Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Warning Labels

WARNING: unstable and potentially crazy..... approach at your own risk.   

That is SO me.  I saved that picture a long time ago because I related to it...and because it made me chuckle.  The fact that I relate to it probably speaks volumes about me.   

But.....plain ole observation lets me know I'm not alone in this particular brand of craziness.  You know when someone compliments you and a  simple "thank you" would suffice but you answer with some weirdness that, in your mind, makes them wonder why they complimented you in the first place? What is that??? 

I think for many of us, there are two kinds of compliments....good compliments..... like the one Jack Nicholson gave Helen Hunt in As Good As it Gets when he told her, "You make me want to be a better man."….and there are the scary compliments such as a younger mom looking to you and saying, "You are such a good mom."   

Good compliments are something we can totally own and feel we could repeat if necessary and will probably be expected to repeat in the future.  For example: "Robin, those chocolate oatmeal cookies you made were awesome!"  To that I can respond confidently and appropriately with something like, "Thank you...So glad you enjoyed them!"  See....a totally appropriate, NOT crazy response.  

Then there are scary compliments such as, "You are doing such a good job with your boys."  That's when I go all crazy, deer in the headlights with my responses....."Yeah, well, you should've heard me tell my son the other day that he was being an a!$".  True story by the way.  Not one of my finer moments.  I mean.....he was.....but, still....when you are continuously trying to teach your kids not to let any unwholesome talk come out of their mouths, to control their tempers, etc., and then you get so unBELIEVably frustrated that you set a fine example by blowing a gasket yourself and .....Well, I'm pretty sure it knocked me out of the running for my "Mom of the Year" award and I was totally beyond the state of "momniscience".  (Crazy people also tend to make up words.)  If you'd like to know more about this mythical term....please see a previous post, Momniscience,, where I addressed this along with the illusive, beyond our grasp, "Mom of the Year" award.  

ANYWAY....Why on earth would a comment or, more specifically, a compliment cause such a reaction in us? Because those observations can often times be either meant, or at least perceived as, labels.  I don't know about you but, I am weird about what labels I take on.  With labels, there are expectations.   Those can have an almost paralytic effect in our lives.  It is entirely possible that the reason we have a hard time accepting those things that are true about us...those labels... is because once we do, it further defines us or solidifies some things about us and sometimes we'd rather stay....shall we say...."fluid".  You and I both know that once we accept certain labels, certain things become expected of us.....or we expect certain things from ourselves.  Oh the pressure!!!   (You know,  on second thought, I'm starting to think we're all just a bit crazy and that is the root of it all.)  

If they think we have mastered some area......there's so much more room for disappointment.  If they haven't labeled us in that area yet....then there's room to surprise and impress others with no pressure or expectation.  Take our bodies for example.  That's certainly an area of insecurity for many of us.  If people are quick to compliment you on your weight loss or your level of fitness, while on one hand it's always nice to hear, does it make you wonder if you gain 5 pounds or feel particularly out of shape some days if they're noticing or critiquing that, too..... and you've slipped a few notches? 

I know some of you can relate because I've noticed something lately.  Well.....I've always noticed it but I'm more and more aware of it in myself and in others, especially women.  We have a hard time believing the positives about ourselves.....our strengths, attributes, talents, whatever.....even things that should be obvious because..... 

I'll give you a prime example.  As most of you know, I ran the LA Marathon earlier this year in March.  If you know me or saw my blog posts over the last year, you know that I was brand new to running.  (If you'd like further explanation on why someone who's never ran in her life would sign up to run a marathon - please see my post titled, Magic Shoes.) During training, I had a few people around town or the ballpark compliment me on my choice of running shoes and then ask me excitedly, "Are you a runner?" Bear in mind, I was already well into my training and had already run a couple of half marathon distances and beyond. I mean, I had to LEARN to run and work up to a 5K distance in order to train for the marathon.  Still, I couldn't reply with a smile and a simple, "Yes, I am". No, my reply went a little something more like this, "Well, not really, I'm trying to be...I'm new to it...we'll see how it goes."   What was so wrong with stating the obvious? "Yes....I am".  The problem was that I was thinking how hard it still was for me some days....not how far I had come since my first week of training.  Boy, do I have that feeling still as a mom, a wife, and well...pretty much every role I've assumed.  

