Joining an Elite Club

The fine print on the back of the tube of emerald green paint was smaller than I had remembered. I blinked my eyes and turned away to refocus and tried again. The more I squinted and blinked, the blurrier the print became. Knowing that I am 3 months shy of turning 40 years young, in the back of my head an objective truth was churning that my subjective reasoning was trying to comprehend…

Maybe the print was smaller than normal. This could be true, except for the fact that I’d been buying the same Matisse Structure paint tubes for a couple of years. They all looked the same. Maybe the light was bad. So, I turned on a light, squinted my eyes, and tried again. Hmmmm. No better. My subjective reasoning was running out of options.

Could it be true? I mean, this happens for everyone, but this early? I read a lot and I use my eyes as an artist for detail work, but doesn’t this begin to happen in your mid forties?

I was having difficulty reading simple text that had never been an issue before. After I got over the shock of this monumental shift in my life…sitting on the cusp of almost 40 years old, two things ran through my mind. The vain part of me said, “Yippeeeee!!” I can finally buy those cool and colorful reader glasses that everyone over 40 wears! Seriously, have you seen the selection lately? Every color and pattern you can possibly imagine. My inner artist could care less that this means I am now a member of an elite club. She is just thrilled that color and snazzy patterns are in her near future!

The second thing that went though my mind caused me to pause and ponder:

12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:11-13

Oh wow. I was seriously seeing dimly. It was almost like someone flipped a switch and I could not longer see up close very well. I could see letters, but not make them out completely. You know the next part of the story, right?

After a quick trip to satisfy my inner artist, I had my first pair of $2.99 reader glasses. I was the stuff. And the stuff could read up close and look snazzy doing it.

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Now, I could see face to face. I could fully know what I was reading. I didn’t have to squint. What relief to know it was a simple fix.

But some things in life are not so simple. $2.99 and doesn’t even come close to fixing most of our dim mirrors in life. Most of our days are spent squinting and wondering what the next day will hold. Sometimes in matters of life and death. What do we do to gain clarity? To see face to face in the midst of the fog of life?

We have to use Truth to shine a Light on the fog. The promise that all will work out in the end, even though today is dark.

The Truths or promises of God are like my readers. I rely on them when life is foggy, when my vision is foggy. I am a highly exalted, loved and cherished, Light caster of the Most High. My Assurance is complete. I need to do nothing more to earn favor, mercy, or grace. I am deeply loved.

Remember how the verses above end? “The greatest of these is LOVE.” Freely given. Knowing you are loved changes everything. Even your perspective on the fog.

In order to read clearly, all I need to do is wear my readers. It was only fitting that my first pair of readers matched my emerald green paint. If I have to wear readers, they must be my favorite color.

So when life flickers dim and a shift in perspective is needed, remember one day we will see face to face and fully know all the whys. Until then, stand on the solid foundation of your assurance. In the midst of deep and dimly lit fog, you are deeply and eternally loved. Choose to believe this today. The fog may not go away, but you will be able to see it differently. And that is a choice we can all make…clarity comes when we believe what we know to be true.

Love to you all….and if you are approaching 40, get ready to pick out some snazzy readers!

Opportunity

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I’ve learned in 38 years that life can change forever as we know it in a mere second. But, this doesn’t stop me from wondering what the next day might hold. I am a dreamer and a visionary, always looking for the next God-given opportunity. But, there are times in our lives when we have to wait.

Waiting is by far one of the hardest things I HAVE to do.

But, in the waiting, there are SO many gifts. So much to soak in and learn. Here are a few of the gifts I am unwrapping as I wait:

1. Waiting builds our character: as we wait, we still “work” towards our goal, but we can’t make things happen. As a result, our character, or the qualities that define who we are, get tested. Are we patient and trusting that the end result will be what’s best for us or do we get easily irritated and frustrated with every little thing. I know I’ve been on both sides of that fence. I’m reminded of this verse when I’m waiting, Romans 5:3-5:

“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

2. Waiting builds our courage: as we wait, our courage muscle gets strengthened. We take baby steps in the direction of our dream. And our courage grows. Faith without works is dead. Useless. Faith in the God who knows the outcome and our daily courageous work in the little bitty details that seem to drain us in the short-term, add up to success in the long-term. Don’t lose hope. I’m reminded of this verse when I’m not feeling so courageous. It always helps to grow my courage that starts out as a small seed in my heart, Acts 27:25:

“So keep up your courage, (wo)men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.”

