Why? is the Wrong Question

There are so many things happening right now that make me want to ask “Why?”

  • Global threat of nuclear war from North Korea
  • National hurricanes and forest fires
  • A family in my community lost their five daughters in a house fire
  • A friend had to put down their beloved dog

All these things and so many more can cause me to look to heaven and ask “WHY?” It’s fine to ask why, it’s almost involuntary.

Why is the wrong question. It’s a distraction. It is disempowering.

Why keeps us stuck when we don’t get an answer. And when we do.

When we don’t get an answer we stay stuck:

  • trying to reason it out
  • in bitterness over not getting an answer
  • using mental energy of continuing to ask

When we do get an answer we can:

  • go back to being comfortable
  • go back to not thinking about it anymore.

While we may feel comfortable we’re still stuck.

God did not design us to stay comfortable. He wants us to be at rest in Him not comfortable in our own reasoning. Resting in Him is always on the move expanding His Kingdom, spreading peace, hope, and love.

I can and do ask why. If there isn’t something I can do different then I move on to the next question.

The better question is “What do I do now?”

  • Pray for North Korea to be saved. God wants none to be lost. Agree with Him that Kim Jong-un can be saved and lead his nation to salvation in Jesus Christ.
  • Pray, give, help. God has different answers for each one according to their gifts and situation.
  • Believe in the goodness of God. Ask for ways to shine His light in the darkness.

Do you ask “why” when hard things come?

Try asking “What do I do now?” How different does it feel?

Getting to the Root of Feelings

I feel sick inside.
I have for days.
I’m working on a project very dear to me.
Something I feel God calling me to.

But I feel sick inside.

I am finally learning at past 40 to pay attention to how I feel and that how I feel physically and emotionally are connected. Maybe that’s blatantly obvious to you but I didn’t know that, not in experience anyway, not for me.

In learning to pay attention to how I feel I am also learning to take the time to figure out where the feelings are coming from. God told me this project would stretch me. The good news with that is He will show me a part of Himself I have not known before that He couldn’t show me without the stretching.

My spirit is excited.

My soul is uncomfortable.

So this sick feeling has been bothering me all week. I’ve taken moments here and there to reflect on why I’m feeling this way.

I want people to like what I’m doing, for it to make sense, for it to make an impact. In part I am nervous that none of those things will be true.

What struck me yesterday was that I have gotten feedback that all of them were true and I felt sicker than ever! What is wrong with me?!

God why do I feel this way?
Remember what I told you about this project?
Yes. I cared too much about what people think so that’s part of what the project is about. I commit to run every idea past You. Doing what You lead me to do not going after production or impressing anyone. But what about feeling worse after getting good feedback?
There’s one you’re trying to impress. One who can’t even see your work. Since you’ve made that one most important all the other feedback is empty. Including Mine.
Ouch! Papa, I’m sorry. You approve and say I’m enough. Praise from any person doesn’t matter. Sometimes not getting it hurts, though.
It does.
I grieve the hurt of not getting the feedback from one and rejoice in the feedback from many. Especially You.
You’re learning to serve an audience of One.
Is there anything else You want to say to me?

I see your hurt and I care. I’m proud of your growth. Your “yes” to stretching.

Is there an area God is stretching you? Have you asked Him what He will be for you there?

Is sorting out your feelings natural for you? Do you struggle through like me?

Total. Complete. Failure.

