Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Gifted

The NaBloPoMo prompt for today wasn’t one I could really respond to as it was about new fall TV.  I honestly haven’t seen but a couple of the new fall shows so it would have been really hard to write to. Instead, I’m going to write about a topic I’ve been wanting to dig into a little more.

A few years ago our church provided everyone with an opportunity to take a spiritual gifts assessment.  I found the results fascinating, and somewhat baffling.  What I thought God had gifted me with, barely even registered as a blip.  But, the more I thought about what the test told me, the more I realized how accurate it was.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Spiritual Gifts, don’t think you are alone.  Until our church did this, I had never even heard the term.  I found this phrase that I felt provides a great summary.

“…spiritual gifts are God-given graces (special abilities, offices, or manifestations) meant for works of service, to benefit and build up the body of Christ as a whole.”

The subject of spiritual gifts recently came up in our growth group at church and I found that many of the women had never taken a test.  I wanted to encourage them to do it and started looking online for a free test I could point them to.  I found the website GiftsTest.com.  I didn’t want to blindly point them to a test I didn’t try first, so I took the test myself.  Below is a graphical representation of my results.

spiritual-gifts-results

My first gift is mercy and it’s described like this: The gift of mercy is the divine strength or ability to feel empathy and to care for those who are hurting in any way.

Here’s how another website describes this gift: “Those with the motivational gift of mercy are the “heart” of the body. They easily sense the joy or distress in other people and are sensitive to feelings and needs. They are attracted to and patient with people in need, motivated by a desire to see people healed of hurts. They are truly meek in nature and avoid firmness.”

I wrote yesterday about how I had been feeling all the hurt and anger someone I don’t even know personally might be feeling.  I am an overly emotional person when MY emotions are the only ones I have to deal with.  Throw in my ability to feel others’ emotions and you have a recipe for huge bouts of depression.  Throughout my life I’ve always believed this character trait was more of a flaw than a gift.  I’ve heard news stories about tragedies and spent days crying for people I have never met. A friend can share an injustice that was done to them and I feel their pain as if it was happening to me. I’ve been known to cry in my bed for days for people I love if I know they are hurting.

Before I knew this was a gift, I’ve actually begged God to take this away from me. For years I had no idea what would happen to me in those times, or why I felt like I did.  I assumed for so long that something was wrong with me.  I really had no idea.

I’ve noticed over the years how I seem to have a knack for drawing truth and honesty from people.  People I love, random people, and people I barely know.  I’ve thought it was odd, but have always tried to give my attention and offer up advice when I can.  However, one of my biggest struggles is that I often cannot find the words I feel I need to say in order to make the confessing person feel better.  What I’m learning as I read more about this gift of mercy is that in most cases, my gift to give is just my presence and attention.  My gift is not to resolve or rectify the hurt of others, but to simply share in their pain, to provide compassion to them, and to just let them know they are not alone.

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I can’t even begin to express my joy when I found out this is not only a gift God has given to me, but it’s a gift I can use to help others. There are multiple places in the bible where the gift of mercy is discussed.  In Galatians 6:2, Paul wrote “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  I can see now that my ability to help a friend carry a hurt is so much more than I ever thought. As a recipient of this gift, it is my responsibility to come alongside those who are hurting and help them carry the cross they bear. As daunting as that seems, I find comfort and strength in knowing that God is always beside me, lifting me up as I use my gift to lift others.


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Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Truth or Love? Or Both?

If you could be completely honest with no regrets, what would you say and to whom?

Let me just go ahead and say it… this is the worst.prompt.ever!  Ever!  How could someone think this would be a good idea?  Why would I put something in writing for the world to see if I’m afraid of having regrets by telling you to your face!?!  WHY???!!!!!  I sorta kinda begged Gil to let’s pick a different prompt to write to and he flatly refused and is holding to this one.  Dangit!  I guess that’s a battle not worth fighting for now, so I’m going to write to the prompt, but with defiance in every letter I pound on my keyboard.

I think it’s obvious at this point I’m not going to be actually sharing with you what I would say to someone if I could be honest with no regrets. I’ve really stressed about this all day.  I didn’t know what to do, so as I sat down to write, I opened up a new tab and typed into the Google search bar “What does the bible say about taming your tongue”. Cool, I found lots of verses like this one.

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word is a gift.  Ephesians4:29 (MSG)

Then, I typed “What does the bible say about telling the truth?” Here’s one of the verses in that result that grabbed me.

These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace;   Zechariah 8:16

Confused yet?  Yeah, me too.

