER bath, and the third accident involved another stinkier substance…in the hallway. The Lord wants to know if I can live out what I blog. I hear you Lord. You’re funny…but it’s all good.
For years I overlooked and undervalued the wisdom and teaching of the Old Testament. The post below is something I wrote back in November 2016 and shared on my personal blog. I wanted to share it with all of you too, because I think it's important...
The phrase, "nothing new under the sun," from Ecclesiastes came to mind this morning as I was reading through Judges. Also the idea of perpetual or repeated sin...
I look around at everything these days... media, my community, our nation, humanity and think, "Could it get any worse? Is this the worst it's ever been?"
I mean really! Should I be prepared for more?
...Then I read Judges 2 this morning, about the Israelites forgetting their miracle working God, and a new generation coming up not really knowing or even believing in Him at all. Sound familiar? Then, the Israelites start turning to their own ways. Idol worship (remember that can be anything put before God and also literal other man-made objects), following foreign gods (and these aren't like out-of-towners, these are false deities), and practicing rituals of sacrifice, sacred prostitution, etc.
hmm... yea that sounds pretty bad to me.
But then I look at where we are today. Have we learned anything from them? I mean really. Do Christians even know these Old Testament stories about the Israelites? I didn't. Not really.
I've chosen (and the Lord has pushed me) over the past two years to read through the Bible book by book, and in two years I am only in Judges, but the Lord has been TEACHING ME. Really teaching me.
Reading some (a lot) of it has felt like spending 40 years in the wilderness myself...the repetition in phrasing, the reminders of who God is, the pillars or monuments setup to remind Israel of their miracle working God...it all seemed SO redundant. I even asked God, why? Why so much of the same? I get it already! Don't they get it already?
...Until I got to the end of Deuteronomy, and read through Joshua, and into Judges. Guess what? Guess what the Israelites did? After older generations died, the miracle-seeing generations died, and the new generations came through...guess what happened? They didn't remember. They didn't "keep these things" which the Lord commanded, or taught, or showed them, time and time again...
So then I sat back and thought... this! This is why, Lord, you repeated yourself. Why you told them time and time again. Why you provided the 10 commandments. Why you specifically instructed them on entering the Promised Land. Why you told them to annihilate wicked cities. Why you wanted them to rid themselves of ALL those people. Not just the ones that looked mean...all of them... those people didn't know You, and You knew they would influence and blind the Israelites. You knew those people would cause them to stumble, fall into temptations, and FORGET You.
But as I read in Judges 2 this morning, you sent an angel (pre-incarnate Jesus) to remind them of Your faithfulness to them. To remind them of their deliverance out of Egypt, the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. And to remind them that You will never break Your covenant with them (Judges 2:1)...but because of their, the Israelites, disobedience to You, they would forfeit, throw away blessings, and even trade them for troubles.
Why? Because they forgot!
Lord, I didn't know for the longest time why I should even read the Old Testament. I didn't see its relevance to me, to our generation...I was so mistaken. I needed to read it to learn, so that I could remember Your goodness and faithfulness to Israel...I am not an Israelite, but, man, I sure look a lot like them. I sure act a lot like them. But my prayer this morning is that I don't keep forgetting like them. Like they did. My prayer is for the generation of my children to know You and remember You because of what You alone have used the Israelites to teach me. So that I might help them to not forget...so that no one may ever look back and say of my children and their generation, "they forgot."
With love & laughter,
With all that has been going on in our country this last week, I have had no words…and y'all, I typically always have some words. I’ve just been observing how divided people are, and how angry they have become with each other. So much hate and anger that it leaves me confounded. Don’t get me wrong I know the reasons people are taking various sides and stand points, but I don’t understand the anger behind it. More is accomplished in love and in union than hate, anger, or separation could ever bring about.
But then a friend of mine in a brief conversation pointed me back to God’s word. So I started thinking through scripture and asked God to give me words. What can I talk about? Where can I draw similarities and differences in what I am seeing today with what happened in Biblical times?
…and guess what came to mind? The Battle of Jericho. Our media has been so saturated with the election and with the women’s march that occurred several days ago. I suppose that when I think of a march, I think of Jericho. I am in no way saying that the two are alike, but I just want to dive in and take a deeper look at the march in Jericho. It was a successful march. Why? Because God told them to do it, and he told them exactly what to do.
