Silencing the Shoulder People

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At the risk of sounding completely insane, I just need to address a (very) tiny elephant in the room that maybe you’ll understand.  The shoulder people.

What my sane, rational mind knows to be true is almost always challenged by pesky little people who perch their crazy selves on my shoulder and tell me lies to dishearten me.  I recently disclosed this to a brilliant, talented friend of mine and I was thrilled sorry surprised to learn that my much-admired friend has shoulder people, too!

Here’s how it plays out for me…

My rational mind knows that when the King of the Universe grants me a gift, opportunity or talent, He intends for me to embrace it, hone it, enjoy it… bring honor to Him through it.  But the shoulder people, with their little megaphones aimed at my brokenness, are all, “So-and-so does that SO much better than you do. You should leave this to them.”

My rational mind also knows that when our Perfect Creator says I’m a masterpiece, I AM (just like you are). But the shoulder people start in: “You know how your neck hurts and you’ve gained a few pounds? Well, you’re not getting any younger, so you might as well face it…your best days are behind you.”

Their voices might sound little like your 5th grade teacher, your old boss, or that bully from 7th grade, but make no mistake. These lies are the work of the evil one. Don’t believe him. EVER.

So you know what you need to do? You tell those evil shoulder critics to shut their pie-holes.

The shoulder people know you well. Think about it, they’ve been building their ridiculous case against you since you were a child. They know how to throw in one or two actual facts to convince you that the rest of their ridiculous claims are legit. (My neck really does hurt, for instance. But if God didn’t still have great plans for my life, I’d be dead.)

The seeds the shoulder people plant sometimes seem truer than they really are when they throw in an actual fact or two. That’s how the lies can blossom into thoughts we might actually start to feed on.Don’t fall for that.

Instead, fill up your mind and heart with what IS true. This world needs you to be clearheaded so you can make the difference you were created to make. You don’t have time to listen to lies if you are going to live out the incredible things for which you were created.

Seriously, friend. Are you hearing me?

Don’t entertain the shoulder people for one hot second. Even if they pretend like they’re just looking out for you and don’t want to see you embarrass yourself.  They’re liars.

You might wonder if they will ever leave you alone for good. I wonder that, too. Probably not. Mine keep coming back like a case of Shingles. But just because they’re there doesn’t mean we have to give them a single ounce of power.

Let them ride along on your shoulder and watch you ROCK your life.  Be brave, even when they make you feel small. Who knows, maybe they’ll eventually get bored and go jump in the fiery lake where they belong.

Are you with me? We can acknowledge that they’re there, but we can never, ever trust the shoulder people. It’s also helpful to have a tribe of people around us whom we can trust…those who will remind us how ridiculous the shoulder people are. And our true blue friends can warn us if we’re not suited for something.  But not the shoulder people.

We’re all friends here, right?  I would so appreciate you telling me in the comments below what your shoulder people try to convince you is true. Tell me, so I can remind you that the shoulder people are full of crap.

Some Thoughts on Courage.

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keep rowingI’ve been thinking a lot about courage.

Maybe that’s because school just started and I see my 16-year-old woman-child bravely facing her big world each morning, in spite of the fears lurking at the outside corners of her mind.  Or maybe courage is on the brain because my recent graduate is blazing his own unique trail into the all-new unknowns of adulthood with heroic honesty and so much class.

I had no idea how courageous they could be, especially when I know how hard it is to be brave when you’re secretly scared inside.

My sweet mama looked her mortality square in the eye last week in a medical emergency that could have potentially ended her life.  But it didn’t.  Her heart was so heavy – literally and figuratively – yet she was so brave.  Our whole family was.  Now she is doing the hard daily work of putting one foot in front of the other with a whole new set of rules. (It’s so hard when the rules change.)  Yet courage wins again.

Life can be really, really terrifying!  I try not to dwell on it, because it can really freak me out how scary life gets.

