FROM THE MIDDLE

  • A Letter from 40-Me to 20-Me: What You Need to Know

    Dear young, naïve, 20-year-old Deidra,

    I know you can’t imagine this now, but you’re about to turn 40. What?! All you can see is what’s right in front of you. You think you know a lot, but wow, if you only knew how much you really don’t know, you’d be terrified. That hope, that expectation, that blissful unawareness, that faded 90’s denim you’re sportin’? Twenty years from now it will all be gone (trust me, you’ll be thankful about the denim part).

    The degree you’re finishing up? Wait for it…totally useless. But not to worry, you’ll earn another one. Psych! That one’s worthless too. It’s okay though, because believe it or not, you’re actually going to work on a Ph.D. Never mind, you won’t finish it. But guess what? You’re still paying for it all. Well actually, that guy you just got engaged to? He pays for all of it, because here’s another good one. Brace yourself. You’re a stay-at-home mom.

    All those dreams you have about being a world-changer? All that certainty you have about a career? Just kidding. You’ll end up going from job to job, switching from profession to profession trying to figure out where you belong only to find out after twenty years of searching you still don’t know. Those kids you aren’t going to have? There are three of them. That state you just visited on tour with Ladies of Lee, the one you hate with all of your being? You live there.

    Your feelings of security, self-reliance, confidence? They will disappear. Your family? Um, yeah, just wait. In the farthest recesses of your mind you can’t invent a scenario like the one you’re about to experience. Two years from now your dad will be dead. From AIDS. He’s gay. He’s lived a double life and betrayed everyone. Your carefree attitude, your eagerness, your trust? They will melt in the fires of trial and disappointment. Your sense of worth and value and competence? It will fade.

    Those kids you were never supposed to have? They deliver black the day you deliver them. Those tiny, precious hands fisted tight will punch a hole in your soul. You won’t know it at first, but a few months in you’ll begin to experience the fight for your life. There are no words to describe the pain and despair you’ll endure. You’ll try to cry and scream and beg and cut and starve and puke your way out, but you won’t be able to. And after six years of battling you’ll come to your end, too tired to try anymore. But you’ll meet God on the bloody, tear-soaked bathroom floor that day. The real God, the One you’ve learned and talked and pretended about your whole life. And you’ll find out He’s everything He says He is.

    You’ll know what it means to walk through the valley of the shadow of death and come out on the other side because God carried you the entire way. You’ll have to work and work and work and work, but with His help you will get better. And the life you never imagine you’ll have—the life of messy, scary, uncertain, crazy, roller-coaster, whirlwind, unpredictable moments—will be the life you come to embrace and love. Because even though the journey is hard, it’s your journey; and even though everything you think will never happen to you does, plus some, twenty years from now you will realize that all you think you need is none of what you need and all of what you have is everything you don’t know you want.

    That guy you just got engaged to? Marrying him is the best thing you ever do. Those kids you aren’t going to have? Parenting them is the purpose you are looking for. That state you just visited, the one you hate with all your being? It is the place you find your freedom to live, to laugh, to love, to be, to accept all you aren’t as well as all you are.

    So, 20-Me, here’s what you need to know to make it through the next 20 years:

    Never say never.

    Things pretty much never go according to plan.

    Everything will work out the way it is supposed to.

    Nothing is wasted; everything has purpose.

    God really is Who He says He is—you can trust Him.

     

    With Love,

    middle-aged, done-some-stuff-and-seen-some-things, 40-year-old Deidra

  • A Long Time Ago In a Land Far Away

    He called last night and we talked for a while. I really didn’t think it would hurt—talking to him—we haven’t seen each other in forever. “I don’t have feelings for him anymore,” I thought, “One conversation won’t matter.” But I woke this morning to find I was wrong. It did matter. His voice is now stuck in my head, his words swirl in dark corners, his ideas make sense. And I wonder why I felt I had to answer, why I talked to him knowing deep down no good could possibly come of it.

    He wanted to make sure I know just how hideous I am, how gross I look, how out of control my appearance makes me seem to others—as if I don’t already know. But my friend B always knows just what to say to make me dislike myself even more. And just when I’m ready to kick him out because I’ve had enough of his lies and humiliation, he’ll offer a suggestion that makes sense and I foolishly reconsider his plans. He brings back memories of how I lost 60 pounds in four months, of how good I looked, of how strong I felt, while minimizing the heinous reality of addiction and obsession and death. And I find myself thinking of all the things I used to do, of things I should perhaps consider again. After all, it always worked.

