Playing God

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“You know, Lizzie, it’s really hard to hear God sometimes when you’re good at a lot of things.”

I don’t think my friend knew she was releasing an emotional earthquake and the tsunami that soon followed. Because what I heard and what she said were two completely different things. What I heard the Holy Spirit say to me was, “Lizzie, it’s really easy to play God when He has equipped you to do great things.”

Now, let me make this very clear. I believe EVERY person on planet Earth has been CREATED to do GREAT things. Every. Single. Person. You, me, your brother, your mother, your kids, your neighbor, the man at the homeless shelter, the kid who dropped out of high school, the kid who achieved perfection on the SAT, and every one else in between.

I’m not special or on the A-team. And neither are you. But we are both on God’s team and we have been uniquely created to do good works for Him and His kingdom.

Okay, now that the air has oxygen in it again, let’s carry on.

If I were a superhero, I would probably be the Incredible Hulk. No, I don’t turn green when I’m angry, just really red! However, I have something in common with the Incredible Hulk: self-sufficiency.

The struggle that drains me the most is doing things in my own strength. Consumes me. It started about 37 years ago when I was born. Probably even before then. Definitely before then. Self sufficiency is my strong suit. Call it what you want, perseverance, stubbornness, determination, controlling, etc. It can be such a struggle.

But, the crazy thing is that one of my top five strengths on the Strengths Finder Assessment is just that, command. Command leads me to take charge. To be compelled to move forward. So what makes this an issue? What is the struggle? Isn’t that a good thing? How can a good thing get me in so much hot water?

Well, yes it is a very good thing. But, and this is a very large but, the problem develops when I’m driving and I’m telling God where I’m going and what I’m gonna do. Yes. I do that. Often. Well, to be honest, less often that I used to, but still too often.

And it gets me in a lot of trouble. I get in over my head and I drown in very hot water. Then I’m like, “God, help!”. I can be like impetuous Peter. Or zealous Paul. Or managing Martha. All in the same 5 minutes!

Playing God or acting as if you are in control of your life is truly an illusion of epic proportions.

I know what Peter felt like when he started sinking. When he took his eyes off Jesus and attempted to walk on water in his own strength. I get a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach when I know I’m operating out of Lizzie’s strength and not in the all sufficiency of Christ.

Self-sufficiency is sort of like drinking salty water. You’re drinking a lot of water, but you’re still thirsty. Your tank seems full, but you are running on empty.

Then you crash and start thrashing wildly in the waves that have enveloped you. Or hopefully, you realize before you crash that you are trying to run the show and you decide to stop before you crash. That’s where I’ve been in my walk with the Lord.

Recently, I was trying to make a decision about something and I kept hitting a brick wall {crashing}. I was trying to figure everything out in my own strength. I went to God and prayed about my struggle. He showed me that my struggle had nothing to do with what I thought it was about and my true struggle was with my heart. My heart wasn’t in the right place. Once I repented and submitted my plans to the Lord, He quickly revealed to me what His desires were for me. And much to my delight, they lined up with my desires. {Sidenote: I am positive every situation will not end this way, but this one did.}

In this process of stopping to PRAY, I learned four valuable actions that help me release control of my life to the Lord:

1) Pause – this forces me to stop right now, in the present, and take notice of who or Who’s driving.

2) Release – giving my plans and desires, my past, to my Father.

3) Acknowledge – knowing Who is really in control and telling Him that I am not in control of my life by repenting.

4) Yield – trusting that whatever He has for me is the very best. This is where I surrender the future and all that it holds to my Lord.

This 4 step intentional process of PRAYing was transformational for me. It has forever changed my view of one of my greatest strengths and weaknesses. When I play God, I am in control. I am driving. When I Pause, Release, Acknowledge, and Yield, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me! (Galatians 2:20)

From this day forward, I plan to focus on PRAYing and walking in Christ sufficiency instead of my own strength. For when I am weak, He is strong:

 “And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” II Corinthians 12:9

I am sure there will be lots of waves, but I plan to walk on water!

 

 

 

How do you see the world?

Graham Field Snellen Eye Chart

Anthony and I see the world differently. I am global, he is linear. I start 36 projects and finish 2. He starts 1 project and sticks with it until he finishes. Together, we make a great team.

My children are as different as night and day, too. One recent example made us well away of Sean’s beautiful way of “seeing” the world around him. 