Joshua and the Israelite people didn’t come up with this plan. They didn't come up with an attack. They didn't organize this march. But they were OBEDIENT to what God told them to do. Did it make sense? No. Did it look like it would work? No. Do you even remember exactly what God told Joshua to tell his men? Probably not, at least not all of the details. Why? Because it wasn't this strategic plan of attack! It wasn’t exciting. Let’s take a closer look…
Below I have listed the things that God told Joshua to do in Joshua 6:2-5.
This was a plan completely devised by God. This plan may have seemed a bit silly, perhaps even unsophisticated, because it’s not how we, humans, would have devised it. Sometimes I think God does things in such ways that seem futile to us, to prove our trust in Him. He always comes through for us. He does what He says He will do, and sometimes, such as in Jericho, He includes us in the process. He gives us an opportunity to be a part of something spectacular and greater than ourselves. Something we could not even devise let alone accomplish without His power. It isn’t just faith alone that God required of Joshua and the Israelites; He also required works. This is what SHAPES us. We yield to the teaching and provision of God, it proves true, impactful, life-changing, and we then learn from it and are shaped by it.
So another question that I had as I was studying the scripture is why? Why did they march? Yes, God told them to, but why? If you’ve studied the Old Testament at all then you know that Joshua took over leadership after Moses and led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Jericho was the first city to be conquered by the Israelites in their attempt to enter in and take for themselves the Promised Land which God had promised them. Again…why? Because God had promised them something, and as I said before, and as we know, God comes through on His word. He was leading them to the land but their obedience was still required. Do you think the Israelites were worried or fearful? Without a doubt, I am sure that they were. It’s our human nature to worry about things. But guess who was also fearful? The people of Jericho. They knew of the God who led the Israelites out of Egypt and parted the Red Sea. What was the difference between the two different groups of fear? The promise of victory before the battle was even waged!
Even before God shared His plan with Joshua, what did He do? He declared them victorious. “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.’” Joshua 6:2 …Huh? They hadn’t even gone to battle with them!…But isn’t that just like our redemption story? God sent Christ to save us a long time ago. The victory is already ours! He overcame sin and death on the cross!
So what does that mean for us? Do we just sit back and relish in that victory? No. We do what Joshua did and we follow the plan laid out before us by our Father. How do we know what that plan is? We know His plan by immersing ourselves daily in His word.
…and just to be clear, there isn't a tab titled “Plans” that you can thumb to in your Bible, where you’ll find a bulleted list of what you need to do in your life and in all of your decision making. Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice? Instead, as we read the Lord’s word, learn His heart for people, for kingdom, for how we should make the best use of our time and resources, we learn what it is to be diligent and walk in obedience. This brings clarity to the decisions we make which helps navigate our paths.
“'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11
When things in your life, in this nation, and in this world aren’t going the way you think they should, be sure that your thoughts are Holy, set apart. Be sure that they come from your God of victory and not a god of defeat. He will inspire His people, and He will devise a plan in the promise of victory, when we march in obedience according to His word.
With love & laughter,
I’m sure when you read that you probably thought it was a typo. Perhaps your mind autocorrected to “God is good all the time.”
I was scrolling through Facebook the other morning and misread a post because the font was some swirly-twirly kind of font. When I read it I saw “God is God,” which isn't at all what it said, but it made me stop and think.
God is God ALL of the time.
All of it. Not just when things go our way, and certainly not just when everything looks good. So is God good all the time? YES. He is good in ways that are often times difficult for us to understand, and even worse, sometimes they're painful. But, what we must not forget is that He is still God all the time. In every situation.
I’m not just talking about situations of life and death, marital problems, addiction, or world poverty…Those are major issues where we often look to God for help, but He was already there and He was already God before any of that existed or became a problem.
God is God all the time...in the moment to moment situations of each day.
In the good and in the bad.
In the rescue and in the loss.
In the law and in the redemption
In the grace and in the mercy.
In the consequence and in the discipline.
God is God all the time.
When you need Him and when you “think” you don’t.
When He feels near and when He feels far.
When you succeed and when you fail.