    I think of it now because I’m trying to lose weight—again—and I’ve NEVER lost weight without him. Bulimia has always been my coach. No pound ever dropped off that he didn’t have an influence over. And though I know how to do it without him, I don’t feel like I can do it without him. He keeps telling me I won’t achieve the same results, it will take a long time, and I won’t be able to keep it off. He taunts me every day, every workout, every meal.

    I look at that picture and just wish I could be her again. Because a long time ago in a land far away, I never felt like I wasn’t good enough just the way I was. When I was her, I didn’t struggle with my appearance or weight or insecurity. I believed people when they said positive things about me; I was out-going and happy and free. I didn’t think I was a failure. I felt lovable and loved.

    But one day that changed and all of the sudden I wasn’t good enough or pretty enough or thin enough or smart enough or happy or out-going or free or lovable or loved. And B capitalized on that. Bulimia seized the opportunity and offered me a way to get those things back. That’s what he said anyway. But of course it never happened. All I became was more of the things I didn’t want to be—more isolated, more insecure, more bound. But somehow that payment seemed worth the reward. Because when you’re thin, people think you’re pretty, they think you’re healthy, they think you’re worthy. But when you’re fat, people are judgmental and make assumptions.

    It’s easier to believe that skinny people take care of themselves, but when I was skinny, my hair was falling out, my teeth were rotting, and I could barely stand sometimes because I was so weak. It’s ironic, really. I’m overweight now, yet I’m healthy. The doctor even said so. I workout every day, I try to eat right, I make healthier choices. But still I am large and therefore, people have no idea how hard I try. And that’s where B comes in.

    He magnifies my perceptions of what others think. He puts ideas in my head. I don’t really know what others think, I just assume and it all goes down hill from there. And I know it doesn’t matter what others think, but somehow after all these years, after all these battles, after all these wounds, after all the miles I’ve come, it still matters to me on some level. I don’t want it to, but it does. And honestly, I don’t know how to make it not matter. And I think that’s where the breach is; I think that’s how he continues to come in even to this day. I don’t know how to fix it because I don’t know how it started, because a long time ago in a land far away, none of that ever mattered to me.

    I don’t want you to be worried about me or to think I’m falling off the wagon. I just wanted to share my daily struggles openly, even though it’s painful and embarrassing, because I want to encourage anyone else out there who may, like me, be fighting strong urges to go back to something that is unhealthy and unholy.

    Be encouraged today. Don’t give up. Don’t give in. You can keep moving forward. You don’t have to believe the lies. You are worthy. You are loved. You are precious in God’s sight. There is nothing in your past worth going back to. Look at how far you’ve come. Keep fighting. Keep praying. Keep moving. It’s easier for your B, whatever that is, to catch you and lock you back up if you stand still. Let’s work together and lift each other up in prayer. God is on our side. He has overcome our enemy and we will prevail. Remember, greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world. No weapon formed against you will prosper. You are held. You are His.

    Psalm 91 (NIV)

    Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High     

    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

    2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,     

    my God, in whom I trust.”

    Surely he will save you     

    from the fowler’s snare     

    and from the deadly pestilence.

    4 He will cover you with his feathers,     

    and under his wings you will find refuge;    

    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

    5 You will not fear the terror of night,     

    nor the arrow that flies by day,

    6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,     

    nor the plague that destroys at midday.

    7 A thousand may fall at your side,     

    ten thousand at your right hand,     

    but it will not come near you.

    8 You will only observe with your eyes     

    and see the punishment of the wicked.

    If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”     

    and you make the Most High your dwelling,

    10 no harm will overtake you,     

    no disaster will come near your tent.

    11 For he will command his angels concerning you     

    to guard you in all your ways;

    12 they will lift you up in their hands,     

    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

    13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;     

    you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

    14 “Because he[b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;    

     I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

    15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;     

    I will be with him in trouble,     

    I will deliver him and honor him.

    16 With long life I will satisfy him     

    and show him my salvation.”

  • The Hardest Part

    For me, the hardest part of any journey is the middle. Whether it’s a road trip, a work out, a project, a season of life, or my spiritual walk, I always struggle and falter in the in between. Not where I started, not at my destination, I take a look around and see nothing but road stretched out in either direction. The thrill of the start long-faded, the satisfaction of completion seems only a dream.