Failure.
Total. Complete. Failure. 
These were the words ringing through my head. The words crossing my lips. The emotions feeling far too real.
While it was terrible to be there. I thankfully don’t live there anymore.
It was only a week or so ago but I’m not really sure what the circumstances were. It may have been not getting my baby to nap. (My other were sleeping well on their own by this age) It may have been engaging in a fight with my teenager. (Who’s the adult here?) Whatever it was I’m sure it was fueled by lack of sleep and unrealistic expectations. There’s always those.
I used to live there – my biggest critic, always ready to condemn. Thankfully I don’t live there anymore. I am still my biggest critic but the critic doesn’t get to beat me up like they used to.
Now I can see it’s a lie. Even if I have failed at something I am not a total complete failure.
I’ve learned to identify lies (some more quickly than others) and replace them with truth. This was a practice I learned doing Beth Moore’s study Breaking Free. It’s a very powerful study but somehow I knew I was missing something. It wasn’t working. Progress was so slow.
A few years ago I did Supernatural Mothering by Ashley Brendle and learned to bring God into the equation. Doing Breaking Free I had brought scripture into the equation. I would identify a lie and find a scripture that said the truth. As hard as I would try I felt I was trying to cover the lies with truth instead of replacing the lie with truth. Doing Supernatural Mothering I learned to reinforce what scripture said by asking God what He wanted me to know. The things that He spoke to me in those times have been the most transformational for me. It’s powerful to know the God of the universe still speaks to me. He speaks to my silly questions.
I say “God, I feel like a total complete failure. I can’t do this.”
That’s not the truth so I renounce the lie that I’m a total complete failure and I repent of believing it.
Then I ask, “What is the truth?”
He says, “You’re precious. You’re growing. You are never, ever identified by your behavior. You are My daughter, righteous by the blood of Jesus.” No failure there.
“God is there anything else you want to say to me?”
“I love you. I long for you to understand how much.”
Have you ever tried asking God to tell you the truth? Asking God what he thinks of you? He says His sheep know His voice. That must mean He speaks.
If you’ve never tried I challenge you to just say, “Jesus, what do you like about me?”
I trust you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
I’d love to hear what He tells you.
(The post What’s in My Heart is an example of replacing lies with truth with my children.)

2 Set-Ups for Failure

I wanted a response. I wanted feedback.

I set myself up for disappointment and failure. Twice.

“I think I’m supposed to lead or organize prayer for the ladies, especially the youth, going to DC from our church.”

I said this to my husband as he was in the final steps of his routine to get out the door. I had chickened out for hours the evening before and a couple more that morning.

As I felt disappointed because I didn’t get a response I thought of a story Cheri Gregory shares in Overwhelmed: How to Quiet the Chaos and Restore Your Sanity where her husband told her he couldn’t read her mind. She realized she could learn to figure out the feedback she wanted so she could ask for it.

Set up #1:

I set myself up by making a statement instead of stating what I wanted.

Set Up #2:

My timing wasn’t good either. Even if I had asked for feedback I would have been disappointed that he didn’t have time to give it to me right then.

We had a full day yesterday and a late night. This morning over coffee – after chickening out a bit more – I told my husband what I realized.

  • I wanted feedback but didn’t ask for it.
  • I was hurt.
  • It wasn’t okay for me to be upset with him for not knowing what I need if I don’t tell him.

This morning when I did ask for feedback I was blessed and encouraged by his belief in me, my gifts, and my calling.

Do you ever set yourself up for failure?

Do you expect key people in your life to read your mind?

He Loves Each One

Update: August 10, 2017

I’ve been thinking about Carol often this summer. I miss her. I think of her when I see my flower bed and my “pot farm” as she would call it. I think she looks down on my “pot farm” (plants in pots instead of a garden) and laughs. I think I think of her more because she didn’t get to meet my baby. I really hadn’t thought of it and now that I am I’m weeping.

She would have gotten such a kick out of her. Maybe she’s watching and getting a kick out of her now. Maybe she and Josiah are talking about the silly things she does and the amazing things she will do. I’m sure God has let them get a peek into the future.

It’s crazy. I don’t know how I would have made time for her this summer if she were still around. I certainly don’t want her to still be here in the pain and suffering she was for the years I knew her.

Yet I cry.

Original post: January 28, 2015

God loves each one.

It’s a truth I’ve been told. A truth I repeated and taught. Not one I always believe, especially for myself.

I saw this truth in a new light yesterday.
My neighbor Carol has become very dear to me over the past few years. It started with my husband plowing her driveway. He never charged her. This confused her.

“Why would you do that?”

He always said it was because he had a snowplow and she had a driveway that needed to be plowed. God loved her and so he loved her.

On one of these visits about four years ago she told him she had been diagnosed with stage 3-B breast cancer.

That’s where my story with Carol starts. I went to find out how I could help. We prayed. We helped her pack and winterize her house as she decided to go to Washington and do a special diet and other alternative treatments.

She came back to Alaska in the spring. Over the years my family and I helped with food preparations, cleaning, moving, and gardening. There were doctor visits and trips to the airport.

Carol lived a lifetime of adventures.

Mushing the Iditarod trail with a friend. Teaching English in China.  Always studying and learning. She and a friend were planning a summer long float trip on the Yukon river when she was diagnosed. I only got glimpses of her adventures, they were often overshadowed and forgotten by the battle to stay alive.

She had a wonderful sense of humor. Most days she made me laugh, all the way to the end.

She was full of paradox.

Carol was almost always cold yet one of her favorite memories and places was in the Alaskan interior with only her dog team at -40.