During Sean’s 5-year-old well care check, the nursing assistant was checking his vision using the standard eye chart. She asked him to cover his right eye with one hand and read the letters:

“O, K, H, D, N, R C, S”

Then she asked him to cover his left eye and read the letters:

“O, K, H, D, N, R C, S”

“Great!” she exclaimed. “Now, do it with both eyes.”

Sean proceeded to cover BOTH eyes and said, “But, I can’t see anything like this!”

We all cackled and Sean smiled with such innocence. Such confusion.

He did exactly what he was asked to do. Why were we laughing at him?

I grabbed my sweet linear thinking little boy and bear hugged him. He started laughing, too, and said, “she meant to look with both eyes!”

I looked deep into his crystal blue eyes. Yes, my sweet boy. That’s what she meant. But, I was thinking about so much more than an eye chart. I was thinking about how all of us see the world differently. Somehow, in our boxed-in and color-coded world, there is one right way to see the world.

This thought lingered with me for days.

God created all of us with different ways of seeing the world. Introverted or extroverted. Global or linear. Black and white or technicolor. With nice neat boxes or wide open spaces.

Why is one way better than another?

In God’s magnificent creative effort, the world is plenty big enough for more than one way of thinking and seeing the beauty around us.

These are a few ways I try to see the world with both eyes wide open:

1. Not everyone thinks like you or me. Give others the gift of grace. Their way might work, too.

2. When my way and your way is best and we know it to be fact, wait before you act. Pause and listen to others. You may learn something in the process.

3. Don’t try to control every little detail. They will work themselves out in time.

4. Know what your non-negotiables are and stick to them. 

5. Make sure you live up to the same expectations you expect others to live up to.

6. The relationship is almost always more important than the disagreement, unless it involves a non-negotiable.

7. Always expect the best from others. You might be surprised by them and their best. 

Would love to hear from you! What other tips would you add to the list above?

Hope your world is full of unexpected joy today!

 

Peace on my Mind

 

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The gift of quiet solitude in my home before my children tackle me with morning hugs.

The message from a friend that lifts my countenance.

The cough drops that soothe my scratchy throat.

Prayers answers and prayers released with hope and courage attached.

Yes, all this today in a world turned upside down.

Whatever’s going on in your mind.
Whatever’s going on in your home.
Whatever’s going on in your community.
Whatever’s going on in the world.
There is a peace that passes all understanding. 
We may not have the answers.
But we can have peace.
I pray this peace, God’s peace fills you today.

I don’t know what tomorrow holds for me or you, but I know WHO holds me.

And nothing can snatch me or you from HIS grip.

May I pray for you? And me…

 

Lord, there is a peace that passes all understanding.

A peace that we cannot create or manufacture by lighting candles and breathing deep.

It is Your peace. Fill us today, Lord. 

We need YOU more than we need answers. 

You have overcome the world!

As uncertainty lingers all around us, You and your character are certain. 

Faithful.

True.

Full of compassion.

Merciful.

Gracious.

Forgive us Lord.

Fill us Lord.

Pour your favor upon us. 

In Jesus name.

Amen.

Fear…

…not.

This morning, I was sitting on the back porch thinking about fear. I went to bed last night with fear in my heart. I woke up this morning with fear in my body. Literally in my clenched muscles.

I knew my soul needed to breath and so did God.

He orchestrated our lives so He and I would have some prayer and processing time on the back porch.

Church was a no go for us this morning. Both Callie and Sean have colds and Callie had a low-grade fever last night. We love our Discovery Church family but don’t want to share our germs with them.

I woke before the kids and made the coffee before I settled into my chair on the porch. I was hoping to see a few humming birds, butterflies, and our friendly garden spider. And I did.

I didn’t really have any expectations of my time of rest and breathing deep with my Father. I’ve learned the hard way that only open hands can be filled.

With my mind on my physical body aching from holding on to things and emotions I was not designed to hold on to, I opened my journal and prayed, “Lord, what is it today? What am I holding onto so tightly?”

FEAR.

I wrote the word FEAR in my journal.

Then I asked God, “Fear of what?”

I didn’t hear anything. This is where my daughter is growing in her walk with the Lord. She tells me mom, I pray, but I God doesn’t talk to me. When will He talk to me? We discuss this frequently. Even in my “adult” walk with our Father, I want to hear Him clearly. Sometimes I do. Other times I don’t.

I asked again after closing my eyes and taking another breath. A few seconds passed…

FEAR NOT.

The words FEAR NOT trickled into my mind like a bubbling mountain spring. Refreshment for my anxious soul and knotted up body.