3. Waiting builds our commitment: as we wait, our commitment level to the dream or goal, grows or wanes. As we take small steps forward and some times get knocked backwards, we can determine whether or not this is the next opportunity we need to pursue. Either it is or it isn’t and waiting helps us determine our next best step. Sometimes, we need the waiting period so we can say no to what we thought was going to be yes. Other times, we need to waiting period so we can grow and God can prepare our lives for the changes that our new commitment will bring. When I am discerning my commitment level, this verse always helps me focus, Psalm 37:5-6:

“Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light
And your judgment as the noonday.”

Are you waiting for something right now? Does life seem to be standing still? I know how you feel. Waiting is so hard.

I encourage you to chase hard after God, not opportunity. To pursue Him with all you’ve got. Seek Him. Read His word. Surrender your dreams and goals to Him. He has a majestic plan for you. He is preparing your for tomorrow, and next week, and next year. I know it deep in my soul.

Seek God and He will give you all the opportunity you can possibly handle. Wait and see what amazing plans He has for you. As you wait, they will begin to unfold…in ways you would have never imagined or could have made happen.

“Trust the Lord with all your heart.
Lean not in your own understanding.
In all your ways, acknowledge Him,
and He will direct your paths.”
Proverbs 3:5-6

Opportunity means “favorable and suitable” and “going towards a port”. It involves action. And when things seem to be stuck at a standstill, trust me, many things and people are being moved on your behalf. Things feel stagnate, but God is working beneath the “stagnancy”. Movement is happening even when you can’t see or feel it. Do the things He calls you to do today and do them well.

Believe this friend…and peace will be another gift you unwrap as you wait for His plans for you to unfold. Peace for your journey. Peace as you wait for Him to move mountains.

 

Act With Freedom

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Loyalty flows through my veins like a sanguinous river. If you are in my circle, something drastic has to happen in order for me to show you the exit sign. However, this is not always a great thing. My heart is often heavy because I will go to the 15th round, bloodied and bruised because I believe people are worth my effort, oftentimes regardless of what it costs me.

In recent years, I have been setting firm boundaries. Mainly because I have to. I have to guard my hours and minutes like a mother hen watches her nest. However, my heart is the same. I want to build deep connections with the people in my life. Those who I believe God wants me to pour into and build relationships with.

But, anytime you are in relationships, anytime you choose to link arms with another human being, you will hurt them and they will hurt you. Bottom line.

Please tell my you know what I’m talking about? Have you ever poured yourself into a relationship, job, ministry, child, project, or cause? Invested everything and every resource that you possibly could….only to be disappointed in the outcome?

I have done this more than I could possibly recount.

I was attached to the outcome. I had something in mind that I wanted to see happen. I wanted different results. And when I didn’t get them, I was hurt or afraid or bitter. Maybe I wanted more for them than they wanted for themselves… Maybe I wanted something from them that they couldn’t possibly give me… Maybe I put them in the wrong position in my life…

In all the examples I can think of, I acted with expectation. One of the first things I learned in graduate school was that “unmet expectations lead to frustration”. In other words, frustration is always the end result when you don’t get what you want. Well, duh. I knew what this felt like, but I had never taken the time to process it mentally, only with my heart, until recently.

As I was pondering what it means to “act without expectation”, my mind shifted over to this question: How in the world does one “act without expectation”? Or better yet, is it even possible to act without expectation?

The life coach in me started processing questions that would help me unearth the treasure hidden deep inside this enigma.