I have to be honest with you dear readers.  I have not been honest with you.  As I’ve been digging around in these verses, I’ve been struggling with wanting to say something, but certain if I put it out there, I’m going to regret it later.  So, I’m going to do the equivalent of vaguebooking and tell you a partial truth.

I have spent the last week watching someone I admire (a public figure and not someone I know personally) being publicly ripped apart because of an interview that was published last week.  It’s been really ugly. I have no idea what she and her family have actually felt and dealt with, but I just can’t imagine it’s been easy. I have cried and felt anger and hurt in all the ways I think they hurt. I’ve talked about all of this with my husband and have valued his opinion and even the times when his truth telling to me was not at all what I wanted to hear. People, hear me when I say I’ve struggled with this.

Why did I feel so much pain?  Because the public vitriol and hurtful responses were ALL coming from other Christians. Christians who read the same bible I read and love the same God I love.  But, told their truths in mean and negative ways.

I think the events of this past week is what caused my immediate aversion to this prompt and why my thoughts turned to such a negative response. I think I knew writing about this would force me to acknowledge some things I haven’t been willing to allow myself to think, much less speak. I’ll deal with that little psychological breakthrough at another time.

For now, I can tell you that in all of my research tonight, I didn’t find a single verse that said to be hateful when speaking truth to someone.  I did find this one from Ephesians.  And many more about speaking truth, but in loving, non-hurtful ways. I’m not saying that direction isn’t there, but I am saying I believe God guided me to the scriptures I needed to read right now. I believe He knows my heart is just too tender to deal with anything else. Maybe later, but just not now.

Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.  Ephesians 4:15

I think one of the greatest challenges I’ll ever face as a follower of Christ is having the discernment to know how to speak truth in love. Is it possible to speak truth in love always?  Is it possible to respond lovingly to a recipient of the truth who doesn’t want to hear your words and who perceives the truth as an attack? My prayer is that God will not only grant me this wisdom to discern when to tell the truth, but compassion to speak it with love, and the resolve to speak it even when the truth hurts.  

Posted in NaBloPoMo, NanoPoblano

Bravery Blessings

When was the last time you did something brave? What happened?

The past few months have seen me do more brave things than I’ve done in a really long time. I’m not sure why this surge of bravery, but it has without a doubt breathed new life back into my tired mind and body. For very long periods of my life, coming up with a single brave act would be challenging at best, but I find myself with the unnatural dilemma of picking just one.  WHAT?!?  I don’t even know who I am right now.  

And, since this is MY blog, I can make up the rules as I go and will therefore provide a list (in the most humble way I can) of the brave things I’ve done recently.

  • I flew without the aid of prescription sedatives (alcohol does NOT count here), for not one trip, but two. Actually, I’ve travelled by plane 3 different times since mid September alone. For most of you, this is a very regular occurrence.  It is not for me and trust me when I say this took courage….and a lot of it.
  • I poured out my heart to my church for five passionate, heartfelt minutes about a little town in Alabama that so desperately needs us to show them what it means to be children of a King. I issued a challenge and I’ll do the work to see it through, but I know that God will make it happen. We must reflect God’s love and show others how to do the same, even in the places where fear controls us.
  • I sat in a room with eight women I did not know (and one I did) and told my personal story of and through racism. The words that poured from my heart were not my own, but God’s gentle spirit telling a story of shame and ignorance. Our stories matter, even if they are not easy to tell.
  • I spoke (through recorded video) to a group of 125 women at a retreat I helped to organize and plan. God put me in a place to tell my truth so that others could tell theirs. And truth telling is how we take away shame’s hold on us.

The second part of the today’s prompt asks a simple question.  “What happened?” Had I selected a single act of bravery as the prompt suggest, this would probably be the point where I would wrap up the story with some valuable life lesson, and tie it up with a pretty bow. Instead, I’m going to tell you what didn’t happen.  