    And I get really tempted to stop.

    What will it matter?

    Nobody cares.

    I’m not making a difference.

    I’m too tired.

    I’ll never make it.

    Maybe I should take a break—really, who’s going to notice?

    Truly, the middle is a hard place to be.

    But I’ve discovered that the middle—that no-beginning-or-end-in-sight place, that I’m-totally-worn-out-but-I’ve-got-to-keep-moving-or-I’ll-never-make-it leg of the journey—is the most important part.

    And I realize, the longer I stay motionless, the longer it will take me to finish. Every moment I am sitting, contemplating whether or not to go on is a moment wasted. And it’s not just my time that’s forfeited—it’s God’s time, it’s everyone’s time.

    Because the truth is, it does matter what you do in the middle. It matters a lot.

    Your journey isn’t only about you. Your life impacts others whether you think it does or not. Your choice to give up or keep moving not only affects you, but everyone around you.

    The choice you make in the middle today will determine where you end up tomorrow. And not just you, but those attached to you.

    What you do in the middle—in the place that tests your limits and endurance and courage and faith—will define your outcome.

    Jesus experienced a middle moment, in fact, the Bible said He was led by the Spirit into it (Luke 4:1)—the wilderness. And there Satan tempted Him to give in, to escape the route He was on. And Jesus had to make some choices. He was tired; He was hungry; He was at His limit. But He recognized His middle moment. He knew that what He did there would shape His ministry and future—our future. And because of the decisions He made, Jesus left full of power. After that middle experience, Jesus performed some of the greatest miracles of His life—miracles that impacted not just Himself and the recipients, but everyone who witnessed them.

    In the middle, Jesus relied on two things: the Holy Spirit and the word of God. In His humanness, He didn’t have the power to overcome. He had to rely on God for everything. And if this was true for Jesus, how much more is it true for us?

    So, how do we make it through the hardest part? How do we keep going when we are so weary we can’t fathom taking another step?

    1. Rely on the Holy Spirit. God is with you always. He never leaves. Ever. His strength is made perfect in your weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). He can do what you can’t. Jesus was full of the Spirit when He went into the wilderness, and it was the Spirit within that gave Him power to overcome.

       

    2. Quote Scripture. Jesus had a comeback for every temptation, lie, and distorted truth that Satan threw at Him. And you do too—it’s the Bible. Read it. Pray it. Quote it. Apply it. It never returns empty (Isaiah 55:11).

       

    3. Keep moving. God rewards the faithful (James 1:12). Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s tiring. Yes, sometimes you want to give up, but don’t. When you are down, your enemy has you right where he wants you, for it is when you are off your feet, immobile, and inert that he has a chance to catch you and bind you up. Moving targets are always harder to hit. When you move, you are promised God’s skill, if you have your feet wrapped in His gospel of peace (Eph. 6:15). You take Him with you—He is your foundation, the very ground on which you march, the Rock that makes your steps sure. Further, God gives us power to tread on those things the enemy would use to harm us (Luke 10:19). But you can’t crush him if you’re sitting down, wallowing in tired. Treading is stepping, and you can’t step if you’re sitting down. You must get up and move.

       

    4. Take the focus off yourself. You are not an island. What you do influences others. Realize that the decisions you make in your middle will affect everyone. What if God led you to this place to prepare you for a powerful ministry ahead? The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness (Luke 4:1) on purpose. And when He left, He was full of power (Luke 4:14). Where did the power come from? His reliance on the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. And who was the power for? Others. It flowed through Jesus into the lives of the hurting, needy, and unloved. What if this middle isn’t about you at all? What if it is just a place of preparation—a place where you learn to rely on His spirit and words—so that when you come out you can take His hope to the hurting, needy, and unloved?

    Be encouraged today. Don’t quit. Jesus knows what you’re going through—He experienced it Himself. He wants to help you. Follow His example. Use the tools He has given you. You can make it through the hard part. Trust Him in your middle. No experience, even a wilderness one, is ever wasted.

