My Blog

Color OUTSIDE the Lines

Posted by on Oct 20, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

My son’s K-3 teacher was named Mari Paz. She taught at a bilingual school in Madrid, Spain, and she had very strong opinions on how to properly educate preschoolers.

In our first meeting with her, Mari Paz held up a drawing of an apple and told all of the parents in the room that every child will color that picture inside the lines. If they didn’t color inside the lines, Mari Paz said she would throw the paper away and give them a new one. The children would keep working at coloring inside the lines until they got it right. She had plenty of blank apples for them to practice on.

I came home one day, not long after that talk, to find Thomas sitting at the table with a coloring book open, his little tongue stuck out, his tiny fingers moving slowly across the page, trying desperately to stay inside the lines. It made me want to cry. I threw that paper away, gave him a blank sheet and told him to create whatever he wanted. I want to foster creativity, not conformity!

This is sad when we think about a sweet little three-year-old. But what about us? How often do we feel the pressure to “color inside the lines”? We females, especially, get this. We need to look a certain way, dress a certain way, fit into a certain “mold.” And we sit, our tongues stuck out, our stomachs sucked in, trying desperately to stay inside those “lines.”

It’s just as crazy for us as it was for Thomas. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God loves us, he created us for a purpose. And that purpose is most definitely not to try to fit into someone else’s ideals. That purpose is to be exactly who God made us to be. And we are created to be different sizes, different shapes, with different talents and interests.

So toss out that “picture” you’ve been trying to fit into, and look instead at God’s portrait of you. Beautiful. Made in His image. His precious child.

Besides, life would be incredibly boring if we were all pictures of apples colored inside the lines.

You’re Not From Around Here, Are You?

Posted by on Oct 16, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Poas Volcano, Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Learning a second language as an adult is hard. I attempted to learn Spanish at age 30, first in Costa Rica, then in Spain. One thing you find out pretty quickly is that it’s almost impossible to completely lose your accent. As much as I wanted to speak like a native, I just couldn’t.

I stuck out a little in Costa Rica – I was taller and paler than most. But I fit in Spain pretty well. I could walk down the street and most people would assume I belonged there.

But then I would speak.

And they’d know I didn’t belong.

I was thinking about that today, and I began to wonder about my “spiritual” accent. I wondered if, when I open my mouth, people around me know right away that I’m not from around here.

In Hebrews 11, we read about some of the heroes of the faith. In verses 13-16, we are told these men and women admitted they were “strangers on this earth.” And that admission led them to a longing for their true home – their heavenly home – in a city God prepared for them.

It was not wrong for me to want to sound like a native Spanish speaker. But it would be very wrong of me to want to blend into this world.

Spain 2006

Spain

I struggle with that all the time, though. I don’t want people to think I’m weird or label me narrow-minded or unintelligent because of my beliefs. So sometimes, I talk like the world, act like I belong here. I try to mask my spiritual accent.

And, sadly, there have been times in my life when I’ve done a great job at that, times when no one knew I was a stranger here.

And then I read about people like Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Sarah. People who, like me, weren’t perfect, but they lived a life of faith that looked absolutely insane to those around them. What they did made no sense – not even to them. But they trusted that God knows better than them, that His advice is better than the world’s, and they obeyed.

Like those heroes, we are not of this world. Our home is in heaven. Let us, like them, maintain our heavenly accents. So what if the world thinks we’re crazy?

We’re not from around here!

 

 

When Your Plans and God’s Plans Collide

Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 2 comments

I did a lot of theater growing up. I tried some other stuff — like piano (meh), sports (yikes!), and beauty pageants (don’t EVEN get me started…). But theater was my first and greatest love. I was fortunate to grow up in a town with one of the top community theaters in the country and several amazing theaters in the surrounding cities, so I was ALWAYS in a show. I played everything from a mouse to an orphan to an existential wanderer….over 25 plays in all, from the time I was five until I graduated high school.