I smiled when this realization captivated my mind’s eye.

Yes, this is it. FEAR NOT. It’s not the fear that’s big. It’s my God who is big. 

I sat with this for a lengthy time until I heard foot steps on the hardwood floors. My quiet space was about to be invaded by two snotty nosed little people who greet me with tight hugs and toothy smiles hiding sleepy breath.

I quickly jotted down in my journal what my mind and heart were processing:

fear not

HELP ME. KNOW GOD – to know is to participate in, to be affected by. 

Yes. To be affected by God who is way bigger than anything I fear.

Lord, help us to know you. To be affected by you. Fear is not big. You are big. Help us to fear not. To trust you in the unknown. Protect us Lord as we walk through seasons of fear and holding on to things and emotions. You know us perfectly. Meet us here. 

Let’s Drop our Stones, OK?

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I mostly blog about my kids, things God is teaching me, good books, and normally warm and fuzzy stories that always have a happy ending. But, my heart hurts today. And I’ve been challenged to write where it hurts. I don’t want comments or responses telling me that it’s going to all be okay. I know it will, but for now, for today, I just want to feel it. To write where it hurts.

Do you remember that old saying: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”? I remember my first grade teacher, Mrs. Edith Creech saying that many times over the course of 9 months to a group of 6 and 7 year olds.

Kids can be mean to each other. So can adults.

Kids say things without thinking them through. So do adults.

Kids don’t usually have a filter. Neither do some adults.

Kids say mean things to each other because they don’t understand the other kids. So do adults.

When kids say mean things, it hurts. When adults say mean things, it hurts, too. I know because I’ve been on both sides. I’ve said mean things that I later regretted saying. I am grateful that others have given me grace. Even as I typed this today, I emailed a friend to apologize for words I said years ago. Grace given, grace received. 

I’ve been the recipient of mean things. It hurts just as much as an adult as it did when I was a kindergartener and got called boy names by two classmates on the playground the entire year because I had short hair. Or when I was called fat back because I was over weight or “big-boned” as child. The wounds may heal, but the scars remain. 

Kids said all of the things above to me. But what do you do when adults play the same games? How do you respond? What makes us as adults judge and hurt other adults? Other crayons in the same box. Other players on the same team. We are all in this together. When one of our family members falls down, we don’t stomp on them and chant negative things over them. 

We help them. We offer to meet with them over coffee to understand them better. We love them even if they are not just like us or believe the same things as us.

WE LOVE THEM. RIGHT WHERE THEY ARE. RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THEIR GREAT BIG MESS.

Love. Grace. Mercy. Understanding. Respect.

Not hate. Not judgement. Not condemnation.

Truth in love.

There is a time for right and wrong. There is a time for black and white. But all the time is the time for love. If you can’t reach out in love and understanding first, no one will ever listen to your rules later.

Start with love. Extend grace. Offer peace. Drop our stones…those of us who have no sin in our lives can keep holding on to them. But, I pray. Oh how I pray we can all drop our stones and choose to love.

Beautiful things often start with broken jagged pieces. My heart is heavy today, but not broken. I am whole in Him. He makes all things new in His time. 

Lord God, help us to see others the way You see them. Help us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19). Help us to love others first. To offer grace, peace, gentleness, and understanding before we get out our red pens. You have written that love is the greatest out of faith, hope, and love. As we walk in community with each other, help us to walk in humility and share truth in love.  There is a time for everything. May we begin with the greatest of these things: LOVE!

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthian 13:12-13

 

Expectations

You never know as a parent if anything you say today will have any impact tomorrow. God gave me a small but powerful gift today. He showed me not only are little ears listening, but little people are learning and choosing and living out the things they hear.

During our home school morning routine, Sean was working on writing his numbers. He was slacking off on his 4’s, his least favorite number to write, when I over heard Callie say:

“Sean, mommy is expecting great things from us. You can write better than that!”

This from my 8-year-old who seems to have cotton balls in her ears most days. This from my daughter who likes to press me to the wall when I ask her to do something. This. Yes, this today.

I am expecting great things from them. I wrote this on the board yesterday before we started school:

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Way down at the bottom. Yes, that’s it. And that is what my sweet girl chose to believe and encouraged her brother to live up to it. We usually live up to expectations…

As the old adage goes, “if you think you can, you probably will and if you think you can’t, you probably won’t”!

What are you believing you can and can’t do today? Whatever you are believing may be your reality tomorrow. I have great expectations of YOU!!!