When you rejoice and when you mourn.
When you love and when you hate.
When the sun rises and when it sets.
God is God all the time.
Each day as I spend time alone with God in study or in prayer, there is a reverence, or deep respect, that comes over me… but there are also a lot of questions. God, why did You do that? Why were those people punished? Why don’t they listen? When will You show me? How can I help change this? What should I do? What did Jesus do? Why did He do that? How will I learn? Are we any different? Are we so much the same? The questions just pour out of me. BUT, and this is important, …even when I don’t understand, even when it makes no sense, even when I can’t believe it, He is still who He always said He was.
He is holy, set apart, free of guilt or sin, all powerful, all knowing, always with us, always for us… HE IS GOD. In all the ways I want to understand everything, I am not meant to. But one thing I have to trust and believe is that He is over it all. He is God all of the time.
God as defined by Merriam-Webster is “the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe.” If this is who He is, creator, ruler, sustainer, then, guess what? He knows all and is present in the midst of it all, ALL of the time. We just tend to forget that.
God is God when the sink literally cannot hold another dish.
…when we haven't slept in days.
…when we are drinking our third cup of coffee (or are on our third attempt at reheating and drinking it).
…when potty training is a nightmare. (Literally, am I asleep right now as I’m typing this? Wake me up!!)
…when the refrigerator looks like a mix of the barren lands and your child’s science experiment.
…when work has called you for the third time this evening, and you just left the office 30 minutes ago.
…when you remember you don’t have a nanny, and your 5 year old can’t (and shouldn’t) cook you dinner.
…when you sit down to read your Bible and you fall asleep (straight to snoozeville).
…when your best friend’s life is 100% more put together than yours (or so it appears).
…when you haven't had a second of time with your husband in what seems like weeks (at least not the kind of time with meaningful conversation that reminds you why you married this man and procreated all these little tiny humans that eat up every other second of the day.)
So what does that mean? It means He cares.
If He created us, He knows us. He knows our needs as mothers, spouses, and as His daughters. Even when we don’t see or feel His goodness, He is still God. Which means His word doesn’t return void (even though we often run on empty), that He is for us (even though our children obviously are not), that He is near (even though bedtime isn’t), that He pursues us (even, and this is touchy, when it seems our husbands won’t), and that He is infinite (which is usually how our laundry feels).
He is God all of the time. We must not forget, overlook, or undervalue that very important yet simple statement. And if He is God, then He can handle it. Whatever it is that stood out to you as you read this. Whatever He brought to your mind in this moment. He can handle it. So give it over to Him, and let Him take and keep it for you…but if it’s dark chocolate, well you can just give that over to me.
With love & laughter,
Last week Haiti, Cuba, the Bahamas and the entire southeastern coast of the U.S. shared a common bond. We were all experiencing one of the worst natural disasters to ever hit the area. Winds blew like trains passing and water raged totally non-threatened by seawalls, sand dunes or dams. As the often taken for granted electricity put city by city into creepy black darkness, I think I could speak for the majority saying that we knew only an act of God could turn this monster storm away. The news (when we could get it) reported of devastation after devastation but let me relay a different side of things - a side which doesn't always make the front pages.
We are in a season where we hear bashing remarks about and from politicians on a daily basis. It's often ugly and incredibly inappropriate. Everything in the media's reporting on hurricane Matthew last week was dismal as well. That is, until South Carolina's highest ranking official, our governor, took the podium just before the hurricane hit our coastline. Somewhat surprised by the act but extremely grateful at the same time, I heard our governor ask for a prayer of protection to be sent to our Heavenly Father. It wasn't a moment of silence and it wasn't just a reference asking God to be with us. This prayer was also not flowery and self serving as to say "Hey, look at me and notice how spiritual I am". The prayer that day didn't show hesitancy with thoughts of what might be politically correct or incorrect. The words were words of genuineness and smallness, true concern and compassion. There have been little to no backlashes of "they shouldn't mix church and state". The feelings and comments seem to have been of thankfulness in publicly calling in a higher power. These leaders knew they would need help and wisdom. Hurricane Matthew was bigger that any human being and the southeastern coast knew that. Believe me when I say I'm not endorsing or putting anyone on a pedestal. I certainly don't intend to appear to do so. What I am doing is noting that we as a nation seem to innately know that when things are at their bleakest there is only one place to turn. So why does our nation at other times seem to push that knowledge away?
