I was a newlywed, married to the youth pastor when an older woman in our church made this comment…
You make brownies for every event!
Up until that moment, I felt pretty good about my contributions to our church events. I had never had a desire to bake during my growing up years, so my experience was minimal when I married my husband. But I had discovered that I could actually make a pretty spectacular pan of brownies and they were always gone quickly when I took them anywhere.
The truth was that while they were my go-to item, I made other things too, so this off-the-cuff comment by a woman I respected cut me down. I felt like I had been judged and found wanting. I stopped making brownies for awhile. A long while!
It’s amazing how words and opinions can wound deeply. I know for a fact that this woman never meant to hurt me. In her mind, she was simply making an observation, but her words hurt me nonetheless.
I made brownies for a Valentine’s Day party that we hosted yesterday and her words came back to me. This time, the memory made me laugh, because I have been married for over twenty years now and my experience in baking AND in church events is extensive. I’m no longer wounded by her words and if an occasion calls for brownies (which this one most certainly did!), then I will make the brownies.
But I’ve stopped “making brownies” in other areas of my life.
I’ve stopped writing frequently in this space, because I hear the voices of critics and they are loud at times. And so, I write, but I don’t post.
I haven’t finished editing the book I wrote two years ago, because there is a fear that it is not good enough. No one can laugh at me if the book is never read, right?
I’ve pulled back a bit in friendships, because I keep getting hurt and my heart feels like it can’t take anymore.
But as I consider these areas I am stuck in or have pulled back from, I realize that I am allowing words and actions of others to dictate my words and actions. How foolish is that? There are a lot of people out there who prefer brownies. The simplistic blend of words that come from my fingertips, the life experiences that God keeps pressing me to share and the depth and breadth of friendships I pursue are unique to me. While there are many bloggers and authors and friends out there, isn’t it possible that some might actually prefer me?
The difficulty in caring so deeply for others is that I open myself up to be hurt by words. But I’ve come a long way since I first posted in this blog (nearly a decade!). My book could be written by a better writer, but no one can write it quite like me. The hurts in friendship will continue to weigh heavy, but the joy of friendships without pretense is worth it!
It’s been long enough.
Make the brownies!
It has been a particularly hard season for my family. Since last June, our church building has been undergoing renovations. We are very close to the end of this mammoth project that was expected to be done in October, but here we are on the doorstep of February and we are tired. And cranky.
My husband has worked very hard along with an amazing group of volunteers in our church to make our church building more functional and welcoming to others.
When it is finished, it is going to be amazing. But right now, it’s just hard.
On Monday of this week, I woke up with a cold. I don’t get sick very often, but this one has hit me hard and although I’m starting to feel a little better, it has not been the easiest of weeks. I found myself speaking out of anger to my children and becoming easily frustrated. I know the reason why my behavior was less than stellar, but when we read 1 John 1 as a family a couple of days ago, my heart was convicted when we came to 1 John 1:9- “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” ( (in)courage Devotional Bible, CSV). Even though I had excuses, the truth was that I was sinning against my children when I yelled at them unfairly and when my selfishness was abundant.
And so this morning, we tried something new. When it comes to our relationship with God, my husband and I are intentional about reading God’s Word on our own and with our family. We place a emphasis on prayer and scripture memorization. We talk frequently about how knowing Christ and bringing glory to God should be our heart’s desire and we teach our children how to pursue Christ. When our kids sin, we pray and ask God to forgive them and we ask forgiveness of one another.
But we don’t confess our sins to each other and as we read that morning, I realized that this was an oversight in our parenting. I was also reminded of this verse in James- “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16 ESV). Each one of us has sin in our lives and areas that we are trying to overcome, but what would happen if we really believed what these verses are saying? That if we recognized, admitted and confessed our sins, Jesus would be faithful to forgive us and change us AND if we prayed for one another, there would be great power in this?!!
And so, we confessed sin to each other. We asked for forgiveness and we prayed for the person to our left.
Then we went on with our day.
A few hours later one of my children asked who had written on a ruler.
The one who confessed the sin of lying earlier in the day said, “I did.” And we rejoiced together, because my child KNEW that had it not been for our prayer time earlier in the day, the response would not have been an honest one!
I did not plan to share this as my “Try Something New Thursday” post. I don’t want anyone to think that our family has it all together, because we most certainly do not. There’s a line of a song we sing in church that says this-
Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me (All I have is Christ, Sovereign Grace Music)
I resonate so deeply with this verse, because I feel it. The strength to make the right choice to follow God is not something that I am capable of accomplishing on my own. I need Christ. But, oh, to see my child’s eyes light up with joy KNOWING the exact same thing in that moment of honesty! This has been a struggle for my child for a very long time and we have prayed often about it. But the power of confessing sin and then seeing an obvious answer to that prayer was remarkable.
And so, I had to share.
We never know how God might use our efforts and our faithfulness!
Have you tried something new this week?
Remember when I used to write “Try Something New Thursdays” posts? It’s been awhile since I have been in any kind of blogging rhythm and I miss it. And so, I decided that I would write one of these posts this week. Except now it’s Friday. But I’m going to write it anyway.