 

When pain is necessary…

“I have learned that faith means trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.” {Philip Yancey}

When Callie broke her arm after falling from the monkey bars, I said, “if I had been there, this would have never happened.”

Pride comes before the fall. Literally.

When Sean broke his arm, I was standing 10 feet away from him, encouraging him to take the risk. “If you fall, buddy, you will land on your feet. You can do it!”

And just like Sean questioned me on that hot and muggy June morning when my heart was shattered by my decision, “why didn’t you help me mom? I told you I couldn’t do it! I didn’t want to break my arm like Callie broke hers!” I raised my fist towards the sky and asked God the same question, “Why didn’t you protect my son?”

I could have prevented it. But, I didn’t. God could have prevented it. But, He didn’t.

Sean blamed me. I blamed God.

Over the course of the next few blurry days, I felt emotions that I’ve never experienced. Helpless and guilty. My son who would believe me if I said the sky is falling, now questioned the very core of our relationship.

Mom, I needed you. You weren’t there for me.

I understood. This left me questioning God…

God, I needed you. You weren’t there for me.

My heart ached with deep pain. I prayed and begged God for healing. Healing of bones and hearts. I would rather experience most anything than heart pain. The kind of pain that leaves its forever mark. All sorts of emotion leave forever marks.

In all my questioning, I soul knew that God had been there on that playground that day. He could have protected Sean from something much worse. I don’t even want to think about all that could have gone wrong that didn’t under those monkey bars.

It took about 4 days before I could talk to Sean about the monkey bars without crying. We finally decided to join forces and take on the monkey bars together with daddy’s chainsaw. He finally believed me when I said I was encouraging him to take a risk that I thought was safe…never in a million years would I want to hurt him on purpose.

I asked Sean many times if he needed anything while I was his at home nurse. He almost always said, “mommy, I don’t need anything but you.”

In his pain and heartbreak, he knew he could trust me even though I let him down and I didn’t meet his expectations.

Oh, how this still hurts me to my core. But, in all of the pain, healing is sprouting up like tulips in March and April.

How many times, oh Lord, have I asked for your help and in your Wisdom chose to wait or give me something else instead?

How many times, oh Lord, have I in my deepest pain told you that I don’t need anything or anyone but you…honestly, only about 3 times in my 37 years.

This was one of those times. It had nothing to do with Sean’s broken arm and everything to do with my broken heart. In seasons of painful brokenness and darkness, God never leaves. He has been by my side the entire time. His presence has been palpable.

I know He is making beauty out of the brokenness in our lives. I am already starting to see the cracks in the soil from the tulips waiting to spring forth with life and newness.

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Lord, may you be near the broken hearted tonight. I know I am not alone. Hear our cries, oh Lord. Heal our broken hearts. Lead us into deeper fellowship with you. 

 

When your heart overflows…

“In a person’s lifetime there may be not more than half a dozen occasions that he can look back to in the certain knowledge that right then, at that moment, there was room for nothing but happiness in his heart.” {Ernestine Gilbreth Carey} 

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Dear precious friends,

Happiness, yes, but so much more. My heart is overflowing with many emotions. Gratitude. Love. Expectation. Contentment. Excitement. Humility. Astonishment.

I am home from She Speaks, a conference that is a lot like Disney World for writers and speakers. I met many people whom I admire and have read and followed for years. I left home bound for Charlotte with business cards, a book proposal, one sheets, and appointments to meet with important people in the publishing industry.

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I return home with more than I ever expected to receive. My heart swells with so many emotions today. I will process these feelings for weeks to come.

To my pleasant surprise, God has been working on a little undiscovered dream in my heart. A dream that I knew was there, but could never articulate. Being the loving and gracious Father that He is, He brought the dream to my awareness this weekend. I will never forget the exact moment and person He used to help me find a place to land that unspoken dream.

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In the coming months, I will take action steps to help this dream fly. It is a baby bird egg sitting in a nest on a strong branch of a giant oak tree. Soon it will fly from the nest to find a place to land. My wandering soul finds rest in the amazing power of a dream discovered. Oh how He loves you and me!

Stay tuned! There will be more to come as the egg cracks and the baby bird leaps from the nest and finds a place to land after its first flight. Will you pray with me? That I am wise and patient, disciplined and focused, and most all that I am obedient to His call.

And lastly, how can I pray for you? What is your dream unfulfilled? What burns in your heart and soul that you can’t quite figure out? What would quench your thirsty soul? Let me know in the comments or private message me. I consider it an honor to pray for each of you. I want you to see your baby bird egg hatch and find a place to land, too!