We may not see ourselves as being negative.  SOME of us may call ourselves realists....oh and here's a good one..humble....and SOME of the time that may be true.  Plenty of us see the good in others, just not ourselves.  There are also plenty of people who see themselves and the world around them with rose colored glasses and that's great! (Those people are a hoot, aren't they?!! Love them!) I'm just not finding that to be the majority of us, most of the time.  I do find that much of the time, we're not even aware that it is, in fact, negativity that we're focused on.  

Here's what I think may be happening subconsciously:  As moms, wives, sisters, friends, Christians....We all easily understand why we feel hurt or misunderstood or take offense to being labeled things like.... lazy, judgmental, out of shape, unloving, unorganized, selfish, etc. There's a plethora of negative feedback everywhere we turn.  What's odd is that if we take our same roles as women and start accepting positive feedback.... pressure sometimes builds. The thing about this pressure is that, sure, people place expectations on us when they understand us to have assumed some particular role.  However, it's the pressure we place on ourselves and the disbelief in our hearts that causes us the greatest stress.  For some reason, we think we are suppose to get it ALL right 100% of the time, be all things to all people, and never slip at anything.   What happens if we mess up as a "good" mom, an "amazing" wife, an "awesome" friend.....Do our labels get painfully ripped off? What happens if we mess up as a follower of Christ...Can we not call ourselves Christians anymore? What happens if we take 6 months off from writing....Can we never consider ourselves as writers again? What happens if we don't land the big promotion....Does that actually demote us? What happens if we don't have time to work on our physique like use to.....does that mean we can't be beautiful? 

With so much external input and so much dialogue going on in our own heads, what's a girl to do?
Stop it.  Just stop it.  STOP the craziness. It is absurd and completely false to think that we are going to be all that others expect us to be all of the time. It is even more absurd to think we are going to be what WE really want to be all of the time.  We all want to be good moms, wives, friends, servants, etc.  However, with all the voices, we must have a filter.  

Here's mine:

In the middle of Luke chapter 1, we find the account of a young Mary being visited by an angel and given unbelievable news that she is the one who will carry "the Son of the Most High" (v. 32)  Talk about a compliment.  I probably would've responded with an eloquent,  "Say WHAT?" However, she believed it and simply asked how it was going to happen (v. 34).  

Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, who's husband also received an unbelievable message from an angel and who herself had experienced a rather miraculous conception.  Elizabeth was thrilled to see Mary and goes on and on about it then tells her "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." (v. 45) Elizabeth appreciated her faith. See, Elizabeth's husband, Zechariah, answered (as I would have) in a more unbelieving manner and because of his response, he was made mute until his son's birth (v. 18-20). 

Mary goes right on believing what the angel said would take place and praising God both for both the honor He bestowed upon her personally and for simply being the great and merciful God that He is.  

Why am I telling you about Mary? Because Mary was all in with God.  Neither her identity nor her confidence was wrapped up in what others thought of her or whether she felt equipped for the role she'd be assuming.  If either of those things were in her mind, she would have hesitated...just as Zechariah did.  But, she didn't hesitate.  God said it and she believed it.   She didn't start stammering about not being good mom material or start listing her failures or short comings.  Those things may have popped into her head but she must have quickly filtered them because she simply said, "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; Let it be to me according to your word." (v. 38)  That spoke volumes about Mary.  

If we know God and His Word and BELIEVE Him, then we can filter out lies and misconceptions in the things we see, hear, read, etc. and see others, ourselves, and our God much more clearly.  When we can do that, we can put an end to the enemy's chatter that keeps us from fully accepting.the labels that are true about us.  We can begin collaborating with God to change negative ones and to put the positive ones to use in the world around us for His Glory. For those of us who have accepted Christ, God has applied His own set of labels: 
Our enemy does not want us accepting our labels and collaborating with God. He knows that when we do, he'll have to make up a whole new batch of labels.  Instead of "unstable" they will say:

SPIRIT FILLED: approach at your own risk

Side note - Notice, God's labels don't include the word, "perfect".  
With that in mind, what labels are you having trouble owning right now?

Please share in the comments below and feel free to include pictures of your own "filters"!

P.S. Here are some more funnies I've saved over time either because I identified with them or because they were just too funny not to save.  These probably speak volumes about me, also, but....I don't care what they say!:)


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Here It Comes.......