She didn’t want to be around people but she loved them, and as I recently learned was well-loved by many.

She had issues with everything in her life being someone else’s fault. She seemed to alienate people. She didn’t trust easily. She denied the existence of God.

She became so dear to me.

On many days of trying to help her – and her not allowing me – there was no reason for this love but the love of God Himself for Her. There were many days I didn’t want to go do another seemingly pointless task. God repeatedly reminded me I was serving Him, obeying Him so it didn’t matter if I thought it was pointless.

She went into hospice Thanksgiving weekend. God had been breaking down her isolation. The people serving and pouring into her were beginning to connect, to find out the others existed. Going into hospice really brought everyone together.

I was astounded to see the faithful believers God had placed in her life – for her whole life. I used to think, “How has she missed it all these years?”

Now I see something else.

God loved her all along.

I would have told you that was true. Now I see more clearly how it was true.

It took her weakened physical state for her to gain spiritual strength and healing. People come to see her, send her cards, and call. New friends have been made, many of whom share God’s love for her. She has come to know God’s love for herself. She has finally been able to forgive and let go of bitterness that she has carried for decades.

Carol dreamed of having a home. Through complicated details I won’t explain she started one this summer. When she went into hospice they moved her to a friend’s house. She wanted to get her house finished enough she could go home.

When she accepted Jesus’s forgiveness I realized God had a home for her. He hadn’t just started on it either. He knew she would be coming home.

I guess it is a living illustration of Romans 5:8. While Carol was denying His existence He was loving her. He was sharing with her the beauty of His creation. He was surrounding her with people who loved her with His love. People to love her and show her truth while she denied His existence for over 60 years.

I think it is His love that did not let her live in regret for wasted years. She is in heaven and knows only good and beauty. She can’t “what if?” or “if only”. She has no pain, no sorrow. She is at peace.

I choose peace.  I will celebrate.

Pictures for Carol

One summer day she was talking about her life, everything falling apart. I saw God holding out His hand catching every piece.  He was holding them to make something beautiful.

At an informal service for Carol a pastor shared the verses he read to Carol just before she died.

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

John 10:27-29

King James Version
by Public Domain

emphasis mine

Another picture I saw was of the beautiful aspen trees over her house being God singing over her. She enjoyed the breeze in them so but could never tell it was Him.

My son had this picture for her. He told her the message.

This is a picture I was given for you. You are in a black cloak. The black cloak is sin, unbelief, anything bad you have done and everything bad that has happened to you. The cloak blocks the beams of light, God’s love and forgiveness, from reaching your heart.
The man in white standing next to you is Jesus. He is waiting to take your cloak. Before He can take your cloak and give you His white robe of righteousness you have to ask Him to take it. He won’t ever force you to take it off. As soon as you are ready to take it off He will help you.
Removing the black cloak and putting on the white is submitting to Him without necessarily understanding it all.

She said, “Thank you for telling me but I don’t believe that.”

Now I wish I had drawn her accepting Jesus’s offer. The reality that happened the Sunday before Christmas – her finally giving Him her guilt and shame. His glory shining in and transforming her. Transformation she felt during her last three weeks.

Transformation that went beyond her. Sisters who hadn’t talked in years reconnected.  A neighbor was blessed to minister to Carol while her own sister suffered with cancer thousands of miles away, ministering to her heart where she had felt helpless.

I was so blessed to know Carol, to meet some of the people who loved her for years and for days, to love her myself.

God loves each one. Those who love Him and those who don’t.

Dealing with the Unexpected

This week marked 23 years of marriage to my high school sweetheart.

In the past year, we’ve commented many times about life not being what we expected. This week we reflected on more ways life has not been what we expected. We concluded that in many ways we didn’t even know what we expected and in other ways what we expected was not to be.

Some unexpected things brought joy.
  • Having a baby in our 40’s when we had three teens
  • Meeting strangers who become family in the grocery store
  • People faithfully giving and supporting us
  • Immediate deep connections with new friends
  • Opportunities to serve as a family
We concluded we did expect:
  • to do it together – whatever life brought our way. Here we are 23 years down the road more connected and committed than ever.
  • to love our kids and have lasting relationships with them.
  • to raise responsible adults. While we have not arrived it would appear we’re on the right track.
  • God to be faithful and He has.
Unmet expectations can derail us.

They open opportunity to accuse God or people. They also open opportunity for grief and growth.