 

With humility and gratitude,

Lizzie

 

 

 

 

me{ology}

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I see the number on my caller ID and my left side tenses up. I let the call go to voice mail knowing I would have to deal with a mess later on. Or maybe not. Denial is a lot easier sometimes.

5 days later I pay an excellent professional to tell me in a round about way I have {anger and control} issues. My body told me first. I feel it deep in my core literally. Denial maybe easier, but admitting I have a problem is probably best. Best for, well, my health and my relationships.

I don’t like typing all this out. Makes it more real. Not that many people will even read it, but that’s not the point. The point is now I have to deal with it. Chase down the cat that escaped out of my bag.

So…

I make a simple albeit very significant choice to face it head on. And God in His perfect timing gives me several opportunities over the next few days to keep slamming my head against the proverbial brick wall. My body keeps whispering to me. Soon, the whispers get louder until I have no choice but to heed their wisdom. It wouldn’t cost me as much (and I am not referring to the financial aspect alone) if I would listen to the whispers.

What happens when things don’t go your way? Do you say harsh words? Throw things? Leave a trail of broken people in your wake? Buckle down and white knuckle everything in your life until you have it all together?

This is what I do and think when I can’t control the outcomes in life:

I get mad and react.

I want to hurt people.

My body tenses up.

I think people are incompetent idiots.

I have to do it all by myself.

LIE: IT’S ALL UP TO ME.

 I am a self-professed control freak. I don’t necessarily want to control other people, I want to control the outcomes in my life. But, there is a significant problem with this {me}ology. Since I don’t live on my own private island, other people are almost always involved in the outcomes in my life.

I guess that makes me a control freak and I don’t want to control other people unless it makes my desired outcome more likely.

Just typing out that profession makes me want to puke. It is ugly. Selfish. Prideful.

After two opportunities to practice this new recycled life changing information, the Whispers of the Holy Spirit leave me with this question: “what would be better for me and my health?”

To respond instead of react.

To wait for others to do their part.

To breathe, be patient, and pray.

To let go of the outcome.

Give it to God.

TRUTH: IT’S ALL UP TO HIM.

Wow. I practiced this new posture during a 50 minute phone call with my insurance company. I was transferred to 5 different people. None of them could even find me in the system. We have been insured with them for 13 years. Someone else’s name popped up when I gave them my member ID number and my date of birth. Talk about frustrated and incompetent. Normally I would have blown my top. My body would have reaped the consequences for days. I would need a team of professionals to help massage out all the knots.

Instead I wrote out the steps above. And I practiced them. I breathed. I prayed. I waited. I gave it to God. 50 minutes later, they still couldn’t find me in the system, but they approved my claim.

More happened during this phone call than the outcome I desired. I gained control. Not over anyone else. But over myself. Self-control. To control one’s self is a practice and skill worth honing.

Honestly, my anger and control issues are self-control issues. Or as a great life coach would say, “opportunities for future successes”.

Grateful the outcomes are not up to me anymore. I take full ownership of my responsibility and surrender the rest to Him. Raising the white flag has never been easier…I surrender.

 

When the words flow…

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I am in the middle of preparing a book proposal to share with a publisher and an agent at the She Speaks conference next week. A lot of hard work and life experience have added up to about 35 pages of black letters on white pages.

I have stressed more over this little project than I have anything in a very long time. 35 pages of tears, sweat, and blood (well, okay, maybe not blood, but do paper cuts count??).

Then I had to create something called a One Sheet. Just imagine trying to cram the main points from those 35 pages onto one sheet of white paper…that would be called a One Sheet.

Oh, and nevermind the cover page, new business cards, hotel reservations, conference fees, and dozens of other little details.

Yet, in all the external chaos, I have internal peace. Because I know it will all work out. If I never ever publish a book, I will be at peace. If no one is interested in any book proposal I ever write, life will go on and joy will be on my lips.

He is writing my story and it is worth living. Even tonight as the cicadas serenaded me and my daughter as we were talking in the dark on the screened in porch, my soul rests. I’m not wrestling. I’m writing. I’m not worrying. I’m releasing.

It’s like Callie said, “Sometimes, mom, let’s stay out here and talk like this forever.” Sometimes the words flow and when they do, you don’t want them to stop.

May my words with Him never cease. May they magnify His name. That is worth more than any contract I could ever sign.