Success

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On a recent Saturday morning as I left home to run some errands, I noticed an elderly man with a young boy, in a yard. It appeared he was explaining something to the boy, perhaps how to fix something.

In the brief moment that I was able to glance over at them while driving by, the symbolic picture of skills being transferred from one generation to the next was not lost on me.

The older gentleman, Mr. Martin, lives down the street from us. He was the man in the yard that day. He’s been turning plain ole wood into useful works of art and science for decades. He’s a teacher at my sons’ school – has been for 30+ years.

On that unseasonably warm Saturday morning, the first weekend of Spring break, he was spending time with his grandson, presumably. And Mr. Martin was doing what he had been doing for his entire adult life…teaching.

He started out teaching woodshop. I’ve heard him talk about how he misses the smell of the wood. Because technology has all but removed the actual handcrafting aspect of his classes and retooled them into “Engineering”.  My sons have both enjoyed their time in his classroom, as you would expect boys to.

Though his methods have drifted over the years, going from eliciting smiles from mother when junior brings home a carefully carved and stained napkin holder, to where we are now with translating a graphic design into a 3D printed model – Mr. Martin is still at it, introducing young minds to the world of engineering and manufacturing.

Many students over the years and presently, are taking the skills they’ve learned in Mr. Martin’s classes, along with the value he places on working with ones’ hands, and they are setting off into the wild blue yonder in productive, gratifying careers.

Success.

I hear this word often. And as many times as I hear it, exceeding that are the definitions. For doesn’t “success” have a different meaning in the eyes of each and every person?

Typically, the ideal picture of success, the desireable one, is painted with broad strokes of green. In other words…loads of cash. Yes, in many cases, material wealth is the byproduct of achievement, hard work, climbing the corporate ladder. But I want to recognize another form of success.

Living our purpose.

I imagine that Mr. Martin is living his purpose. And he’s happy doing so.

We can be sure of this: there is joy and satisfaction guaranteed when we find and fulfill our unique purpose.

Mr. Martin could’ve entered the workforce as a carpenter, worked in manufacturing, owned his own woodworking shop. He could’ve done a number of things with his skills. He missed out on having the world look at him and say, “That man is successful.”

Or did he?

I look at Mr. Martin and I see success.

He has a passion for what he does, and not just the trade of engineering. He had a desire to share his skills, his knowledge…his life, with our young people. In his work and personal life, he’s doing just that. He is successful.

The idea of success isn’t limited to the size of bank accounts, lofty titles or status. A person can be successful in circumstances that seem meager to others. In fact, success  is a relative term. Sometimes it’s a word used loosely to describe someone who seems to have arrived at a state that we ourselves are envious of. But that’s their story. And we’ll never feel “successful” until we live our own story.

Whether you’re juggling meetings and agendas or wiping noses and changing diapers – you can bask in “success.”

Mr. Martin chose how he would spend his life. He set out to do something, and he did it. The bonus here is: his selfless choice to teach spread the opportunities for success further than himself.

Success. It’s closer than you think.

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Happy Little Accidents

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Over the years, I have enjoyed a variety of artistic pursuits. There’s a collection of rubber stamps, masses of paper, enough balls of yarn to wrap around the globe and then some. There’s a host of discarded craft supplies scattered about, piled in the nooks and crannies where I live. You name it, I’ve probably tried it.

As a young girl, I watched my grandmother crochet. Later, in my adult years, this therapeutic skill came out of me like someone with multiple personalities. I didn’t even recognize at the time, that it was my grandmother who inspired me. I started with making chains – a long, worm-like single row of stitches. There really was no use for these fascinating spirals. But, until I purchased the instruction books and learned some basic terms, that’s all I could do.

Because I tried winging it.

With every new craft or hobby, I struggle through repeated attempts to master the task before me by osmosis, or something like that. All becasuse I want to do it myself, figure it out. Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just a man-thing, this aversion to using instructions. That’s me.

