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!

 

On Being a Mama…

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They don’t tell you everything. The sleepless nights. The emotional and mental drain. The struggle not to yell every.single.day. The sandpaperish difficulty of different temperaments trying to all live together under the same roof.

Or maybe they did and I couldn’t imagine it so my brain and heart didn’t have a framework for it all.

Either way, it’s not at all what I had pictured. But to be honest, I don’t remember what I had pictured. I don’t remember many things these days. And when I do it’s usually too late to do anything about it.

Their mess is everywhere. They talk with their mouths full of food. The toilet paper roll is always empty. I don’t remember the original color of the upholstery in my car. They always have my iPad. And when I finally do find it at the end of the day, the 1% battery life makes me want to scream for the 432nd time that day.

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Being a mom is the most exhausting job I’ve ever had. It is draining in every imaginable way. Part of me feels guilty for saying that. The rest of me says AMEN.

This weekend we celebrate mothers. But, Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that frustrates me, like Valentine’s Day and National Ice Cream day. Yes, I ordered my mom flowers just like you probably did. I fell prey to the pomp and circumstance of it all. But, deep inside of me, I question many things:

 

Did God really know what He was doing when He picked me to be a mom to my daughter and son? {Some days I wonder.}

What makes being a mama so hard? {Am I the only one who questions this?}

Why do I care so darn much? {This…this may be where I find a lot of answers to my questions.}

I was praying this week about being a mama, because lots of days lately praying is my lifeline and anchor, and I asked God to show me the answers to these questions.

Now, let me warn you. Be prepared for a massive enemy assault of epic proportions when you pray and ask God to reveal things about you and your children. They will have quite possibly the worst week of their lives. And so will you.

But as I was seeking one day (and cleaning out my inbox), I read this post on Ann Voskamp’s blog. She had a guest poster on May 2nd, Elisa Morgan. Here is an excerpt from her writing:

“I didn’t know then what I do know now: that every child’s journey is his or her own.

God is guiding and shaping their individual lives and the lives they individually influence.

No parent, no matter how dedicated, expert, present and loving can produce a perfectly healthy and happy adult. Such a feat is simply not within our power.

At the same time, every parent is divinely used to affect the journey of every child – toward this and away from that, even if with opposite from intended results. (“If you say don’t go there, there I will tread!”  “If you say head over here, I will head over there!”)

And I didn’t know then what I do know now: that every child of every parent is God’s instrument in the life of his or her parent.

My children have been His chief tool for the shaping of meshaving off the certainty, molding a softer version, raising up a gumption necessary to face another day.

Evidently, they needed me – who I thought I was and who I’ve become – to mold their beings.

And certainly, I needed them – who they were and weren’t, who they are and aren’t, who they will be and won’t be – to become who I was, am and who I will be.” Elisa Morgan

This is what branded my heart with fierce conviction: EVERY CHILD OF EVERY PARENT IS GOD’S INSTRUMENT IN THE LIFE OF HIS OR HER PARENT.

Ouch. Gulp. Tears.

Not only do they need me, but I need them. Oh how I need them so. I have never ever been broken so much. Being a mama IS the most exhausting job I’ve ever had. It IS draining in every imaginable way. And I need Jesus more as a mama than I’ve ever needed Him in my life. I can’t do this in my own strength and He knows that all too well. 

I have so many rough edges. God knows just the right grade of sandpaper that I need. And right now, they are grades 3 and Kindergarten!

They need me. I need them. We both need Jesus.

“Oh Father…guide us. Show us. Be gracious with our fragile hearts. We can’t do this in our own strength. You are our strong tower. We run to you and we are safe. Remind us of your truths as we speak them over our babies. Help us to stand firm in the storms and to praise you. And thank you for making us mamas. And Lord, for those who want to be mamas, will you grant them grace today? And in your time, make them mamas? Clinging to You today, Father.” 

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!

 

 

 

Post 13.1 Ramblings

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Honestly, I was not looking forward to the inaugural Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon this morning. I trained, but didn’t know if my training had prepared me for the hills of downtown Raleigh, NC.

However, God showed up in so many ways. His presence was palpable…in every way. I was not looking forward to running and pacing by myself. And guess what? I didn’t have to. Some how, in the sea of 12,000+ runners, I “stumbled” upon a friend who paces just like me. Coincidence? Nah. Not even close.

As with every race, I learn something about myself. Here are a few things I learned or observed today:

1) When using the port-o-potty before the race, do not look in the potty. Trust me on this one.

2) Aquafor is amazing. Saved some skin for me today.

3) 75 degrees is not an ideal temperature to run a half-marathon. I prefer the 50’s.

4) I only like one type of hills and it is spelled HEELS. TarHEELS to be specific. Downtown Raleigh is very hilly. Don’t believe me? Run the RnR next year.

5) The best part of my race was coming up at the intersection of Lake Wheeler and Umstead Rd. My biggest cheerleaders were waiting there and cheering me on.

6) My heart hurts for the 2 runners who died during the race today. I know our days are numbered, but it seems so unfair. I pray they knew where they would spend eternity.

7) Runners are a unique family. We come in all shapes and sizes, colors and ethnicities, training levels and athletic abilities. But one thing’s for sure. We are all for each other. We all want the same thing…to cross the finish line.