I know, I know! It's been a while.  I wanted to blog - really I did.  I thought I'd at least sit down and type up my marathon experience to journal and share with y'all.  I still may do that at some point but what can I say? I couldn't come up with words and The Lord didn't give me nothing!! (And yes, fellow grammar police, I know that is a double negative but sometimes it's just called for!) I mean NOTHING....nada....ZILCH!! I was beginning to think He was done with the segment of my life where I had a blog of sorts.  However, the last several weeks I've really been feeling the desire to get back at it.  In retrospect, I think because of my marathon experience, I was emotionally, physically, and even spiritually drained.  I will DEFINITELY have to tell y'all about it sometime, though! For now, I will simply say, God is good, I made it through....and refer you to the verse I put on my race bib, Ephesians 3:20.  

Now on to matters at hand! 

I got this weird feeling the other day.  I hate to compare it to nausea because it's much sweeter than nausea (most of the time anyway). But, you know that feeling when you are at the very beginning of a stomach virus and that first wave of nausea hits you? You say, "Maybe it was something I ate" or "Maybe I just need to eat a little something to settle my stomach" and you try to brush it off like it's nothing.  (I'm actually nauseated as I write this but I'm attributing it to eating leftover birthday cake with 4 layers of icing for breakfast.)  It continues to build and before long, you're saying, " it comes!"  Well, that's the feeling I get when I know I'm going to have to put something in writing.  And I do mean.... put it in writing like a contract....because it's usually a lesson for me specifically and writing it down solidifies it.   It begins to stir and I try to brush it off as my own thoughts at play but, then it builds and bubbles up until  there's no stifling it anymore.  That's what happened when I read a quote on Facebook by Francis Chan the other day that said this:  

"We don't give anyone a reason to ask about what makes us unique, so nobody asks. Yet, we still feel the need to evangelize.  So, we end up coming across as sales people peddling a product that didn't work for us. 
This was the first wave.  I tried to brush it off....but it was not "nothing".  (Yes, another double negative, but I think there are some legit occasions to use them:))  
Now - I digress from the nausea and double negatives..... 

I was reading Jude her bedtime stories last night and she insisted on reading all of them from her Preschooler's Bible Story Book.  I was just so happy to get a break from the big princess story book, ya know what I mean?! She got to pick where we started and picked the story of Jesus walking on water... and another wave hit me.   

Peter, Peter, Peter: 

To recap this first one (Matthew 14:22-33)  - the disciples were in a boat in stormy wind and water and saw Jesus coming toward them walking on water and they were afraid.  Peter, bold as he is, tells Jesus if it's really him to command him to come to him on the water.  So, Jesus told him to come.  Peter and his confident self went and did great (most of the way).  He walked on water but when he got to Jesus, took his eyes off of him for a split second and looked back at the wind and waves and started to sink.   

See, Peter was one of the boldest characters we read of in the New Testament.  I mean, I didn't read of any of the other disciples being real quick to step out on the water.  Nor would I have been! times....he was also one of the biggest failures. Interestingly enough, it was mostly because of his over confidence.  That's why Jesus told him in Luke 22:31 that Satan was going to "sift him like wheat"….because Peter needed to be humbled and realize  from where, exactly, all of his confidence should originate  And it just made me think.....  

I had just shared with my Mops (mothers of preschoolers) group on Friday about this very thing so It was fresh on my mind obviously.   How many times do I become over confident in myself, or better my "faith"….get busy doing life and take my eyes off of Jesus? Have I not learned by now that that's exactly what the enemy is waiting on me to do so he can knock me down like a big wave on a stormy sea? He's counting on it and when we do.....he makes his move.  I imagine that's why in 1 Peter 5:8 he warns us that we have an adversary, the devil, that prowls around like a lion, seeking to destroy.  What do outsiders looking into our lives glean from us when we start out with the best of intentions but take our eyes off of Jesus? 

  • Fear.  It's weird how self confidence leads to fear and not trust.  Safety 1st, right? Stick with what we know or what we can control (or think we can control anyway).  They end up seeing the same thing in our lives as in every other predictable, safe, self-confident life....they definitely won't see any walking on water.   
  • Failure. Maybe we put aside safety and went for something major.  Only,  even the good things we commit to do....the things we were called to do....go awry when we start thinking, "I got this all planned out" and leave Jesus out of it.   
  • Negativity.  We whine, complain, pout, etc.,  SO much that people wouldn't even know we were a Christian unless we came out and said the words! I think it's safe to say they wouldn't respond with, "Oh!! Tell me more...I want what you have!!"   
  • Judgment.  When we don't keep our eyes on Jesus.....we so easily get so caught up on "do's and don'ts" and forget to love.  Yes, we are to speak truth, unapologetically.  But when we leave Jesus out of our conversations and actions, not allowing Him to continue teaching US, we often leave love out of it, too.   