Sometimes there are, as Bob Ross said, “happy little accidents”. But more often than not, it’s a disaster. There are wasted supplies. And time. The hours upon hours that my beautiful messes have occupied the kitchen table, resulting in dinners served on the couch. Beautiful messes that give birth to creations that sit on a shelf and remind me of my failings each time I walk by.

Happy little accidents are welcome in artistic endeavors. In art, that’s how you discover new things, express yourself. In real life situations, not so much. In fact, when I “wing it” and make decisions based on my emotions in the moment, or without using the wisdom I’ve learned from God, it never turns out well. It’s not happy. It looks more like a plain ole accident. It’s chaotic and brings with it regrets. And pain. More pain.

When I…when we step outside of the protective umbrella of the Lord’s wisdom and discretion and try to fix things without His strength – it’s simply foolish. Trying to make life work on our own creates or makes worse an ugly mess.

Proverbs 3 makes it clear that if we will “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding…” by acknowledging our need for His wisdom and direction, He will “make your paths straight.” Taking all that I know of God’s character, this just sums it all up for me. I can trust Him to guide me, to be my strength when I am weak, to calm my anxious heart when I’m at a loss for what to do next. He repeatedly assures me that He has my best interest at heart and is the help I need, if I will just ask.

Winging it should not be an option. Staying close to the great I AM will, without a doubt, create much better results than you or  I could ever imagine. He’s even given us, a very throrough and loving instruction book. The bible is not that confusing booklet with A’s and B’s that don’t match up and leave us frustrated and slamming tools to the ground.

God’s words to us demonstrate His love for us and how we can walk alongside Him in that love, using it to shape our lives and prepare us for sharing it with others who can’t wing it either.

And that… loving the unlovely, facing rejection, seeking and offering forgiveness, reconciliation and regeneration, interceding, healing…that I can’t do on my own.

We can’t do any of it on our own. That’s the starting point. It’s the beginning of a beautiful project. No happy little accidents. No winging it.

No happy little accidents. But a big, abundant, on-purpose life with no left-overs to discard or deem failures. Everything redeemed. All of it beautiful. All.

 

Share Your Story

imageI grow weary. I admit it. I do. With the big things, and sometimes…just the everyday mundane things.

The bible says, in Galations 6:9, “let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we don’t give up.” ESV

Sometimes, it’s hard to hang on, to not give up.  Often, I feel like I’m doing life all by myself. It seems like I’m the only one who sees the danger ahead. Or feels the weight of bad decisions. Doesn’t anyone else care? This burden is too heavy to carry alone. That pain is too hard to deal with any longer.

You know those hard things that have happened to you? Those times in your life when you felt like giving up? That heartache that persists, and pursues you?

The disappointment. The bondage. Darkness. Burdens. Bad news. Pain. Defeat. All of it. You know what? Someone else has felt it too.

Many others have gone through THAT exact thing. It’s true! How silly –  how narrow-minded of me, to think that these trials are unique to only ONE person. Me. My story.

The story of your life, of my life, is built on thousands and thousands of moments. The details are personal and special only to you and to me. The timeline of my life won’t be the same as anyone else’s. But many of the emotional experiences, the good and bad, will be shared by countless other humans, all made by the same God.

We, as individuals, created in the image of God, with all of our quirks, habits and flaws…with our free will, we all have our own story. However, within the chapters of our story there are these moments that we encounter, that we pass through, that others will too.

And thus lies the point that our stories intersect.

Your life, my life…these very different stories arcing out into these intricate patterns that at various points along the lines will meet, will overlap and travel a perpindulcar path.

You, as unique that you are and possibly leading a radically different life than I am will feel a similar way, with an emotion that I will feel too. You will go through something that many before you have also been through. Others have had the same sorrows that I do.

I have felt overwhelmed about situations that didn’t go according to how I planned. I have squirmed with the consequences of unwise choices. And my life is not what I  had envisioned it would be like.