  • What to Expect When You're Not Expecting

    I woke up afraid this morning. My mind wandering down every dark road, my thoughts consumed with the dread of possibilities, I considered all the what-ifs of our situation. Things aren’t looking quite as up as they did before I made my decision. I know for sure I did the right thing, but before I resolved to fully commit—to go in this new direction, to do what I can where I am with what I have— I was much more confident God would handle all the details. But it’s easier to believe when you’re still standing on terra firma than it is to trust when you’re floating in mid-air, having jumped into the deep end without a life jacket knowing you can’t swim. And that’s what makes me feel so stupid—I wasn’t pushed; I jumped. I leaped of my own accord trusting He would catch me.

    But He hasn’t caught me—yet. He’s close by, ready to come to my rescue, but for now He’s just below the surface watching as I flail. He knows I’m scared. He knows I’m regretting. He knows I want to sink into the abyss of failure. But He won’t let that happen. He will propel me to the surface and give me breath at the moment I must have it. Until then, He’s waiting for me to realize I can trust Him.

    And then I hear Him: “Do you expect me to save you? Then you must believe I will.” And I understand I’ve missed the point entirely. It’s possible to obey without trusting, but it’s impossible to trust without obeying. I’ve obeyed without trusting. I’ve followed out of obligation rather than faith and love and trust. That’s why I’m so scared. That’s why I’m flailing and struggling instead of floating, relaxing. If I don’t expect Him to help me, my obedience alone doesn’t oblige Him to intervene. I must trust AND obey. I know now that if I don’t expect Him to meet my needs while I’m obeying, there are some things I can expect as a result of my lack of trust in Him.

    So, what can I expect if I’m not expecting?

    Fear

    Anxiety

    Doubt

    Guilt

    Sadness

    Regret

    Hopelessness

    Anger

    Resentment

    Everything that is in direct opposition to what He wants for me; everything that full trust in conjunction with obedience promises.

    If I obey without trusting, without expecting Him to work in my act of sacrifice, all I’ve done is sabotage my own efforts. He said that without faith it is impossible for me to please Him, so why should I expect that my obedience without faith will move Him to work on my behalf? Obedience should be the result of genuine love and trust, not a method to manipulate God.

    What about you? Are you trusting AND obeying, or just obeying out of a sense of duty? God wants you to obey, but He also desires your trust. Faith without works is dead, just as works without faith are dead. Be encouraged today. If God is asking you to do something, you can trust Him. Expect Him to take care of you while you obey—He is moved by your faith.

    Full, true obedience demands complete trust.

    And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe him that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. – Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)

  • Not My Circus, Not My Monkeys

    I’ve spoken about my introversion before—about how I am easily overcome, about how I’m overly sensitive to stimulus around me, about how I begin to shut down when I’ve had too much people time—and I’m back at that place; I need to take a break.

    Because lately, I’m overwhelmed.

    I think the super moon made people super crazy. And I super can’t handle it. I’m sinking in a vast pool of misunderstanding. I don’t know why people do what they do or say what they say. All I know is that I’ve been greatly affected by the behavior of numerous individuals in several different situations of late.

    And then there’s social media. Not only am I having a difficult time processing all that’s going on around me in my world, I’m having a very hard time dealing with what people are doing and saying in the virtual one as well. I’m a deep thinker. I want desperately to understand, to empathize, to appreciate; I want to perceive motives, to consider the whys, to detect what lies beneath, to determine intent.

    But I can’t.

    And so I’ve had to step away from a lot of things. I’ve had to disconnect emotionally and mentally. And truthfully, I feel bad for that. It makes me feel ashamed of my inability to handle it all; it makes me feel guilty for disengaging; it makes me feel misunderstood because I know a lot of others can’t identify with my personality—how people wear me out physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. They don’t understand that it’s not because I don’t like them, but it’s because I am hyper-sensitive. I internalize everything.

    But recently, I’ve realized something: it’s okay to take care of myself; it’s okay to be me; it’s okay to admit I can’t handle things; it’s okay for me to say, “This ain’t my circus, these aren’t my monkeys.” In fact, I’ve had to repeat that to myself a lot lately. I have to remember it’s not my job to worry about what everyone else is or isn’t doing. I’m not responsible for their journeys; I’m responsible for mine. And a big part of my journey—how well I travel and learn and grow—is taking care of myself, is learning to let go of things and people that keep me from a place of peace and quiet. Because when it’s noisy, I can’t hear God, and when I can’t hear Him or focus on His words I’m going to get sucked into a darkness that will be difficult for me to get out of. And then my journey will be compromised—my travel, my learning, my growth, my destination.