On a more local scale, I want to relay some of the kindness I saw and experienced personally. I know there were SO very many random acts of kindness but these were just some I saw.
One young mom posted that her home would be open for a simple meal of tacos to those who she knew did not have electricity in town.
One church in town threw a free four hour post hurricane party for children. The party included pizza, games, hanging out with friends and also a service project... A SERVICE PROJECT! 1 Peter 4:10 says "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms." What a great thing to teach these children as they also provided time for them to get their wiggles out! Another group of moms organized a play date at a park for mother's of preschoolers and their children.
Personally, I posted that I was looking for a generator to borrow from someone who might have already gotten their power back. Within the hour, I had one. Then I posted a question inquiring if anyone had seen ice for sale in town (without electricity it's difficult to keep food fresh, right?). There were people who offered ice from their own commercial ice machines, one offer came from a staff member who said I could fill up coolers from the church kitchen supply, three people offered extra bags of ice they had in their own freezers or coolers, one not only offered the ice she had in her refrigerator ice maker but also a warm shower and s'mores around the fire pit! All these wonderful servant hearts went above and beyond. What would our country be like if all our nation's leaders prayed publicly and privately for help and wisdom while asking for prayers from others to do the same? What if we also prayed daily for our leaders? What if we all had servants hearts not only in times of extreme stress and need but every day? What if....
Walking the road with you,
Last year, while outside playing with Clara, she was looking down being very curious but she reached up for my hand – she never looked up to see if it was going to be there she just reached up and took it. For her it was an automatic, that I was there and that my hand, her safety and security would be there. And, of course as a mother, I was right there with my hand dangling ready to catch her or to just hold her.
Later that night as I put her to bed and realized how much this little person depended on me but never questioned my presence, never worried that I would be there for her, and continually reached for me – it made me think of my relationship with God. Do I really believe that He is standing next to me with His hand out, just waiting on my little hand to grasp His? Did I really believe that He cared about my small problems, the equivalent of Clara’s scraped knee, or nearly imaginary boo-boo? At the time I don’t know that I did. I think more than a year ago –I would have said that God has so much on His plate, people are in so much more hurt than me, that whatever I was dealing with was like a skinned knee –yes it hurts right now but it will be fine.
I think part of the hurt I am experiencing is God trying to teach me that He is My Father. That he has been there all this time with His hand outstretched just waiting on me to grasp it. Waiting on me to bring my skinned knee and not shrug it off as a small hurt. My child doesn’t, she wants kisses and love for every little bump or scratch. I have always known God – but partly reserved Him for the bigger stuff. Shrugging Him off as too busy to really care about my day-to-day needs.
But this year to get through each day, to keep it on the rails as I have said a time or two, I need Him every day with the big and the little with the depression, anxiety, insecurity, loneliness, heartache, worry, etc. He wants me to know that He cares about everything I am going through and not to minimize my situation just because it isn’t as big or as scary as someone else’s. Just as we can’t compare our homes or our children –we can’t compare our struggles. What I am facing, is big to me, just as what someone else is facing.
So on days when things seem too much – I pray the childlike prayers that Clara has taught me.
Lord, thank you for this day and help me serve you today.
God our Father, We give thanks, for our many blessings Amen
Be with me through this night, please keep me in your gracious sight, watch over me while I sleep, please give me rest and perfect peace. Amen
Our prayers don’t have to be eloquent or elaborate to catch His attention. They only have to be sincere, given with an open heart and with an outstretched hand to our Father. He is waiting.
My whole life I have been an “I can do it myself person” I don’t need ….. (Need to me has always been a 4 letter word) Maybe it's because I was a single career women or lived by myself for 11 before marriage. But through the last almost 7 years of marriage –I have gotten better at it. I still don’t like the word NEED.
Recently on a trip to Chicago, a friend had recommended I read the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene’ Brown (which is amazing and I highly recommend it) Much of the beginning is about being vulnerable and opening up and asking others for help. I distinctly remember –thinking yeah well not me – I can manage just fine on my own.