Maybe you feel that too? Maybe you are stalled there.

Anger, confusion, loss from a divorce? You are not alone. There are other souls nearby who have been in the thick of it and come out on the other side to find healing, peace and joy.

Grieving the death of your dream, shocked by an offense, disappointed by your child’s choices? You’re not the first one to feel that pain. You’re not the only one who is weary in the struggle. Others around you have been in your shoes and also tasted victory in the Lord.

Reach out to let them show you how. Let people into your story. Reach out and show others how the Lord can bring victory in their story too.

This embodies the reason to see every season in our life as a lesson. From the lessons, we can learn, grow, adapt, conquer. God will walk with us and show us His might in our situation, as we study, listen and wait on Him.  And what we learn, can….no, must..be shared with others. We must help each other. That’s how God designed our stories to work, to benefit each other. This brings glory to Him, this sharing. This is the meaning and purpose of community. This is Philippians 2 lived out as part of our story.

These intersections are where the the transfer happens – of God’s power from one child to another. Empowerment in the holy realm.

Look around you today. As a trained soldier in the Lord’s army, as a seasoned veteran, there are many souls out there about to go under, ready to give up. You have what it takes to point them to the One who can save them. Look around you weary warrior, for victorious brethren who have already been on the course that you are struggling on. Ask and receive the tools that will renew your strength, be your strength, get you through to see joy again.

We each have our own story, but we have the privilege and responsibility to step into the stories of those around us.  Whether we realize it or not, there is a dependence – I depend on you, you depend on me – to share what God reveals and teaches. His victory in your life,  and my life, is necessary for someone else to make it to their next chapter.

 

Down To Earth

Touching the Earth

On the northern side of the single-story house, was a row of bushes. Though they only stood about 3 feet in height, their full green branches provided just the right amount of cover from the street view and the house next door. Behind the bushes and up against the side of the peachy-colored house was a perfect little hideout for a young girl with long brown hair.

I took my daydreams and fears to this furrow in the dirt beside my childhood home. The smell of earth, dried up needles, and fresh air was a comfort. I never minded the dirt that collected on my bare skin and clothes. This and the fact that worms, snakes, spiders and blood never scared me…I guess you could say, made me a tomboy. Being outside in the dirt was always a place of solace for me.

Funny, that’s still true today.

My secret hiding place became a graveyard for a few beloved pets, shoeboxes their caskets. And this same spot was also my own private library, or den. Sometimes I’d take old carpet remnants out there to make it more homey, and sit and read books, forgetting time and space, and hurts and sadness.

In the dirt, I was cradled by earth. The earth, powerful, holding life but harmless. Safe. I was safe outside. Safe alone.

Funny, I still feel that way today.

I find myself longing to be outdoors. Outside and alone. Tucked into a little corner with the trees, tending my garden. There is a solace, a comfort, a peace, when my hands are in the dirt and my skin is dusted brown. Maybe it’s the heritage from long ago, the family name – Farmer.

In the dirt, all pretenses are gone. I am lowly and simple. I get lost in the process, the digging, planting, watering and weeding.  The musty smell, grittiness on my fingers, the rocks and twigs and bugs all take me back to those moments, many moments actually, from my childhood. And I feel safe again, grounded, where I need to be.

In the dirt I feel free from the weight of all my mistakes, my faults, disappointments. Here is the opportunity for new life, for renewal, for death and rebirth. And even in all the elements, even in the harshest of weather, there is always the possibility of life again, and growth. The wind, rain and heat of the sun cannot prevent even the most fragile from rising again. All the yelling, the angry faces, the threats both physical and emotional cannot touch me, cannot keep me from rising again, in the dirt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Heart

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My heart is overwhelmed. The days drag on. I linger on some moments and others are a blur. When you give birth to a child, that sets in motion a lifetime of dance. Twirling around in the warm embrace of love and happiness, only to switch partners mid-song, without fail, to look up into the face of pain and sorrow. The dance comes full circle, but continues on in repetition, out of control. I find myself begging to stop, briefly. To catch my breath. To go back. To skip ahead. It hurts and satisfies, all at once.