This is me (age 17) as the Wicked  Stepmother in "Snow White"

This is me (age 17) as the Wicked Stepmother in “Snow White”

Everyone – myself included – assumed I’d pursue theater after high school. Not just because I loved it, but because there was nothing else I was good at! Seriously. I was a terrible athlete and an average student. I was good at one thing and one thing only: performing.

But when I was sixteen, I dedicated my life to God at a Christian camp. I really meant it, too. I told God I would do whatever He asked me to do. So God immediately began working in me. First, he had me break up with the guy I was dating. That wasn’t too hard. But then…He made it clear He wanted me to leave the performing arts school I attended.

Gulp.

What?!

I knew what He was asking — not just that I leave the school, but that I give up my plans to be an actress.

Uh, God, maybe I heard you wrong? I prayed. I mean, Broadway needs missionaries, right? I could SO shine for You on the Great White Way. Pleeeeeeease??

But God was asking me to trust Him, to give up my plans for my life and follow His plans instead.

It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made, but I left the performing arts school – and my dream of becoming an actress – and obeyed.

God blessed my obedience in so many ways. It would take another blog – or ten – to talk about that! I have never regretted following God’s plan instead of mine. Never.

Most people make their most life-altering decisions between ages 16-24. I certainly did. Maybe you’re there, right in that window, and God is asking you to trust Him, to listen to Him, to follow Him wherever He leads.

That decision isn’t easy – believe me, I know! But I also know it is SO worth it. God knows far better than we do what is best for us.

(By the way: I still get to do theater – I direct and act, even write plays! I love that! And though it is a wonderful hobby, it isn’t my life’s passion…Ministering to teens is my life’s passion. But I never would have known that had I not surrendered to God’s leading all those years ago. In letting go of the “good”, God allowed me to have the “great”).

 

God Wants You to Run

Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Yes, that’s right. God wants you to run.

My sister ran a marathon when she was 19. She trained for months, running her college campus, watching what she ate, learning how to find a rhythm, to push her body past its limits. And then she ran. And ran. 26 miles. Her body hurt. I’m sure, several times throughout that day, she thought about quitting. Limping home and curling up with some Ben and Jerry’s. But she was determined not to listen to her tired body. She pressed on. She called me when it was over, thrilled to say her socks were soaked with blood (only runners understand that is an exciting discovery — I am not a runner, so my response was, “Ewww!”). She did it. She was exhausted, in pain, aching all over. Running a marathon is NOT easy. But, she says, finishing is an amazing feeling. Worth all the sacrifices she made.

The writer of Hebrews says, “…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

The Christian life is like a marathon. We are running a race that has been marked out for us — God has identified our “route,” he has placed on it important landmarks to see, to shape us; people we are to influence and be influenced by; lessons we are to learn. The race isn’t always easy. Like my sister, there will be times when we’re just hurting and want to quit, times when the end seems too far away to ever achieve. But like my sister, we need to persevere. God is calling us to run, not a literal marathon, but a spiritual one. One where the prize is not a medal or bleeding feet, but “the prize of our high calling in Jesus Christ.”

So run. Grab your shoes, start your training, get rid of whatever it is that is holding you back from running the race God has marked out for you. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Don’t just read about the race. Don’t just talk about it. Don’t just listen to sermons about running. Don’t complain about the others who are running or claim to be running. Run! It is worth the effort. It is worth the pain. It’s worth the sacrifices.

Because making it to the end is going to be amazing!

In the Middle

Posted by on Oct 4, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

I hate being in the middle of things.

Beginnings are fun. Or challenging. Maybe even tough. But they are the beginnings. Even when they are the beginning of difficulties, there’s a sense of strength, an “I can do this” attitude. In the beginning of trials, I am clinging to God, preparing for the battle, armed and ready for whatever may come. At the beginning of the good stuff, I am on the mountaintop, dreaming about the amazing things to come.