Also not well thought out for this trip was that I was still nursing Sam Henry and would be gone from him for almost 3 full days. For some insane reason, I decided I needed the break and the rest and took NO and I am mean NO, breastfeeding supplies. Not one pump, not one bottle, not a nursing bra –nothing. I packed like I could just pretend for 3 full days that my body wasn’t continually making milk for a 20 lb. baby -like my body would just forget to make milk!
By the first break from the conference, after I had last fed the fat baby almost 24 hours before, I realized I was in big trouble. Not just -I might leak through my shirt and be embarrassed trouble but a - I am going to be in serious pain –not make it through –starting to run fever trouble. Let me be clear. I am not a total idiot. I usually can make it through a day or even longer without pumping or feeding with nary a twinge. I am not a big milk machine.
I firmly believe God was testing me- so you don’t think you need anyone, you think you can manage this all on your own, well, let’s see about that. Also to complicate matters, I was in Chicago with no transportation besides a timed bus route to my hotel and back to Willow Creek. And I wasn’t in downtown Chicago where I could pop out and find a CVS. The campus of Willow Creek is in a suburb and sits back several miles from the main drag.
At that break, I sat on this beautiful stone edge of a fountain while everyone milled around and made phone calls and I tried not to cry (crying, while I have done a lot lately, is also something on my list that I am not a fan of). I looked around at all the wonderful staff standing about waiting to be helpful and literally felt God push me off that ledge toward a wonderful woman named Karen. I started off saying, "I am a nursing mama..." and before I could say more she ushered me into this beautiful room with soft rockers and dim lighting and told me I could use it as much as I needed.
Here is where I broke down and confessed my stupidity – "Yes, I am nursing mama and I didn’t bring a thing and I don’t know how to go anywhere and I don’t know what to do next". Karen with a bright welcoming smile asked, “What do you need?” I muttered, "I guess a ride to a store". She asked again, “No what supplies do you need?” As I told her what I thought I would need to get by for the few days.. hand pump, bottles, Advil, etc... She hugged me hard and said, "I will text you when I return". I went back to my conference AMAZED. She helped me with not one eye roll, not an ounce of condemnation, no "well that was dumb planning on your part", no "let me call you a cab", just a simple “What do you need?”
Less than an hour later, I returned to that beautifully appointed nursing mother’s room with a tidy gift bag with a hand pump, bottle, Advil and water. She wouldn’t even let me pay her. I have never been so grateful for another person’s kindness in my whole life. Her actions completely changed my entire trip.
In telling that story to a friend when I got back –still in amazement of her actions, her kindness and her gift- my friend said, “You would have done the same thing. Why were you so scared to ask?” She is right. When we are called upon as women we step up, we are there for each other, we drop what we are doing and we do all we can to fix the situation. If I had been in Karen’s shoes, yes, I would have run to the store and helped a girl out. Why then, did it take everything inside of me to ask?
Why is that? Why are we so hesitate to be vulnerable and admit we (GASP) NEED help? Help for that one time we were let down, for that one time we were vulnerable and were hurt… it is going to happen. No, I am not advocating crying on everyone’s shoulder in the coffee shop but it’s time we are REAL with each other.
There is a new song I love that says (and I am paraphrasing), Things aren’t fine and I am not okay... Sometimes we need to find that one women or mama or friend that instead of saying “I am fine” (with that fake empty smile) we know we can say, "I am not okay, but here is one thing you can help me with that can make it better..."
Try it this week – I hope it makes a difference
Nancy Lee Zimpleman
On many mornings I’ve started waking up earlier and driving across town to walk in a great park our town has graciously provided. My mornings started out as a way to get healthier following a class my husband and I took together at our local YMCA. In this class I realized I truly wasn’t as “healthy” as I had convinced myself of. I believe the term they used was “skinny fat”. What! Talking about getting bowled over! However, if you know me, you also know I live by the old adage “If there’s a will, there’s a way”. Call it stubborn or call it pride but this “skinny fat” thing wasn’t going to describe me for long! So off to the walking paths and weight room I go!