Life with children is like that. It is our greatest pleasure. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, wouldn’t undo it. But some days…it hurts with unrelenting heaviness. And I can’t see through the fog, can’t tell where the road ahead is.

I’ve been reading through the book of Psalms this past month. Many of the verses I am familiar with. But I’ve also discovered some timely passages that are new to me. I believe that God speaks to us, through His word, at exactly the right moment. I’ve heard some of these phrases before, taken out of context. But there’s something much more powerful that connects in our minds and hearts when we read God’s words within the love story, instead of just haphazardly grabbing bits and pieces.

And He spoke to my overwhelmed heart today.

Has your heart been overwhelmed for your child? Have you felt like you are drowning in dark circumstances, the consequences of bad decisions, in what seems like an impossible situation regarding your child? I’m sure it hasn’t always been that way. Surely, there were times that you saw, felt, tasted the favor of God and His faithfulness. Well, guess what?! He hasn’t disappeared. He hasn’t forgotten you. Like a strong tower, God remains faithful. That’s His character. It just might not look that way when we see only the heartache that is in front of us. That’s why it’s important to remember, to look back.

In Psalm 61, David says “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” We have an assurance, throughout scripture, that God’s desire to care for us is eternal. And it looms high on the horizon like a majestic mountain, immovable. David goes on to explain why he would trust God, why He would run to Him. It’s because of his past experience with the Lord. For strength and relief in the present troubles, David draws on all the times before that God has been faithful to Him. It’s that steadfast love and wondrous works that keeps David going, that keeps me going. It’s the way God has shown Himself to me in the past, the many times in my life that God has been the rock that is higher than I. All the ways that He has delivered me from terrible choices, foolish thinking, saved me from enemies and even myself – yes, it is a proven track record in my relationship with the Lord that reminds me today, that there will be a better tomorrow.

Today, my heart is overwhelmed. If you’re a mother, I’m sure you’ve felt that way too. I never dreamed that the beautiful daughter I snuggled up with for afternoon naps with her tiny fingers curled around mine, would someday be estranged from me. And who could imagine the turmoil that would chase our sons and daughters through technology?! Friend, there are too many ways to count that our hearts can be broken as parents, too many ways that satan tries to steal, kill and destroy what is good and right and beautiful in our children. It’s all just a little too much to bear some days, most days.

Too much to bear. For me.

But then He leads me to the rock that is higher than I.

Just. Do. It.

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What to write… A novel? Devotions? Stick with a blog? I love to write. I believe God gifted me the ability to express some things, sometimes not so pretty, sometimes boring (to me, at least), but maybe occasionally useful to someone else. And I feel compelled to put it out there. God knows why, who needs it, how it will grow me. I trust Him, so I’ll follow His lead.

I’ve got dozens of ideas swirling around in my brain. But I can’t seem to pinpoint which idea I should focus on. I know that I should – settle on a direction and get going.  I believe single-minded dedication is good, necessary. And then a quiet voice says, “There are no rules. Just do it!” Just write.

Just do it. It’s a brilliant slogan. Nike is genius with their branding and those 3 little words really do mean something to a whole lot of people. Just do it. So simple, yet powerful. That’s the idea. But it’s not that easy, is it?

As I wrestle with some things, that million-dollar catchy phrase seems a bit elusive, somewhat trite. Just do it. It doesn’t sound too difficult. Three. Small. Words. I’m an intelligent adult, with plenty of pain, drama, and victories to work from. How can it be SO hard?

But it is.