    What about you? Are you having a difficult time in a certain area of your life? Are you unable to cope or deal effectively with your feelings or issues? Be encouraged today. Repeat after me, “This ain’t my circus, these aren’t my monkeys.” Not only is it okay for you to control what comes into your life, what you allow to influence you, what you permit to direct your thoughts and feelings, it’s necessary. You are responsible for your journey— for how well you travel and for when and in what manner you arrive at your divinely appointed destination—you have to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Do what you need to do. Unplug. Take time to pray and meditate on God’s word daily. Embrace His peace and let it drown out the noise.

    Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)

  • Restoration

    I had a nervous break-down, psychotic break, mental/emotional collapse—whatever you want to call it—when I was 30 years old. I was severely depressed, had an eating disorder, and was suicidal; I had been sick for 4 years; I was at my end. My life was in ruins in every possible way. I thought I would never recover. That was nearly ten years ago.

    As I approach my 40th birthday, I’ve been reflecting a lot on my life back then, on how far I’ve come. I remember the days I felt invisible. I remember the times it took all I could do to get out of bed. I recall thinking I would never be whole, renewed. I thought my situation was impossible. I suffered in silence; I hid everything from everyone. I was dying. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I thought it was my fault—that I had somehow, somewhere along the way invited the darkness in. I don’t like talking about it to this day. Truthfully, there are parts of it I’ve never told anyone. And yet here I am, recovered, restored and in my right mind, able to share the story of that painful past. My life was in ruin, but only for a season.

    Satan has plans for us. He champions evil, corruption, devastation, interruption, and resistance. He wants to wreck God’s plans for our lives. He wants us to stop fighting. He wants to destroy the new life we’ve been given in Christ. He wants us to think we will never recover from his attacks, that he is all-powerful, and that he is control. But we must remember he’s the father of lies and there is no truth in him.

    Even when it doesn’t look like God is in control, He is. We don’t see the big picture, we don’t know what the future holds, and often we do not see His hand at work, but even in the most difficult and painful of situations, He is there. We have to believe and trust His promise to prosper us and give us future and hope (Jer. 29:11).

    We all fight battles. We all get hurt. We all experience pain and unfairness, and we all must choose: cling to the One who restores—even when it’s impossible, even when we want to give up, even when it looks like it’s over—or listen to lies, believe it will never get better, and give up on all the promises we’ve been given. Just because situations do not get resolved in the way we think they should or things don’t go the way we planned does not mean that God will not restore us.

    I went through a years-long recovery process, and every day I had to make the choice to believe, to try. It was hard. Some days it still is. I had to do the work of recovery; I had to decide to go through the painful process of rebuilding. Sometimes things don’t totally go away. Sometimes we have to fight for restoration. Sometimes we live and work and move in spite of. But we are works in progress and we are part of that work. God will reverse the ruin and bring restoration, but if we are to receive it, we must accept His sovereignty in our lives. Satan’s attacks are not permanent, and although we may be damaged, we will not be destroyed. God takes that which Satan meant for our destruction and uses it for our good and His glory.

    You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. – Genesis 50:20 (NIV)

    Be encouraged today. There is no testimony without trial, and no victory without a fight. Don’t give up. Someone needs you—your story, your Hope, your scars—and in spite of past ruin, we will be restored.

  • When Holding on Means Letting Go

    Sometimes the only reason I’m still holding on is because my fear of the fall is greater than my belief in what I cling to. I hang on out of desperation rather than faith. I clutch the rope so tightly because I can’t handle another disappointment; my grasp is firm because I’d rather clutch the taut, tired shred than be found empty-handed at the bottom, dreams shattered in fragments all over the ground.

    I don’t release my grip because I know if I let go this time, it will be my last. I won’t have the strength to try again—I’ll resign myself to that life on the bottom, that place where hope’s deferred splinters pierce the soul, that spot where shards of what could have been crumble into dusty flakes to be trampled.

    I’ve done everything I know to do. I’ve prayed every prayer I know to pray. I’ve hoped against hope and waited on Him, serving in the small place He’s asked me to work. And now I’m left dangling in thin air, held only by a gauzy line frayed thin by uncertainty.

    And I wonder now if holding on is really the right thing to do.

    Maybe the answer isn’t found in holding to crumbling dreams with blistered palms.

    What if I take my hands off ?

    What if the tattered rope has me hanging when, if I could just let go, I would land in the deep, sheltering lines of His hand?