  • I didn’t let my irrational fear of flying stop me from traveling with two incredibly godly men to follow God’s call to help the people of a small town in Alabama. I didn’t let my inexperience and childlike faith stop me from speaking up in a room where every other person was so much smarter and wiser than myself. I didn’t let fear clip my wings.
  • I didn’t let my inner voice say no when the pastor asked me to speak to the church on Sunday morning following 2 weeks of mission trips. I didn’t stress when the talking points I prepared were preempted by a request to talk about just one portion of those trips. I didn’t let my knees knocking keep me from climbing the steps to the stage, or my trembling hands from taking the microphone. I didn’t let the 100’s of faces in front of me intimidate what my heart needed to say. I didn’t stop the words God told me to speak, even if I had no idea what words would come next. I didn’t let fear silence me.
  • I didn’t let myself be intimidated in a room of women who are so much further on their faith journey than me. I didn’t let the colors in the room stop me from telling a story that had never been spoken out loud. I didn’t let my own self loathing stop me from revealing a past I need to reconcile. I didn’t miss an opportunity to learn so much about unity and how our stories can help to heal a broken and damaged world. I didn’t miss making new friends and feeling accepted and loved even when I didn’t feel I deserved it. I didn’t miss an opportunity to hear the words “that was so brave” and realize how important it is to say that to others. I didn’t let fear give me a place to hide.
  • I didn’t let the fact that I had never attended a women’s retreat stop me from helping to plan one. I didn’t stop the words “I think I have a story to tell” flow from my mouth to the exact person who knew what to do with that. I didn’t let not knowing if my story would matter keep me from telling it. I didn’t allow fears of judgement and condemnation to stop me from sharing. I didn’t miss a faith filled weekend with my best friend. I didn’t hold back tears and hugs and prayers when it was their time. I didn’t miss opportunities to hear other women confess and release pain they had held far too long. I didn’t miss finding a love for my sisters in Christ that I had no idea I even wanted. I didn’t miss chances to make mistakes and to struggle to find words when there were none. I didn’t miss hearing “your story is my story” countless times. I didn’t let fear tell me my story didn’t matter.

What blessings are you missing out on today because fear is holding you back? Scripture tells us over and over to be courageous.  Let’s do that. God will use you when you least expect it.  

Be brave, Sisters.

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Thank you for reading.  Please also scoot over to my husband’s blog and check out his latest act of bravery.  Hint: it happened tonight!

Posted in 40 Bags in 40 Days

Mmmmm Strawberries

IMG_20140307_225715After a very long week, the last thing I wanted to do tonight was to clean something. But, I’m committed to this 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge so I had to think outside the box for this one.

My mom and I attended the Florida Strawberry Festival yesterday and of course we had to bring home some strawberries. Sixteen pounds of strawberries to be exact. Beautiful organic, sweet, delicious strawberries. We are going to be enjoying these berries for many months to come. Which leads me to tonight’s decluttering task. Instead of clearing out some pile of trash, I plopped down in front of the TV with the family, the strawberries, and a knife, and proceeded to prepare them for their little play date with a cooler full of dry ice tomorrow.

20140307_230821I’m counting this as a bag because I could have easily filled a grocery bag with the stems and 18 empty containers. Tomorrow we’ll freeze them and into the freezer they will go.

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So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. – 1 Corinthians 10:31

We read this verse in small group on Wednesday night. It really resonated with me and I’m thinking it’s one I may have to set a reminder to read daily. As much as I want to glorify God in everything I do, I fail more often than I care to admit. However, the wonderful thing is that I know I’m doing more now than I was a year ago. And, I’ll be doing more next year than I’m doing now.

Posted in 40 Bags in 40 Days

Unmentionables

Today’s the day. And boy was it a doozy. I knew starting my 40 Bags in 40 Days challenge on a Wednesday (our busiest day and longest day of the week) would be difficult, but I was determined to start on Ash Wednesday no matter what. The day started with me oversleeping, and of course that set the tone for the rest of the day. I seemed to be a step behind all of my plans and all of the plans others made for me all day long. But, I made it. I got through my work day, a power meeting in the afternoon, my drive home, some more work, a quick dinner prep, and then finished out the marathon day with our church small group.

But, oh wait, that wasn’t the end of my day. I still needed to fill a bag with crap. At 10Pm at night, I’m not really too excited about tackling some big project from my list so I stared at my Declutter list and picked something quick.  20140305_224652

I’m really glad I had the forethought in my planning to include some small projects for days like today, when I’m not up for tackling something that would take hours. For today, I decided to clear out my undies. You know, those undergarments that you hang onto for years because they are comfortable, but would die if you actually got caught wearing them. And I can’t be the only one who hoards single socks in the hopes the missing match will suddenly appear 3 years down the road.

20140305_215130After choosing my project, I grabbed my camera and a grocery bag and headed into my closet to knock this one out.  Now, as you can see from this picture, my closet is NOT a welcoming place. It’s actually quite scary and has even been known to drive my dear (OCD suffering) husband Gil away in tears. It is for this reason I’m only sharing a little tiny photo of a very specific area with you today. Not every project on my list is as daunting as my closet and I don’t want to scar you all with the whole disaster zone on the very first day. Baby steps, people, baby steps.  