1) Would I do what I am about to do if no one noticed? Root = desire to be recognized

2) Who am I trying to impress or gain favor with by what I am about to do? Root = desire to be loved/liked

3) Is what I am about to do going to increase the chances that another person will think I am okay, good, normal, acceptable, etc.? Root = desire to be accepted.

4) Will I be upset or frustrated if there is no mutual reciprocation of my actions? Root = being a human being

This is such a difficult topic. There has been much research on altruistic behavior. And to put it nicely, it is very rare to find people who act purely based on altruism. When most of us do things, we expect something in return. Plain and simple.

After all, we are human beings. We need and want to be recognized, loved, liked, and accepted. Right? We are all born with these basic emotional needs.

But knowing that we have these needs and learning to manage them are two separate issues. So how do we act without expectation in our relationships?

I believe the answer is completely radical to our human nature. We can’t act without expectation (well, maybe some of us can, but I’m not one of them). When we act we expect things. What I am learning to do and what I would encourage you is to not act without expectation, but to act with intention. And when you act with intention, I would encourage you to answer these questions:

1) Is what I’m about to do or say kind, gracious, and necessary?

2) Would I still say or do this if I gained nothing? 

3) What is my motive behind my words and or actions? To make me look worthy, acceptable, and lovable, or something else?

4) Am I willing to accept the fact that my actions or words may not be reciprocated and be okay with it?

If you spend some time pondering these questions, I believe you will be able to discern whether or not you are acting with the wrong expectations or if you are acting with intention. If you check your intentions or motives before you speak or act, your frustrations will decrease as you realize that you and only you are responsible for your motive. When you release the outcome, you release yourself from emotional hell. You are not responsible for other’s actions, words, or motives.

Then you can act with freedom, instead of with expectations.

I am learning and living this right along with you. I pray we can both act in freedom and not be tied to the uncontrollable expectations of others. The only person you will ever be able to control is yourself. And that is more than enough for one lifetime!

 

Concerned But Not Consumed

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I started posting the following thoughts last Sunday afternoon on Facebook, but it turned into a dissertation. Then I remembered something…I have a blog! **{Pastors beware, your congreation really does listen in church on Sunday mornings!}**

Our pastor at Discovery Church in Clayton, NC, shared this little tidbit last Sunday and it was a “big aha” for me:

“Concerned and cautious, but not fearful.”

Pastor Monte was discussing an acronym that we can use to help us avoid temptations. I think he was reading a quote when he said we should be “concerned and cautious, but not fearful”. Sorry, I don’t remember who he was quoting. But, I will never forget what he said.

“Concerned and cautious, but not fearful.”

As a life coach, I coach clients through fear all the time. I have a front row seat in women’s lives when they conquer fear and slay their personal dragona. In my own personal life, fear is a hurdle I have to manage every day of my life. Some days are better than others.

I have been pondering since Pastor Monte shared from from his heart last Sunday morning. Here is what God has showed me so far:

When I am afraid, I react.

When I trust, I am cautious and wait.

When I am afraid, I create the absolute worst outcome in my head.

When I trust, I am concerned but not consumed.

That’s it friends! When I trust, I am concerned, but not consumed! Have you ever been consumed by something?

  • The insect bite that you know with certainty will leave you crippled by evening.
  • The move to another city that will leave you with zero friends and alone for the rest of your life.
  • The looming decision that feels like an emotional and mental leach that may very well suck the life right out of you.
  • The relationship you can’t fix and it feels like your heart may burst and you will never be loved again.

Do you see a pattern of fear that leads to the worst possible scenario? Can you imagine how Daniel felt in the lion’s den? I am sure he was afraid, but he was not consumed. He was concerned and he trusted his God who delivered him from sure death.

Fear is just fear. It is powerless without us. Our imaginations provide fuel for the flame that is fear. We are the ones who give fear power. The emotions we attach to it turn it into a monster. It consumes us. Just like a raging forest fire.

My favorite reminder when I am facing fear is this:

“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?” Psalm 56:3-4

I say this verse over and over again. I meditate on it. I let it consume me instead of fear. I can remain concerned without being consumed, but only if I choose to let my imagination rest and my trust roam.