I don’t mind endings, either. When it’s something good — like a book being published or a school year ending — I look back with a contented sense of accomplishment. All that hard work really WAS worth it! When it’s the end of a difficult time…whew. I can see a little more clearly what God was doing and how He taught me through the trial. There is relief and rest. It’s over!

But the middle…The middle makes me feel like this:

Thomas and the girls

My kids, circa 2004

I’m in the middle right now. We moved here three months ago. When we first moved, it was really hard, but I was clinging to God for help as we left the people and places we loved back in Tampa. I knew God had his hands all over this move, that there is a purpose in it, a reason for us to be here. But there was some excitement, too – new house, new location, new people, fresh start. The unknown can be both exhilarating and intimidating.

But the unknown is more known, now. We are in the middle of life in the new place. We know people, but don’t have close friends, yet. We’re involved in church, but we’re still the “new folks.” We are in the middle of a new routine, but we’re all missing the familiarity and comfort of the old one.

I spoke to one of my new friends last week. She is in the middle of a far more difficult situation than I am in. My situation will very likely end well. And my ending is likely far closer than hers. She shared how, when her trial began, she was ready for it, armed for battle. But as the war wages on, she is finding herself weary. Her battle will not end soon. She is tired, overwhelmed, she has far more responsibilities than she has time.

Listening to her, I felt guilty for what I know is pure whininess on my part. My “middle” is a cakewalk compared to hers.

But my solution is the same as hers: She said the only way she can get through her trial is one day at a time. She asks God to help her accomplish just what she needs to accomplish that day. Then she wakes up the next day and does the same thing. One day at a time, clinging to Christ even when she’s exhausted, even when the end seems impossibly far away.

Last week, God used this new friend to encourage me. And, yesterday, he brought an old friend by to bring further encouragement — to remind me of his faithfulness in the past so I can continue to trust Him with my future. God reminded me that He is with me in the middle, walking beside me. He reminded me there are lessons to be learned in the middle and joys to be experienced here, as well. The middle is, for me, right where God wants me to accomplish his purposes in my life.

So I will choose to rejoice…even in the middle.

Live Dangerously

Posted by on Oct 1, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 3 comments

Have you ever had the amazing spiritual “high” after a great week of camp? Or felt like God is so near you could almost reach out and touch Him? Do you ever feel like God is really far away? Or do you sometimes wonder if he’s even there at all?

My kids and I were listening to the fabulous Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre production of CS Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters in the car a while back. In this book, a “head demon” is writing to his student about how to keep “those awful” humans from knowing God.

The whole book is brilliant, but one particular “letter” always sticks out to me: The one where Screwtape tells his student about the “Law of Undulation.” This law is the reality that sometimes Christians can feel very close to God and sometimes we can feel very far away. Screwtape’s advice is that, when humans feel far from God, they need to believe this is how they will always feel. They should doubt if they even know God, if there even is a God, and if it is at all worth it to continue serving Him when it seems like no prayers are being answered and no blessings are filling their cups.

Have you ever been there? I know I have. The Christian life isn’t easy, and we sometimes live with the false expectation that it should be, that if we know Christ and serve Him, everything is going to be terrific, all the stoplights will be green and all the cute shirts will be on sale.

The advice, “unknowingly” given by Screwtape in this book, is that God allows those periods where we feel distant from him – what one author has called “the dark night of the soul” – to help us grow. He wants us to be motivated, not emotions, but by faith. To obey even when things aren’t going well, to rejoice even when life is tough, to love even when we don’t feel like it.Ocean Waves Wallpapers Pictures Photos Images

This state, Screwtape says, is “dangerous.” He warns his student to do all he can to prevent humans from understanding the truth that there are waves – undulations – in the Christian life. Good times, bad times, happy times, sad times, times we feel close to God, and times we feel like he is a million miles away. Because when we understand that, we are free to serve God regardless of how we feel or what circumstances we might currently be in.