8) Every time I run, I count it a joy and a blessing. Many of you know I was run over by a tractor when I was 2.5 years old. My pelvis was broken in three places and I had to learn to crawl and walk all over again. My Physical Therapist was my great Grandma. She wouldn’t give up on me and would tell me over an over again, “you can do it!”. Honestly, I probably shouldn’t be alive. Every step I take is a reminder of what almost wasn’t. I pray I make the best of it.

 

9) Everybody needs a cheerleader. I can’t begin to describe what all the people cheering on the sidelines did for me today. I had many friends who watched the entire half-marathon to catch glimpses of 2 or 3 of their friends. That is love and friendship at its best. Grateful.

10) Food never tastes as good as it does after a long run. Your body is in need of nutrition. I was craving BBQ chips and a Coke after my race. I haven’t had a soda since October of 2007. I have no idea why I was craving Coke. I indulged in the BBQ chips and had a big glass of tea instead of the Coke. Just perfect.

At the end of the racing day, my heart is happy, my body aches, my mind is still racing, and I am looking forward to a hot bath with epsom salt, baking soda, and lavender.

I hope whatever “race” you enter, you savor every moment. Even the visits to the port-o-potty!

Chew On This

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Some of the worst decisions I’ve ever made in parenting thus far have been when I’ve said no to something one of my children wanted to do. Because I thought I knew better or had more life experience.

Well, I almost did it again this week at the library, but instead I listened to my daughter’s plea and said yes…

My sweet 3rd grader could have a blog of her own. She is so full of ideas and loves to write and create. However, until this week, she would have told you that she didn’t like to read. She would have told you that it was a waste of her time. Which is the very reason we go to the library every other week. Mama wins this one every time.

We check out books on all sorts of topics, typically leaving with 30 or more books between both of my kids. And of course the 3 or 4 I throw in with theirs. This week was no different until we were walking to the checkout station.

“Mom, I want to get this book. It looks really interesting.”

I was struggling to carry our haul for the day to the checkout station and I flippantly said, “No, baby, we’ve got enough books don’t you think?”

“No, I really want this one. Besides, you might like it, too.” She pressed a little harder and tried using her negotiating skills to reel me in.

I stopped walking and said, “Let me see it.”

No joke, it was a 259 page book entitled “Chew on This”. Here it is:

I chuckled on the inside as I listened to my daughter fighting for her right to read a book that caught her eye.

As I listened to her words, I also heard something else. Her desire to read something she picked out. Something that wasn’t forced on her. Something that caught her eye.

Lastly, I listened to the little voice inside of me that said, “just say yes”.

“Yes, Callie, you can get it and I am sure you will learn a lot of interesting things.”

“Awesome! Thank you mom!” she shouted. In the library nonetheless…

She has since then read over 120 pages of “Chew on This” and has said over 30 times, “I am so glad we don’t eat at ____________!”

But most of all, she is reading. Something she has never ever enjoyed. It has always been something she checks off her daily agenda. I have no idea if it will last, but today I cherish her newfound love of reading. I’ve heard many say that those who dislike reading are reading the wrong things.

Maybe my activist daughter will continue to soak up page after page as she wades through life. Few things make me happier than a good book. Well, maybe my children reading a good book!

I’m wading through waters, too. Parenting waters. Sometimes calm and other times treacherous. I’m reading a few good books of my own and I’m learning as well. As Frederick Buechner said: ““Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.” 

I’m seeing that my job as a parent is so much bigger than I can ever do on my own. And sometimes the best thing I can do is get out of their way.

Parenting is more about space than fences.

More about letting them make their own mistakes instead of trying to fix them before they can learn from them.

More about letting them experience life and less about keeping them sheltered.

More about letting them go instead of holding them back.

And in these moments, they fly. They soar. They fall. They get back up.

They learn they’ve got what it takes…and so do I.

 

 

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.

My new website!!!

“The chief beauty about time
is that you cannot waste it in advance.
The next year, the next day, the next hour are lying ready for you,
as perfect, as unspoiled,
as if you had never wasted or misapplied
a single moment in all your life.
You can turn over a new leaf every hour
if you choose.” 

Arnold Bennett

It’s finished friends! Hope you enjoy what you see. I was ready for something fresh, new, and clean. And my web designer, Contessa Siegner, was up for the challenge. However, she may have regretted partnering with me on this project! I am so glad she is on my team. If you need an excellent web designer, you can learn  more about her offerings here.

I am so thrilled with the new lizziebranch.com. Hope you will like Kairos Coaching, LLC on Facebook by clicking here and sign up to receive my weekly blog meanderings in your inbox by subscribing via email on the homepage of lizziebranch.com.

Life is full of surprises these days. I am walking on water and enjoying the sights and sounds above the waves. Thank you all for your support through the years. There are lots of fun and exciting things on the horizon. One of those is the Soul Graffiti Art Studio website. That is Contessa’s next challenge, if she’ll accept it! Until then, you can like Soul Graffiti Art Studio on FB by clicking here.   

Let me know what you think by commenting on FB or leaving a comment here!

Hope you come back often and enjoy what you find.

 

Out With the Old and….

….in with the NEW!!

Who said it? You know, the quote about the only thing we can depend on in life is change?? Well, some big changes are on the horizon for my website. www.lizziebranch.com will be down for a week or so for a major renovation!

My website will be in the capable hands of my fantastic web designer, Contessa Siegner. Once the new site is ready for its debut, I will post again and give you a virtual tour!

Much love my friends. See you again very soon!

be well,

Lizzie