The white drawer on top is where I keep my undies. As you can see, it sometimes become a catch all for other clothing because, well, I’m too lazy to grab a hanger from 12 inches away and hang them up. You can also see that when putting my laundry away, I’m guilty of gingerly tossing it from the doorway and what happens is that random unmentionables are left just hang out of the drawer, or on the floor.  The wire basket at the bottom of the photo is my sock drawer. And yes, that’s a small wallet/bag I threw in there when unpacking another bag over the weekend. I have no idea why I chose to put it there instead of one of the wire basket just to the right where I actually keep my small bags. And no, I wasn’t drunk at the time.

I turned on YouVersion, selected the book of Mark, and hit play.  Honestly, the whole process of cleaning out the two drawers and matching up my socks only took about 15 minutes. But, in that 15 minutes I was able to listen to three whole chapters of the bible. That’s three chapters more than I would have read today and how awesome is THAT. (And for the sake of clarification and in an attempt to prevent my husband from calling me out publicly, let me go ahead and say that for me, read = listens, so when I say that I’m “reading” something, I really mean I’m “listening” to someone read something to me. )

AND I was able to fill a bag and actually toss it in the trash.20140305_221107

AND I did this. One item done and one bag filled and removed from my house.20140305_223139

In small group tonight we talked about how we sometimes forget to celebrate the little things. Well, I’m taking that lesson to heart tonight as I grin from ear to ear while I reflect on 15 minutes of decluttering a small section of my closet and filling my spirit with the Word of God. 

The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. – Mark 1:12-13

Posted in 40 Bags in 40 Days

Declutter Body, Mind, and Spirit

Declutter.

That’s my word of 2014. I had never picked a word before, but I decided I would try something different this year.  I spent a lot of time praying and reflecting in December on what my word should be. And in true God fashion, He gave it to me loud and clear.

It all started with a diet. Yep, you read that right. The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy to be exact. This diet is amazing and I’ll spare you the many pages on which I could gush on and on about how great this new way of thinking and eating has been. Suffice it to say that because of the planning and preparation involved in doing this diet, I realized I had to make some changes in many aspects of my life. It was in the planning that I realized God had given me my word and He was showing me how to apply it to every aspect of my life.

To simplify or get rid of mess, disorder, and complications.

This is the definition that sums up why I chose declutter as my word this year. I realized quickly while studying for the diet, we would be making a lot of changes because we would be eating clean and whole and healthful. No more boxes, cans, or fast food. No more convenience. As a result of this, I realized I would be getting rid of the mess and disorder within my body, which has allowed me to declutter my mind a bit along the way.

I’m finding more focus in my day now that I’ve eliminated things like caffeine, sugar and wheat from my diet. I honestly had no idea what impact those items had on me, until I stopped consuming them. I think the clearer mind has a lot to do with the fact that I actually sleep from the time I lay down until my alarm wakes me in the morning. This is new to me. It’s been years since I’ve slept through the night. I guess you could say that I’ve decluttered my subconscious in a way that it quiets down and allows me to get a full night’s sleep, uninterrupted by dreams and restlessness. I still have a long way to go with the decluttering of the mind, but I’m off to a great start.

The last area of my life that I want to concentrate on is my spiritual life. As much as I love God, I really suck at giving Him a special time in my day. I’m too busy, too sleepy, too lazy – just pick one and that the excuse I use daily to not read the Word. Now, don’t misunderstand, I spend a lot of my day listing to contemporary Christian music, or catching up on sermons during my drive to work. It’s not like I ignore Him completely, but I do not set aside specific time for Him each day.

I think I’ve found the solution and it’s crazy how perfectly this fits into my theme of decluttering.  It’s so perfectly crazy that one would think God had it hand delivered by Gabriel himself. I prefer to think God has a Pinterest account and he pinned the following just for me to see only days before Lent.

Of course the 40 Bags in 40 Days immediately caught my attention due to the significance of the number 40 in the bible. Then I started reading the blog post and sure enough, the blogger is intentionally starting this challenge to coincide with Lent.  Ann Marie Heasley of White House Black Shutters, is issuing a challenge to “focus on cleaning one area per day…declutter, simplify, decrapify (don’t you LOVE that word), and get rid of things you don’t need. The goal is one bag a day…” She even provides you with a handy printable to list your 40 areas so you can plan your attack on clutter.

Now, you may be asking, what does this challenge have to do with decluttering my spiritual life. Well, here’s what I’m thinking. I’m going to accept the 40 Bags in 40 Days Challenge with a twist. I’m going to specifically set aside time each day to declutter an area, and I’m going to listen to God’s word while I do it. I’m going to start with Mark and see where the Lord takes me. YouVersion is going to become my very best friend.  Well, that, and a box Hefty garbage bags.

To organize and prioritize

I guess you could say that’s exactly what the next 40 days will be for me. I’ll be observing Lent by getting rid of some earthly belongings, organizing what’s left, and making time with God a priority in my day.