I’ve been walking for awhile but the last 2 of 3 walk days were different. The end of last week I got news that I perceived as a light bulb moment. Something that has been a longtime fear appeared to be materializing into reality. Unfortunately, it is causing a deep hardening of my heart. Another blow to an already tough situation had me flat on my face before the Lord. The sudden realization of its implications caused a rolling thunderstorm of doubt, insecurities, and loss. The light bulb moment began taking its toll but as hard as it was in the moment, the Lord knew this point was actually the beginning of my looking back up to Him.
When my eyes opened on that particular morning three days ago, my first thought had been, “I need to go walk. I need to walk hard, fast and far! I need some serotonin flowing and I don’t need to stop until my mind is numbed to my thoughts!” Ever been there?
So there I went… one mile… two miles… three miles… then at the four mile mark I felt a strong pull to just stop and sit on the soccer bleachers to rest. I am not a spring chicken any more ya know!
The awesome thing is what I thought was going to be physical rest was actually a God orchestrated rest for my soul. Be still and know that I am God. The walk full of anxiety and worry and struggle became a quiet time filled with honest exchange of feelings. It became a time of my Heavenly Father holding my every tear. He understood. I felt His presence along with His strength. I felt my soul renew and the struggle begin to leave my body. He took some weight out of the bag I had been emotionally carrying and the relief felt good.
The sad thing was that two days later I allowed Satan to put that weight back in my baggage. I let my eyes drop off him once again and slowly drift toward my insecurities. So I am back on the track again. Yep, that fast, hard, long exercise moved back on the agenda and it may from time to time often pop its head up.
As I now am again walking, I remember a quote from something I read just last night. The reading was something a good friend and I vowed to read together this week. We did this once before and it was such a blessing we decided to do it again. The book, The Shack, is about handing over our burdens and the difficult journey to expect in doing so. Good Christian friends like mine can help hold us accountable when we start to slip back down the slope of insecurities. It's a great partnership to consider.
The quote in this fictional story that has helped me more than once turn things around is “When things are difficult, each time we choose to love, or make a decision based on God’s will not ours, or pray or speak truth, etc., we put another building block in the bridge of healing that will eventually allow us to walk across to the other side – the side of complete peace and joy in the situation”.
After I was reminded of that quote, something about my walk on the all too familiar paths of Patriot Park changed. The familiar steps took on new meaning. The landscape was speaking truth to me, the songs coming through my earbuds spoke more clearly. I began to sense Jesus walking beside me clearly raising my awareness to that. Then the song “Jesus Calling” by 33 Miles came on and the lines “How you see your circumstance is all about a choice …. Do you hear that still small voice saying, it’s okay, you’re not alone, you may be scared to death but I won’t let you go. You may think the sky above is falling, but can you hear Jesus calling? Cause the darker the night, the brighter he can shine…”
Those words spoke so loudly to me. The book quote, the words in the song… they were deafening. As I was about on emotional overload, I rounded a corner on the path I was on and saw this sight that stopped me dead in my tracks.
I felt I was being asked to make a decision... was I going to allow Satan to fill me with worry and insecurities or was I going to let Jesus guide my steps to the right path for me in this situation? Easiest thing... wallow in my hurt and feel sorry for myself. More difficult path... opened up in what I saw around the next corner in my walk...
My Heavenly Father truly has to get concrete and literal with me in order to get his point across so please bear with me.
There it was... the bridge illustration William Young used for his character in the book when God told him, "one building block in the bridge at a time". How about that timing! I had walked this path a hundred times and never thought anything about that old metal bridge except that I'm glad it gets me back to the shady side of the pathway! This time though it reiterated about the way to get to where I wanted to be... one intentional choice at a time.
I suspect I may allow a block to fall back into that water every so often when I'm trying to rebuild my bridge. I may even take back one or two of those blocks at some time along the way. However, if I don't start at some point moving forward, I will be assured to never reach the other side, the place where I desire to be.
God truly never designed or intended our bodies to carry all the worry and heavy loads that result from our human shortcomings. That's why our bodies and our emotions wear down so frequently.