  • Losing a son
  • Getting carbon monoxide poisoning
  • A failed business through no fault of our own
  • Strained relationships
  • Projects taking years longer than planned

Unmet expectations are really a fork in the road, a decision point.

Will we stay disappointed, hurt, or grow bitter? Or will we run to Father God with our hurts, confusion, and questions?

Growing bitter imprisons us.

Running to God opens the door for healing, grace, and new perspective.

What unexpected things has life brought your way?

When you have unmet expectations which path do you take?

4 Steps for Fighting Fear: The Journey

Often when I hear testimonies of overcoming I hear the “everything changed” and miss the journey. Then too often in my own life all I see is the journey and nothing seems to change.

It’s like saying “I went to Germany”. That sounds easy. Short. Simple. However there was a journey required. There was the packing. Before that working to pay for the trip. The hour drive to the airport. The flight to Boston, which from Alaska means two other flights first. There was the 14 hours in the air before landing in Germany.

After reading 4 Steps for Fighting Fear a friend asked me what my process was. My first thought was “You read the post, right? Four steps, that’s the process.” But I asked more questions, she asked more questions, and I pondered my process.
In case you read the 4 Steps for Fighting Fear as a quick and easy route like, “I went to Germany.”, I wanted to flesh it out a bit.

1. Call on Jesus

When fear attacked the first time I had to rely on scriptures I already knew. I wasn’t looking up verses in the dark holding my breathless daughter. I had to pull on what was already inside, what I already believed about the goodness of God. Memorizing and meditating on scripture is SO important.

2. Find God’s promises

Knowing I couldn’t live in fear I spent time praying and remembering verses. In the situation with my daughter I had verses from months before that I returned to.

3. Personalize the verses into declarations

I wrote “She will live and not die. She will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” and hung it where I see it as I nurse her. A friend had Esther 4:14 painted as a gift for us and it hangs as a reminder of God’s purpose and promise for my daughter.

4. Declare the promises of God out loud

As well as saying the verses I often sing No Longer Slaves by Jonathan David & Melissa Helser. Sometimes as a lullaby, sometimes as a roaring declaration “He rescued me so I could stand and sing ‘I am a child of God’.” The first verse for me. The second for her.

When fear attacked I had to choose (still do) if I was going to believe the sensations in my body and the crazy thoughts in my mind or if I was going to believe in God’s love for me. I could choose fear or peace. The choosing is in my mind. I chose peace. This put me in the paradox of peace in my spirit and fear and stress in my mind and body – for a time.

Each time I choose to believe God’s love for me, His faithfulness to keep His promises the sensations fear creates in my mind and body leave faster. Now it is very brief and not very often. Attacks have gone from multiple times a day to every couple weeks or less. (I’m also realizing I have other fears I still am living as a slave to so it’s time to apply the four steps to them as well. They are scary in another way. That just means they are debilitating in another way, too. I’ll share the process soon.)

I would love to hear from you if this helps or raises questions.

Do you hear people’s victories and discount the journey like I often do?

4 Steps for Fighting Fear

Seeing the Goodness of the Lord in the Land of the Living.

You fell asleep while nursing. I nudged you to encourage you to finish. You didn’t respond. A strange heat flooded me in a panic. I couldn’t get out words to pray. Confusion, doubt, and fear were front and center.

  Last night you had stopped breathing. I think it was by God’s grace I couldn’t see your coloring. I had turned off the main lights and turned on the lamp before getting you from your cradle. You were very limp when I picked you up but I didn’t sense anything was wrong until I sat down on the couch to feed you. You were too still – completely unresponsive. Your brother was just heading to bed. Your dad was beside me. I told them to pray. We declared healing in Jesus name and asked for restoration of your breath.

I don’t know if you really stopped breathing this morning or if you were just extra sleepy like you’ve been before. I’m having a hard time not being scared today – a harder time than last night.

 As I walked this out – being attacked by panic and fear – feeling paralyzed and unable to breathe myself – I was reminded (strange that I would need to be) this wasn’t the first time I had feared my baby dying, feared losing her.

See, I have three beautiful, amazing children who had easy uneventful pregnancies. I have a fourth child I will never get to hold alive. I heard his heartbeat twice. Then around 17 weeks there was no more heartbeat.

After coming to terms with being pregnant at 42 when my youngest was 14 (another story for another time) I began the battle to not live in fear of another miscarriage.

1. Call on Jesus

When fear attacks I say the name of Jesus. Sometimes I had more words I could pray, more faith to speak out. Often I just said “Jesus.”