Those are just a few ways the enemy capitalizes when we become overconfident in ourselves, our own degree of faith, or other people/things.  That's how he so subtly alters our lives to look like everyone else's that no one cares to ask about what it is that makes us unique.....because we're not.   

Giving Thanks: 

Then there was a story we read about the 10 lepers that Jesus healed of their terrible disease (Luke 17).  As they took off to go show themselves to the priests as Jesus instructed, they realized they were already healed.  Only 1 out of the 10 went back to thank Jesus.   

It occurred to me that thankfulness is demonstrative.  It shows up in our lives for others to see. Yet, how many times do I pray for specific help from God, only to forget to offer up thanks or only offer up a brief thanks when He acts and then completely forget what He did for me A truly thankful heart is clearly visible. 

  • We are so thankful for all He has done for us that we don't cling tightly to our "stuff".   
  • We are so thankful for His faithfulness that we don't get caught up in negativity and worry (that is something many people would like to understand and be able to claim for themselves). 
  • We are so thankful for His work in and around us that we work to ensure that others have the opportunity to experience Him, as well. 

Thankfulness is highly visible.  A thankful heart permeates our words and actions and causes others to look at us and wonder exactly what it is that makes us respond in such a way. 

Going the Distance: 

The story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 was the last "wave" during story time.  I've always focused on the fact that the priest and Levite ignored the injured man on the side of the road and this Samaritan man who was the last one you'd think would help him, was the very one to come to his aide.  I'll tell you what hit me when I read it this time: The Samaritan man could've left him some money.  He could've left him some bandages....all wonderful things to do.  But, in the condition the man was in, he wouldn't have been able to apply them in a way that would really be beneficial in his current predicament. The priest and the Levite could've done that just as easily. 

Often times, we want to help a little....give a little food or money and maybe a tad of time..... to help someone out and that is great.....  Please don't misunderstand me on that.  But, what hit me is that sometimes, people need us to get involved....get dirty....and be terribly inconvenienced.  It's called "being in the trenches." Cooking a meal, offering advice or scripture references, lending money, etc., are all wonderful ways to serve others.  But, if you are in hard times and can't think straight, all the references, advice,  and money in the world are useless if no one is willing to take the time to see you through those times and help you apply those wonderful things to your situation when you can't see clearly enough to do it on your own.

The Samaritatended to the injured man's wounds with his own supplies, loaded him up and walked beside him as he found him a place to stay, stayed with him for a day, paid his way, and told the innkeeper to buy whatever he needed to care of him and he'd pay him back when he returned.  That's being in the trenches.  That's going the distance with someone.  I believe along the way that people come across our paths that God wants us to take notice of.  Sometimes to disciple and encourage them.  Other times, to get in the trenches with them and go the distance with them until they are restored.   We may have to help people tend to their wounds.  We may have to go way out of our way and use some of our own resources and sacrifice some time.  That's part of going the distance and that's what makes some Christians really stand out from the rest of the world.   

When you come out of the trenches, you have some dirt on you.  It's visible...others can see it and may be compelled to ask, "What made you do that?  I want to be more like"  

So, we have a choice.  We can choose to stay in the confines of where our self confidence/self reliance will take us.   OR, we can have confidence in God and go where HE wants to take us and live a life that not only looks different but exudes light in dark places...leading people to ask those questions.  The early Christians, after some tough lessons, fully understood they were nothing apart from Christ and it permeated every thought, word, and action.  Boy, did they look different from the rest of the world.     
The theme for the upcoming new year in the moms group I attend (Mops) is ... "Be You Bravely" with the focal passage of Isaiah 43:18-19: 

"Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?"  

I can say, yes...I perceive it...though, I dare to even speculate on what "it" is.  But, bring it!!  I want it.   I just pray I can keep my eyes focused on Jesus...that WE can keep our eyes focused on Him.... so we don't miss it....and so others around us don't miss seeing Him.  I hope I've seriously learned a lesson here about recognizing and being on the lookout for a wave of the Spirit at work.  That and.... no more 4 layer birthday cake for breakfast!! blugghhhh!