If you are anything like me, perhaps you could use a little reminder that YOU CAN DO THIS. Definitely. You SO can!

If you are facing proverbial uncharted waters (and really, who isn’t?!) fear can paralyze you. OR.  It can just motivate you to keep rowing.  The “keep rowing” option doesn’t mean you aren’t scared. I know (believe me, I know) it is easier said than done to move forward when you’re afraid.

Courage doesn’t keep us from feeling scared.  But courage does keep fear from winning.

But here’s the really great part: We’re all in the SAME BOAT.

We all get scared. But we don’t have to be scared alone, and we don’t have to stop rowing just because of a little (or big) fear.

I know life is terrifying.  But the One Who created us said: “…Take heart, for I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

If we follow Him, and stick together, and row, row, row our boat… we will go places and do things we never dreamed possible.

What are the things you’d dream of doing if fear wasn’t an issue?  Because I’m just sayin… fear isn’t nearly a nice enough companion to rob you of your dreams.

The Truth About Woman Power.

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flowers&lighteningDaughter and I recently had “the talk.”

No, not THAT talk. The other one.

It’s the talk about how important it is for women to understand our power.  So many women walk around threatening, or being threatened by, other women. We need each other too much to do this, sisters.

I’m treading on thin ice here, but this needs to be said…

Every single woman is given a certain beauty, whether or not we recognize it, and a unique set of gifts that empower us to change the world. These God-given gifts are like a superpower.  They come with a grave responsibility.

(Did you here that sweet girls? GRAVE. Responsibility.)

Some of us find this superpower terrifying, others find it intoxicating.  But it’s there, nonetheless. And it’s powerful.

Little girls learn quickly how to use their femaleness to manipulate and control. This mode of operation leads to less confidence, rather than more, and turns us into people we don’t even like.

Our Maker empowers us to influence the world in ways that are as unique as our DNA. But it is short-sighted to use these gifts to turn on each other or manipulate to meet our neediest needs. He surely did not give us the gift of beauty so we could look cute while we jerk each other around, or influence so we could make another human being feel small and less loved.

Woman power gone wrong is an abuse of power that we don’t like to talk about.  It ruins marriages, teams, churches, business relationships and brings important kingdom work to a grinding halt. I see it every day, all the time. I’m sure you do, too.

Misdirecting good qualities like beauty, influence and charm to serve ourselves takes us backward rather than forward as a species. It sounds counterintuitive, but trust me on this. It takes us so far backward.

Women like to remind men that we have a voice. Because we DO. We will call men out when they misuse their power.  And we MUST.  But when a woman misuses her superpowers, we hesitate to call it what it is. We prefer words like, “goal-oriented” or “strong.”  “She knows what she wants,” sounds nicer, right?

It’s no nicer.  Being goal-oriented and strong is GREAT. Just not at the expense of someone else.

No wonder loneliness is so palpable among our species.  We’re afraid. What might happen if we didn’t defend ourselves and self-protect? I get it.

It’s just so easy for us to forget how very much we are loved by our Creator — flaws and all.  We are so tempted to go grabbing for it with both fists, shielding our insecurities behind the perfect lipstick.

We really don’t have to do all that. Because our Maker gave us another gift.  Each other.

There is no more powerful way to make our mark in this world than, in Jesus words, to…“Love one another as I have loved you.”

Let’s face it, there is nothing like the rush of a good old-fashioned power trip.  But it’s a short-lived rush that is so not worth the price.

Genuine, unselfish, world-changing love opens the floodgates for all our other gifts to be leveraged for eternity.  Powerful, get-over-ourselves LOVE frees us to tap into otherworldly strength. THE Power, who moves mountains without us having to manipulate a single human being.

My daughter is watching our every move.  All our daughters are watching. Let’s show them how this is done.

Leaning To The Light

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leaning to the lightWell, hey there!  Thought I forgot about you didn’t you?

Never.