So, my friends, let us be “dangerous.” Let us commit ourselves wholeheartedly to serving our Savior no matter what. Even on bad days. Even when people treat us poorly. Even when we are in the middle of terrible circumstances. Let us “ride the waves” of life and not be sucked into their undertow.

 

Matters of the Heart

Posted by on Sep 26, 2014 in Christ life, Recommended Reading, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 2 comments

I‘m not old. But I can see old. I am perilously close to the top of the hill.

I know I’m getting older because people look at my wedding pics and say, “Look how cute you were!” (emphasis on the were). And because people think I’m lying when I say that I just got my first gray hair this year (It’s true! And it’s still just the one). And  because my firstborn is just a few months from turning 16 (excuse me while I hyperventilate).

There are benefits to getting older: I have 39 years of life lessons behind me. My wrinkles reflect wisdom. My gray hair (did I mention I just have the one?), survival. I no longer ask Dave if my butt looks big in those jeans. Of course it does! I’ve had three kids and I hardly ever exercise.

I no longer try and compare myself to supermodels. Instead, I think about writing their mothers and telling them to put on some clothes.

Getting older is part of life. Sadly, our tendency in facing that reality is to focus on the outside. We want to surgically remove all vestiges of age – suck it out, perk it up, lift it away. But too often this results in a complete lack of focus on the inside. And while there is nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, there is something really wrong with making that all you think about.

Here’s a verse many of you have heard before, but all of us need to be reminded of: “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” I Sam. 16:7b

If, as Christians, our goal in this – and the next – life is to glorify God, then constantly worrying about what we look like, how we’re aging, counting our gray hairs and Googling ways to minimize crow’s feet is not beneficial. Being grateful for the years God has given us, the lessons He has taught us in those years, looking for ways to serve others and share Christ’s love –that is where our focus should be.

So even if you’re not old, or almost old, you should still be focusing your energy on developing your inner beauty. It sounds cliche – but only because it is true. Inner beauty is more important! It is more lasting. So forget your butt. Start asking “how does my heart look?”

Beware of Bandwagon Christianity

Posted by on Sep 23, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 0 comments

No, this isn’t the diet I was crazy about, but it IS all natural!

Most of you reading this are like me – you’ve spent a lot of time on a Bandwagon. If there’s a new fad, a new saying, an “it” fashion, you are all over it. We’re all guilty of it. I’ve been around long enough to see everyone I know – myself included – fall victim to one Bandwagon scheme…or a hundred.

That crazy diet that makes you sick to your stomach, causes your hair to fall out and your breath to stink? Yes, that one. It was THE health craze. Those fabulous purses that cost three times more than the no-name brand and fall apart just as quickly? HAD to have it. And let’s not even go into the shoes. Who cares if they’re ridiculously uncomfortable and you have to fracture your pinkie toe to get into them? That pointy toe, stiletto heel is worth it all, baby!

We can get really passionate about our phases – I was into a diet about 10 years back that was I SURE was “the” answer for all people everywhere. I told my friends and family about it, met with others doing the same thing. I was all in on that Bandwagon….for about a year. Now, I forget what was so great about it. It was just a diet! Silly me.

The problem comes, though, when our faith becomes just another “phase” – a Bandwagon we jump on because our friends are doing it or we had an experience at camp or we went through a difficult time and promised God if He got us through it, we’d serve Him. When we seek after Jesus the same way we’re seeking after those pointy-toe boots or that all-natural diet, He eventually gets “old”. We burn out and move on to another phase.

God did not send His only Son to die on our behalf and offer us eternal life so that we could have an “experience.” The Christ-life should never be the equivalent of the latest shoe, diet, or fancy purse. It is a lifetime commitment to the One who created us, has plans for us, is FAR superior to us in every way. Living for Christ means that we daily offer Him our wholehearted worship and devotion. We aren’t in it for what we get out of it, and we’re not in it because “everybody else is doing it”. We are in it because we recognize that we are made in the image of a holy, awesome God, a God worth telling people about, worth devoting our lives to.