What or who do you cling to when fear tries to consume you? I would love to hear from you!

 

Life Lessons from two 8-year-olds

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He’s a couple of months older, and she’s a couple of inches taller. But, they are generationally linked by their mothers who have shared many ups and downs in 38 years.

Last night, just before 9pm when most of the well wishers, huggers, and grief sharers had ambled their way through the family line, this pair of 8 year olds peered into the coffin. Side by side. All by themselves. Talking and agreeing. I could tell by their body language that something powerful was happening.

And I was a wreck on the inside as I watched them. Undone.

Undone by love. Undone by a couple of 8 year olds who were just tall enough to see this giant of a man resting. His soul already departed, his body here, but not for much longer.

Wrecked. What raced across my brain were lots of memories, but more than that this gap appeared in my mind as I watched my daughter and the son of my sister friend. This gap between a vibrant life well lived and the vibrant lives of two 8 year olds who knew each other before they breathed their first breath. Friends created by bonds deeper and greater than anything the world understands.

It left me breathless. A moment shared by two innocent souls who had no idea they were being watched. I could sense the Spirit hovering above them and Mr. Jerry last night. And I will never forget it. That memory will never leave me.

On the way home, I asked my 8-year-old what she and her friend were talking about. She said, “Nothing much, mama. I just told him that I was sorry that his papa died.”

I cried. She had no idea what was going on for me. After I could talk again, I said, “Callie, I’m proud of you for being there for your friend tonight. Don’t ever forget. We need each other.”

Earlier in the day, she had begged me to go to the wake. I didn’t know if it was best. But she won me over when she said, “Mama, G’s my friend and I want to be there for him.”

She knows. And I pray I never forget this life lesson: being there for your friends is the very best thing you can give them.

I’m still undone. I hurt for my sister friend who lost her daddy. I hurt for all the broken places and wounds we all carry. I know broken things can only heal when you let go of them. When you expose them to the Light.

May we be there. May we love well. May we never forget.

Sometimes 8 year olds know best.

Builder of Our Dreams

“…we do not dream independently, and God does not sign off on our dreams. He is the builder of our dreams. We bring him our blank canvases, hand them over, and say, “Whatever you must create to display your glory, do it.” — Jennie Allen, Restless

She called me out of desperation, so she said. I think it was more inspiration. Preferences, right?

“I can’t sleep at night. I am excited and afraid all at the same time. Don’t you have some fancy word for that…ambivalence? Is that right? What if this is what God wants me to do? What if this is what I was made to do?” Her usually methodical cadence of speech seemed to be stuck in fast forward due to the cacophony of emotions she was experiencing.

To her cascade of questions, I responded with a simple question, which turned her desperation into aggravation: “What if?”

After zero pause to consider my question, she responded with frustration, “Lizzie, that’s why I called you! Don’t do this to me. Just tell me what you think I should do!”

The life coach in me knows that even if I think I know what’s best, I don’t have the answers for my clients or friends or family. They have the answers. I have lots of questions. If I ask open and curious questions, they will find their answers.

As the silence grew between her aggravation and my curiosity, my thoughts turned inward and I jotted down a few notes from the past couple of years. I have hiked the mountain of fear and doubt my friend is hiking.

It’s only been 2 years since I painted my first canvas. 24 months. 730 days. And a few sleepless nights.

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God was building a dream inside of me for 35 years. I had no idea. In the spring of 2012, hibernation complete, something inside of me awakened. I knew during my first acrylic painting class that I would never be the same. I could feel an internal trembling. An ache or desire that had never been expressed. Something not unlike the early labor pains I had already experienced with my daughter and son.

Something was ready to emerge. To breathe. To wake up and live.

If I’d known two years ago what the Lord was going to do from April of 2012 to now, I would not have believed it. Habakkuk 1:5 says:

“Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days– You would not believe if you were told.”

Had I known I would gain new friends, open an art studio, sell paintings, go to art shows, teach people from ages 4 to 84 how to paint, travel with my paints and brushes, and watch people freely express with their creative genius, I would not have believed it.