2. Find God’s promises that address the area of fear. 

For me the words of Jesus to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:50) were the first to come to mind. Then Psalm 27:13, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” (NIV) and Esther 4:14 “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (KJV).

3. Personalize the verses into declarations of what you are believing God is promising you.

My versions:
Luke 8:50 “This child will live and not die.”
Psalm 27:13 “They shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”
Esther 4:14 “They are conceived/born for such a time as this.”

4. Declare God’s promises out loud when fear attacks.

So when I was calm enough I would say the declarations (my versions of the verses) or sing “I’m no longer a slave to fear” and believe it. I sing “Thy Will” by Hillary Scott – which was hard knowing that she wrote this song after losing a child through miscarriage. Believing for life knowing I may have to accept death though I couldn’t see any possible good reason why.

It’s a few months down the road and fear rarely attacks so brazenly. I am seeing the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. So is she.

When have you been attacked by fear?

 How do you fight back?

Love and Trust are Not the Same

No email again today.
I guess it’s a blessing – a confirmation that I correctly assessed the situation.
We speak the same words with such different meanings.
It hurts too. Not to be important enough for the hard work of change. That they don’t value themselves enough to pursue healing. It grieves me. It makes sense. If they don’t value themselves how can they value me?
So what do I do now? Jesus has bore my sorrows so I give it to him.
Jesus this hurts. It feels like rejection and manipulation. I think it even feels like betrayal. I’ve trusted someone willing to break my trust for their comfort and say it’s my fault. I don’t want to be foolish enough to set myself up for that again. I also want my heart open to love everyone as You do. Guard my heart without hardening it.”

He responds:

Love and trust are not the same.
Love is unconditional and unearned – a completely free gift.
Trust is earned and must be rebuilt when it’s broken.

I wonder:

Is love holding the tools to rebuild? Keeping the door open to trust again when effort is made?
Trust has boundaries. The tools must be used properly. The effort has to be made.
I can love if the tools are never touched or even thrown away – if an effort is never made.
The relationship could look very different if there were trust.

What about you?

What do you believe about love and trust?
How do you go on loving someone it’s not wise to trust

Culture of Empowerment

Create a culture of empowerment
Create a Culture of Empowerment
A culture of excellence sounds like a great thing.
At least it used to.
While striving for excellence sounds noble it can actually be very paralyzing.  A dear friend shared with me that a culture of excellence leads to a focus on performance for love and value.
For me the culture of excellence was about appearances and impressions. Recognition for things done well. Doing things well is not the problem. Having our worth tied to how well we do something is. In a culture of excellence your worth is measured by how excellent you are. There is always someone more excellent and there is always a way you could have done better. Your worth is always in jeopardy.
A Culture of Excellence (Performance) meant:
  • Trying to gain approval and recognition by being excellent
  • Comparison and judgement
  • Life was unsteady – how excellent is excellent enough?
  • Messing up = failure
  • Accomplishments = identity
  • Perfection
  • Hide your flaws
  • Identity was fragile
  • Life and relationships were scary
  • No room for growth {post coming soon}
  • People pleasing
  • Never enough
  • Learned to live anticipating people’s expectations {post coming soon}
  • Trying to earn love instead of live from love.
  • No matter how well I did there was always something to improve. Even performance was failure.
  • People weren’t interested in me as a person, only my performance.
Thankfully this wise friend also shared a better way.
A culture of empowerment.

A culture of empowerment tells people how God sees them and treats them accordingly.

Empowerment is about growth and improvement. Empowerment not only allows mistakes but actually looks forward to them as an opportunity to grow and learn. Leading in an empowerment culture can be a bit scary if you are used to the excellence model. In the excellence model you seek to control because your followers reflect on you excellence as a leader – this applies in parenting, too, not just organizations. In a culture of empowerment I am offering opportunities for growth and learning and most importantly the freedom to fail even if there are people who will think I failed if you fail.
Living in a Culture of Empowerment means:
  • Living from love
  • Identity from love
  • Environment for growth
  • Relationships are places to be known, nurtured
  • I am enough without doing anything
  • Learning is a joy
  • Life is secure, stable, peaceful
  • Mistakes = learning opportunity
  • Be vulnerable
  • Be authentic
  • Living for God’s glory not man’s approval
  • Offering opportunities to do it wrong and the grace to try again

What kind of culture were you raised in?

Are there things you would add to either list?

What culture are you creating?

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