Trying something new and being intentional about it is important. We have a tendency to get stuck doing the same things over and over again and this usually leads to feeling uninspired in our lives. Trying something new can break through those barriers and allow us to live with excitement and inspiration.
Each new year brings an opportunity to refocus and to live with intention. Trying something new doesn’t have to be a huge thing. In fact, often it’s the little things like trying a new recipe or drawing a picture with your kids that can be the kick start to inspired living rather than attempting a huge project and then feeling like a failure when you don’t follow through.
Several years ago, I saw an idea on Pinterest to start a Mommy-Daughter journal and write notes back and forth to each other. I thought this would be a great idea since my daughter loves to write, so I purchased a cute journal and we started writing notes to each other. It was great at first, but it quickly fizzled out. Perhaps she was too young or more likely it failed because it was my idea and not one that she was invested in.
Fast forward to this past Fall and my daughter asked for a journal for Christmas specifically for the purpose of writing back and forth to each other. It thrilled my heart! My daughter is my strong-willed one and we often struggle in our relationship. For her to invite me to speak into her life is a blessing, because too often it can feel like I am constantly correcting her. It’s not how I want it to be.
I purchased a journal right away, not waiting for Christmas! We began writing to each other again and getting a glimpse into her thoughts and her ability to communicate through the written word is beautiful. I wondered if it would once again fizzle out, but last night, the journal was propped on my bed.
Sometimes we are tempted to think that our efforts have been wasted. We tried something new, but it didn’t succeed and it certainly didn’t have any lasting effect. But I’m discovering that one of the gifts of parenting is finding that our efforts are never wasted. We might think that our efforts are for the moment, but often the rewards are not experienced until much later. Our first Mommy-Daughter journal failed. But now our Mom-Daughter journal has the potential to be incredibly meaningful.
Try something new every week. You never know what the impact might be. Live inspired. It will encourage others to want to live fully as well!
What is something new that you are trying?
We’re barely into the new year and I already feel a few steps behind. This is partly due to traveling over the holidays and it’s partly due to the elusive rhythm of life that I keep chasing, but never seem to catch.
For some time now, I have felt slightly off kilter. This isn’t necessarily bad. It has caused me to fall on my knees and to admit my inadequacies. But it’s not great either. In many ways, I feel like life is happening to me rather than the intentional living that I desire.
When I first started choosing “One Word” to focus on for the year, “intention” was the word I settled on. Each year since, different words have surfaced and I knew it was where my focus should be. Brave. Dignity. Submission. Light. Some words settled easily on my heart while others have been challenging, but each time, I knew that it was the right word for the right year.
As 2018 ended, I was trying to wrap my head around finishing school so vacation could begin, preparing for Christmas and planning for six people to travel for nine days with sixteen hours of a road trip before reaching our destination. Pondering goals and a focus for 2019 was beyond my reach. I had the thought that perhaps this year, I would not choose a word. But God had other plans for me…
As we crossed the Mississippi River, I turned around to look at my kids and this is what I saw- it’s a just-for-fun tradition to hold our breath when we cross rivers and my teenagers were doing it without any prompts from me. In that moment, I was challenged to keep being faithful to living intentionally, to not give up on the habits that have been meaningful to me in the past.
During my devotional time over our vacation, a word began to surface (as it always seems to do!) and it surprised me, but I knew it was the right one.
It first jumped out to me when I read Ephesians 2:3- “We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also.” (CSB) It challenged me to think about that the things that I am naturally inclined to do. I began to consider this question- what is my default? And as my husband would say, “How does my heart roll?”
in·cli·na·tion/ˌinkləˈnāSH(ə)n/nounplural noun: inclinations
1.a person’s natural tendency or urge to act or feel in a particular way; a disposition or propensity.“John was a scientist by training and inclination”
synonyms: tendency, propensity, proclivity, leaning, predisposition, disposition, predilection, desire, wish, impulse, bent, bias;
As I asked these questions and considered the ways that I naturally slip into doing things without even realizing it, I was reminded of the following verses in Ephesians 2- “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!”
I have been made alive in Christ because of the richness of God’s mercy, his great love and his saving grace. I don’t have to be bound by my inclinations! What good news this is!
Upon arriving home, I started praying through scripture using the Pray the Word Journal, an excellent ministry tool available through The MOB Society (a ministry for Mothers of Boys that I have the privilege of working for). One of the challenges in the book is to pick a verse to pray for your family throughout the year (check out www.verseoftheyear.com). I love choosing this verse in conjunction with my one word, so I began looking through scripture for the word “inclinations”, but quickly changed to the active “incline” instead. As a result, I settled on these verses from Proverbs 22:17-19a…
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips. That your trust may be in the Lord…
Incline, hear and apply that it will be pleasant for you and your trust may be in the Lord.
This year, I will be focusing on uncovering my tendencies, my proclivities, my propensities and my inclinations. As I uncover them, I will seek to yield to God’s mercy, love and grace to change me where I need to be changed, so that my default will move from fleshly desires to spirit-led passions.
It seems like a heavy word, but the truth is that I can already feel weights lifting. I don’t have to be lazy. I don’t have to feel inadequate. I don’t have to please all the people. I don’t have to be unhealthy in my decision making. My default CAN change. I simply need to set my inclinations in the right direction.