I’m going to be honest. I haven’t been my best self lately. I haven’t been writing, and I have been blaming circumstances, and people, and all kinds of other stuff.

I need to write.  It’s how I’m wired!  So I’ve been a little mad.

The photo above is one I snapped a few days ago after I observed that the plant sitting on my kitchen table was shamelessly reaching it’s little limbs up to the light coming in through our sliding glass doors. It caught my eye because I could so relate! I want to thrive, but it isn’t going to happen when I’m sulking in the shadows.

If we are going to thrive, we will shamelessly square ourselves up with the Light.  There’s just no other way.

Do you ever get kind of mad, but you don’t know exactly why?  I’d like to submit that maybe…just maybe…it’s because you forgot to listen to the Voice of the One who created you.  Maybe you tried to please some other people, or facing Him was hard, or all your little fears came to the surface and you got off track?

When I get off track, I get mad about it.  Yet it was ME who said “yes” to a whole bunch of (perfectly fine) things that dwindled “time to be ME” down to zilcho.

Then that thing happened that I just hate. The more I stopped being ME, the less I wrote. And the less I wrote, the more the enemy of my soul convinced me that I had nothing important to say… that it has all been said better by people with more _______ (fill in the blank with… time, influence, skill, eloquence, resources, bandwidth, blah blah blah).

I’m putting my foot down, people.  It’s time to get back on the horse.  STARTING NOW.  And starting with this whole messy blog post of mixed metaphors!

Fulfilling our calling is much simpler than we sometimes make it.  ALL we have to do is listen to His Voice and obey.  No excuses, no second-guessing, no blaming someone else, or schedules, or circumstances.  We just say YES. And we do it.

How are you doing?  Are you being true to the God who knows you inside and out? Are you staying true to the way He has wired you?  Or are you letting all your stuff get in the way?

Well, guess what. You get to start all over again. Right now.  You don’t have to explain anything, like why or how you got here.  You just have to put your ear to your Maker’s chest and let Him speak into you.

Ask your Mastermind Creator to take you by the hand and lead you to the Rock that is higher than you… to that place where He is in charge and where you are thriving because you are allowing Him to unveil your very best self. He sees that self even when we don’t! Isn’t that the best?

This leaning to the Light will involved shedding all those crippling fears about what people think. But oh the relief you’ll find when you tune out every voice but His. He will ask you to drop some things, be honest about some things, and live truthfully. And it will be so worth it.

This might be over-quoted, but this is powerful stuff right here…”For what will it profit a man [or woman] if he [she] gains the whole world, and loses his [her] own soul? (Mark 8:36)

The answer is nothing.  It will not profit you one stinking thing to live by any other standard than surrendering this one soul you have to its loving, wise, powerful Maker.

And when you do?  Your best self will shine.  Not because you’re great.  (Let’s face it, we have issues people.) But you will shine because HE is great.

He has this amazing way of flooding through your transparency with glorious light. Then you will thrive just like my little needy plant, whose limbs instinctively lean toward life-giving light.

Who’s with me?!  Let’s lean that way together.

I’m already feeling the warmth again.

New Year, New Blog!

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2015-fireworksFriends, I continue to be so grateful that you follow and read this little blog of mine.  I have been conspicuously missing-in-action during the past few months and I have so much to tell you!

A year ago I experienced a major life change when, after 11 years of working from home, I accepted a new position that comes with a 45 minute commute.  I still work for Gaither Music Company, but rather than working remotely I am working in the office. So 2014 was a huge year of change for my whole family.  With that change came so much growth!

I was worried that my close relationship with Scott and the kids might suffer, since our daily time together would be shorter and more divided. But the reality is, we have never been happier. We’re working as a team, perhaps as never before, to make life happen and I feel so blessed!

We also began doing some marriage mentoring last year.  It wasn’t something we planned on doing, but it has been a tremendously rewarding experience that has stoked a fire in us.  We are finding ourselves burdened and, at the same time, excited for every chance we get to help couples through tough times and help them relate to one another in a more healthy, joyful way.