Sure, I could pick up a pen or my iPad and let words flow. It would be jibberish. Gobbledygook. That would, in fact, literally be “writing”. But I believe God has more than that in mind (I sure pray so!) and quite frankly, that’s just not how I work. It’s not how I’m wired. I need to have a purpose in mind, sense of the big picture, a goal. I’ve never been much of a brainstormer. I don’t make lists. And I can’t seem to make myself go through the motions without a reason.

I need a task. Tell me what to do, what needs doing and I’ll do it. But to say that I should just start emptying the contents of this madness called my mind…well, that’s frightening. To me. And It probably would be to you too.

I don’t like wasting time on exercises that don’t produce results. I bet you don’t either. So “just do it” is a hard place to start. I suppose by beginning and maintaining this blog, I’ve done something to that effect. But you’d laugh if you could see into my world, the painstaking process of just one entry, one post, one…measly, little story. I beat myself up for not having done it sooner, more regularly.

You see, months ago I decided that “every Monday” would be it. Once a week. I could do that, right? And then the more I concentrate and determine to type out an eloquent symphony of words…nothing. Not even one word comes out. As if it’s bottled up inside standing proud, arms folded. Little faceless beings, too proud to obey and come out on demand. “I’ll be expressed on my own terms, in my own timing.” My words are stubborn.

So, to say, “just do it”…makes the wrestling match even more animated. I’ve searched the house for just the right notebook. Oh, I must have the perfect writing utensil! And don’t forget this one: the atmosphere must be just right to foster my creativity. No one home. Candlelight. No sounds. Warm feet. Coffee nearby. After lunch. Before schoolbus. And so it goes. Marching right into a neatly wrapped package.

Just do it. It will help hone your skill, they said. Have YOU tried that? You’ll enjoy it, some said. How did that work for you? Just do it, they said. So I did. Today. There you have it folks. THIS is what happens with that haphazard approach. Blame it on Shia. (And watch his video here) The struggle is real.

 

Weakness for Words

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Someone once said to me,”Christianity is just a crutch for weak people.” I was hurt by that. And for the longest time those words, and others like them, kept me down.

Words can do that. The things people say to us, can become what we believe about ourselves and the world around us. Just like many words that I’ve let into my heart, you’ve probably let some words affect you too. You’ve probably listened as someone either gave value to your thoughts and opinions, or….you’ve received their condemnation with resignation.

I have a nasty habit. Rather, I have many…but this one has had a power over me that has rendered me ineffective in many areas of my life. I have this way of receiving someone’s words about me, like an arrow shot from a bow. Only, the arrow doesn’t slice through me but it swirls around in my head for days, wreaking havoc on my self-image. I hate to even mention it, for fear of giving it more power. It’s been that potent, that lethal, that unreal.

But honestly, I’ve come to realize just how un-real it is.

Un-real. The power of words to make something true or not, is unrealistic, merely perceived. The words that people speak should come in at a distant last in comparison with what God says. He is the one I should be listening to, learning from, and becoming like. And my nasty habit? It can be broken by the power of His name, along with all the others! That’s true.

It’s true, we are weak. And God is our crutch. But He’s much more than that. Without Him we are weak. But He is strong. He’s our Counselor, our Prince of Peace, our Friend. He’s our Savior. His promises trump any words that man can utter.

Words can be hurtful, because we have emotions. God designed us with that capacity, to feel the sting or deliver it,  to speak life or death.  It’s another facet of being human that we must bring under submission. Much pain in the world is caused by careless tongues. But we shouldn’t give power to words, especially the negative ones meant to harm us. We certainly shouldn’t let the words of others change us in ways that only God has the power to. Mere men, all of whom will face God at their death, cannot possibly be given the rights to our own self-image. It is God who has given us our worth, our value, our titles and inheritance. It is God who has said that we are His children, His adopted heirs, His sons and daughters and made in His image. No one has words that can change that.

As I grow closer to God, and become more confident and convinced of His character, those arrows, people’s words, lose their power. Yes, Christianity is for weak people. And I am weak. Not because someone said so….because God said.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-11 (ESV)