So my journey begins here today. I'm unloading my first block and I'm beginning the foundation for my bridge. There may be points in the construction of my bridge in which I feel I can't rivet even one more piece of metal by myself. I may begin to feel the steel is too thin and heavily dependent on another person's desires or reactions. It's then that I will have to remind myself not to worry about or dwell on the actions of others. I'll have to ask my friend to hold me accountable at that point and encourage me to keep connecting each of my pieces on the bridge. At the same time, I will need her encouragement to continue taking the blocks out of my baggage one by one as I rely on my Father's strength. The path he will lead me on will ALWAYS be the right one and the only one for my soul to rest on.
Always walking the road with you,
Greg and I have been blessed with the most precious little granddaughter. She is developing quite the personality and has her own ideas about almost everything. She is involved so deeply in play most of the time that its impossible to get her to notice who is in the room. She lines up her babies and let me see...there's Allison, Minnie Mouse and, oh yes, we can't forget Bar-B-Q (I think I used to call a similar doll Barbie). Our little Harper is funny and her own unique little person but she is and will always be pure joy in our hearts.
As I remember times gone by with her I smile, yet, I can get deeply melancholy too. You see, my son and his family live in Colorado and we seldom get to see them in the flesh. I do thank God for our once a week Facetime dates though! Memories and the Iphone screen will just have to sustain us for now. I'm sure many of you grandparents can relate to that situation... not ideal but reality none the less.
As I quietly reminisce about staying with her while they were still in Charleston, I realized that as cute as she was there was still a strong-willed little person behind that precious face. I remember changing a diaper through the twists and contortions that a nearly one year old could make proved to be quite a feat. She would want the toy she saw in the distance, then she would want the photos that were above her on the wall, then she would just get exacerbated and want me to be finished!
Truth be told, I wanted to be finished too. I never liked to see her unhappy and she would get that way fast! If she could have only realized that being still meant we would have been done in a flash. All of this thrashing about only prolonged the inevitable! We were going to change that stinky diaper one way or another. After all what’s the alternative? Well, she could stay in the mess, get diaper rash, have mom and dad question my adeptness at taking care of their precious baby girl. (Not a chance that I would let that happen! I wanted to continue babysitting!) So with a forearm against her chest, a leg braced against the furniture, and my tongue hanging out I remembered we would finally close the last tab on the Pamper. (Well, maybe I exaggerated a little but you get the picture.)
Do you think God ever feels that way about us? Does He ever look down on us from that place of authority and love and say “Girl, what are you doing! You are looking at the short term uncomfortable situation and resisting at every turn. Don’t you realize I know the plan? Don’t you realize if you don’t go through this inconvenient and difficult time now you won’t see the joy I have for you later? Trust me, I know best for you in this moment. I’m only allowing it because I know the end result. I’m allowing it because I love you. Yes, that’s right. The loan falling through for that new car is to teach you contentment doesn’t come through ‘stuff’. Trouble in your marriage is because I want you to pull close to me in your pain. The cancer diagnosis, although I did not bring it to you will teach you compassion and wisdom for others in similar situations as yours. The wayward teenager can show no matter how perfectly you think YOU parent them, outside forces are still at work in the world. Yet nothing happens without my full knowledge of it. I knew all of this would happen. I even knew you would fight against me as I tried to guide you through it with the best of parental intentions. I knew you wouldn’t understand right away but I took that chance. I took the chance that you might turn away from me. I took the chance you would say you didn’t love me anymore. I took the chance because as much as that would hurt me, seeing you miss out on the molding and pruning and growth would hurt me more. I’ll wait until you stop thrashing. I’ll wait so I can pick up the broken pieces and put you back together stronger in ME than you have ever been. I’ll just wait….”
I hate to admit that frequently when I am in the middle of struggles and hurts, I’m like little Harper just tensing my neck and thrashing about trying to get out of the situation all by myself. I become like a viper ready to attack. That's an ugly picture but it's true. It’s hard to see that through the anger, hurt, and pain that my Father stands close by patiently waiting for me to relax my muscles and give up the fight. But goodness, if I could see that sooner I would sure sail around some heartache instead of right through the middle! That’s not what He wants though. He wants growth from us. He wants growth toward trusting a Father who would never let us fall without being there to hold us and guide us when we finally looked up… when we realized the last diaper tab has been fastened and the difficulty was over. He wants us to realize that we have traveled through the hard stuff and am better for having faced it hand-in-hand with our Father.
Traveling the road with you,
Mom 2 Mom
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