These circumstances, along with some sweet affirmations, prompted my husband, Scott, and me to launch a new blog!  On January 1st we posted our first blog at imperfectlyeverafter.com and we launched an accompanying Facebook page and Twitter account!

I invite you to follow us over there if you’d like.  We are very excited to launch this blog focused on stories and encouragement for couples (and for those want to prepare for the “right one” someday).

I will keep this blog here, with the kind of stories and thoughts I have always shared, but for blog posts focused specifically on relationships, marriage and family I invite you to follow our new blog at imperfectlyeverafter.com!

Hope to see you there!  And thanks again for being part of my world!

Emily

When We Get Lost in the Fog

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The warning on the weather app the night before called for dense fog during morning commute hours.

When I woke, another app notified me that my dear friend’s sweet father had passed away unexpectedly. The morning’s tangible heaviness outside seemed to symbolize the fog her grief-stricken family must be feeling.

The journey sure gets disorienting when fog settles in.

That roundabout I take every morning wasn’t quite so easy to navigate when I could only see a few feet in front of me.

It took me a few minutes to realize the car was headed in the wrong direction. The navigation app on my phone couldn’t help because I was out of the network’s reach. Country roads lined with beautiful cornfields suddenly became a cloudy labyrinth I could not navigate alone.

I whispered a little prayer, turned north, and hoped something would look familiar soon. Each unfamiliar intersection reminded me how close I am to getting lost every day. Just a couple wrong turns and suddenly I have no idea where I’m going.

As I drove, each thought of my friend’s grief reminded me how any day has the potential to bring news that makes us feel disoriented.  Job loss, death, a new diagnosis, bad financial news, a wayward child…any of us could wake up tomorrow to a disorienting fog if we aren’t already there.

When the proverbial fog makes us feel lost, there are a few things we can count on every time:

  1. When the world looks all hazy, there is always beauty to be found. Allow yourself to embrace the mystery, even just for a moment, without trying to solve it.
  2. Enjoy the “now.” Seeing a mile down the road is highly over-rated. His Presence is here and now. Not off somewhere else.
  3. Dependence is not always a bad thing. We all need guidance…hands to hold…prayers going up on our behalf. This fog could actually make our relationships richer and more honest when we ask for help.
  4. The sun’s brilliance eventually burns off even the heaviest fog. The spiritual parallels here are many. The sun is stronger than the fog.
  5. Here’s the most important one. Even when we don’t know where we are or what is going on around us… HE DOES. He sees. He knows everything.

Here is our Shepherd’s promise to all us wandering, scattered sheep who aren’t seeing clearly:

Indeed I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep, so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.  (Ezekiel 34:11-13 NKJV)

Anyone else ever get lost in the fog? How do you navigate through it? Or are you there now?  Talk to me.

Prayer for Monday

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IMG_3457As Monday overwhelms me with all my inadequacy, reminding me where all I fall short — I lean heavy into Your Sovereignty.

When I’ve done my best and it wasn’t quite good enough, I remember that I might never feel “enough” because I’m broken.

YOU, however, are not broken.

You are completely whole. And . . . You have made known everything I need to be whole.

You aren’t holding any cards behind your back that would help me gain access to your heart. Thank You for that.

The way You freely share Yourself with Your creation is reason enough to worship You constantly. Along with so many of your otherworldly attributes.

After more than 4 decades of following You, I’m just barely beginning to get a keyhole peek at just how good YOU are, and how very much I need Your thoughts instead of the ones my fumbling mind generates.

Give me Your mind and Your vision for this day, and the days that follow.

Remind me that Your opinion is the only one that really matters in the end.

YOU are the source of my joy and Your wisdom is what I need to navigate this day.

What more could a soul need on a Monday?

The answer is NOTHING. My soul needs nothing more than it needs YOU.

Amen.  And thank You for coffee.  That was such a great idea.

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143:10)