We need to get off of “Bandwagon Christianity”, own our faith, and live it out every day — no matter the cost.

Get Your Head in the Game

Posted by on Sep 20, 2014 in Christ life, Recommended Reading, Stuff about Me | 0 comments

Most of you reading this are now humming that song from “High School Musical” – and hating me for getting it stuck in your head. Sorry about that. But there’s some truth to that ridiculously repetitive ditty. Troy needed to be reminded that, if he wanted to win that all-important basketball game, he’d better focus on that and not on the cute newcomer, Gabriella.

He recognized that if he were to allow his mind to drift off the court, he would let his team down and, possibly, lose the game. So he sang and danced (WITH a basketball! Impressive, you have to admit…) a reminder. Side note: all lessons in life should be accompanied by singing and dancing. How much more enjoyable would that be??

We are all busy, with days that seem to go on forever and calendars that have no white spaces in them for months on end. Because of that, it is easy to spend every day thinking about the next day, or the day after that. Sometimes they’re happy thoughts (we get a day off in three weeks!); sometimes they’re stressful (I have to take the SAT next month!); sometimes our thoughts focus on people (will he ask me to Homecoming?) But whatever they are, if those thoughts dominate our minds, we miss out on the most important day: TODAY.

There’s a great line from “The Music Man”, where Harold turns to Marion and says, “You pile up enough tomorrows and you’ll find you’re left with nothing but a bunch of empty yesterdays.” Side note: musicals are far more profound than people give them credit for.

When our heads are focused on tomorrow, we lose out on the joy of today. We don’t listen when people are talking because we are thinking/worrying about what we need to do later. We miss out on opportunities to minister, to deepen friendships, to encourage, to grow because our heads aren’t in “the game”. We get to the end of our calendar and we find that, though every square was filled, our souls are empty.

So plan for tomorrow, but LIVE today. Don’t just seek God’s will for your future, seek Him for your next hour, and the hour after that. You are in the game right now! Every “play” is important and deserving of your full attention.

“So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ~Mt. 6:34

 

On Subtweets and Snapchats

Posted by on Sep 15, 2014 in Christ life, Stuff about Me, Uncategorized | 1 comment

I know today’s teens get a tough rap, but I happen to think you are pretty spectacular. You guys have been thrown a lot of curve balls – the ultra-protection that comes from living more of your lives post 9/11 than pre-9/11; the constant influx of new technologies; the increased pressure to get better grades, take harder classes, pass more tests…Being a teen today takes far more work than it did back when I was that age.

But here’s what we had that some of this generation is missing: in-the-same-room communication. While texting and Snap chatting and Tweeting are fine – in the right context – none of that substitutes plain, old-fashioned talking.

In the wrong context, texting, Snap chatting, and Tweeting can actually keep us from having healthy relationships. Subtweeting ( indirectly tweeting something -usually negative – about someone without mentioning his/her name), for instance, can be terribly damaging. Instead of going directly to someone who has upset you, you subtweet their offense (“I hate when it people take credit for my ideas in Student Council!”). This is gossip and it’s cowardly. Just tell that person – in person – he/she upset you by taking credit for your ideas.

Texting too often replaces important, beneficial, face-to-face interaction, also…like getting to know new friends or potential boyfriends. You can only know so much about a person through words on a screen, or even pictures for that matter. You need to see them, hear them, watch them around others. Nothing can replace that.

I don’t think technology is bad – I happen to be pretty crazy about my iPhone! But I do think that technology is a supplement, not a replacement – like Sparksnotes to an actual novel. Don’t miss out on the joy of really getting to know people; don’t allow yourself the easy way out when it’s time to confront, either.

Enjoy being teens in the twenty-teens, but  go old school with your relationships.