I’ve also lost dear friends, messed up dates on the calendar, had to start over on several canvases, caused kids to cry, and paid good money to my massage therapist to help with the tension my muscles hold on to.

Lord, whatever you must create to display your glory, do it.

So brave. So crazy. So hard. So life changing. So glad I let go and let God. Just like my friend above, who leaped and discovered she had wings. And then her desperation dissipated into celebration.

Here are a few curious questions that helped turn my desperation and aggravation in to inspiration as God has been showing me what colors to use on my blank canvas since April of 2012:

What keeps you awake at night?
What are you most afraid to do?
What is God building inside of you?
When you think about your life, what’s missing?
If you look at your life right now, what pattern is developing?

And remember, buildings take time to build, canvases have many layers and often need time to dry before you can paint the next layer, relationships will change, and most of all, so will you. Be kind and patient with yourself. You are a masterpiece…one stroke of the Master’s brush at a time.

 

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!

 

 

 

Walking on Water

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I didn’t learn to swim until I was 34 years old. One month to the day before I competed in my first triathlon. I do well under pressure. Most of the time.

Now, instead of swimming. I’m walking. On water. And it is probably the first time ever in my life I have not tried to figure out what the heck I’m doing and why. I am enjoying the scenery as long as I keep my eyes off the waves.

Soul Graffiti Art Studio opened for business in late October 2013. I didn’t have tables or chairs until 3 days before the first class. Pressure, yet again.

Sometimes I feel like I’m gonna crack or fail or sink under the waves. I hold my breath. Or take shallow breaths until I realize my chest feels tight. Remember that word, pressure? Yes. And when I feel that way, I know it’s time to pause. Center myself and ask me a series of questions:

1) Who do you belong to? (the who)

2) What is your calling/purpose? (the calling)

3) Where are you headed? (the vision)

4) What is your part? (the obedience)

5) What do you need to let go of right now? (God’s part)

These questions help me keep my eyes off the waves and on the One who “gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the Lord of hosts is his name” (Jeremiah 31:35).

And most often, I lose balance and shift from my center when I try to do HIS job. I can’t control the waves. But, He can. What is my part? What is your part?

Tonight, I am resting well. Resting because I’ve done my part. Now, while I sleep the Lord never slumbers. He’s got my back. And yours.

Choices and Opportunities

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Another year is upon us. I am looking forward to 2014. After the thrills and spills of 2013, who knows what 2014 has in store??

As a Life Coach, this is a very exciting time. Turning the page to a new year means different things for all of us. I love to partner with ladies as they make choices and design steps and action plans for their lives.

Coaching is a powerful opportunity that gives clients the room to ponder, question, extrapolate, brain storm, and reach for their desires. It is not merely a discussion or a how to manual. Coaching is a dialogue between two individuals. The coach is not the expert. The client is the expert on her life. 

The coach never tells a client what to do. Coaches don’t give advice even when asked. Coaches listen intently without an agenda and ask open-ended questions. 

One of the questions I often ask people who are interested in coaching, but don’t hire a coach is: what keeps you from hiring a coach? I get these two responses 90% of the time:

1. It costs too much.
2. I don’t have time.

After pondering these responses over the years, I decided to add a new package to my existing coaching packages. Starting in 2014, I am going to offer a cost-effective, yet powerful monthly coaching package:

**4 (30) minute coaching calls
**$199.00 per month

This is a fantastic way to jump-start your action plan or bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be in your life. And remember coaching is not for everyone. Coaching is not counseling, therapy, consulting, mentoring, or a form of discipleship. And mentioned earlier, the coach is not the expert and the client is healthy, creative, and resourceful.

I believe in the power of coaching. It has changed my life and I have witnessed many others experience the benefits of coaching. Please email me if you have any questions!

Praying 2014 is full of love, joy, and peace. Happy New Year to you and yours!

PS…my coaching website is undergoing a renovation. The new coaching package will be listed on the new site. AND! Soul Graffiti will be representing in the internet world with a landing page of its own very soon! Stay tuned!!!

 

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