    What if when I let go, that thing I’ve held so tightly becomes free to be transformed in the hands of a mighty God?

    What if the one situation I’m clinging to is the last piece of the puzzle, but He can’t get His hands there to shift it into place because I won’t move mine?

    Sometimes the greatest form of faith is in letting go, in taking our hands off the tattered rope and releasing it fully into His hands.

    Be encouraged today. God is faithful. He is trustworthy. Give Him your rope. Be willing to let go so you can hold on—to His promise, to His hand, to His heart.

    “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” – Isaiah 49:15-16 (NIV)

  • Planning to Stay

    In my best, bubbliest letters—hearts dotting, lines swirling—in smeared, late-eighties fuchsia it lines the first blank page of the Bible I used as a teenager. Even then—before I knew what life was really like, before I had my first taste of stagnancy, before I realized how easy comfort and complacency and compromise truly are—it convicted me.

    I don’t know who said it. I don’t know where I heard it. I haven’t thought about it in years. But yesterday as I was praying, telling God I trust Him, reassuring Him I’m ready to take the next step, asking Him to guide me and give me wisdom, this quote popped into my head. It caught me off guard, and the more I thought about it, the more uncomfortable I became.

     “I know you are willing, Deidra, but how are you planning?”

    And for the first time in a long time I was struck by the vast chasm that exists between willing and planning.

    Willing is a mindset.

    Planning is action.

    Willing is a state of being.

    Planning is a state of doing.

    Willing is intent.

    Planning is preparation.

    Willing is an adjective—a descriptor, a qualifier.

    Planning is a verb—an actor, an existing state.

    All over again, I’m struck by the hot pink truth of it:

    We like to make things easy on ourselves by saying, “Well, I’m not a missionary,” or “That’s talking about something else,” when actually it applies to every area of our lives.

    If I am willing to lend a helping hand or give a word of encouragement or a smile of grace but never actually do it, what good have I done?

    If I say I am willing to volunteer my time and talent and resources to help others but stay at home with the door locked and the lights off, how does that help?

    Planning is the proof of willing.

    Planning is going; willing is staying.

    Go doesn’t only mean to Africa.

    Go means to do what you can, where you are, with what you have.

    Stay doesn’t just mean a physical location.

    Stay is a condition of the heart.

    Are you willing but not planning? Are you saying you’ll do things but you never do them? Be encouraged today. Go. Be the light to your world. Do what you can, where you are, with what you have. It doesn’t take much. Sometimes the smallest acts of kindness have the biggest impact.

    “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV)

  • How to Get What You Need

    Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you: that’s what Jesus said (Matthew 7:12). We like to call it the Golden Rule, and although it seems simple enough, it’s been my experience that the most uncomplicated solutions are often the hardest to employ. It’s level of difficulty is right up there with the big guidelines like believe without doubting and don’t worry. Really? Who can do these things? Jesus makes them sound easy, but putting them into action is so hard.

    What Jesus asks us to do though, He gives us the faith and strength to do. He has not given us any impossible commands; He has given us directives that require a close personal relationship with Him to achieve. He said we can do all things through His strength—the power we must learn to become dependent on.

    Because sometimes other people don’t follow the Golden Rule. Sometimes other people are mean, even downright nasty. Sometimes people are judgmental. Sometimes people are harsh. Sometimes I don’t feel like being nice. Sometimes I’d rather cry. Sometimes I’d rather hide. Sometimes I’d rather tell that person exactly what I think. But no matter what has been given to me, I must remember that what I give, I get in return. It may not be given back on the same day or in the same manner or from the same person to whom I gave, but I will—some time, some place, some way—be given back what I put out to others.

    It’s like all the other paradoxes in the Bible: to become first you’ve got to be last; to be master you must be servant; to receive you must give your best, even out of your own lack—not just the leftovers, not a half-hearted, smile-on-your-face-but-cursing-under-your-breath kind of giving, but giving what you wish you had—giving what you need.

    So how do you get what you want—what you need?

    Give what you need yourself.

    Give what you want an abundance of, even if you don’t have it right now.

    Give in spite of.

    Give even though.

    Because even if other people don’t care, God does. And He is true to His word. He will honor you for your sacrifice. He will bless your obedience. He will lend you what you need to give.

    Need peace?  Exude it.

    Need grace?  Offer it.

    Need encouragement? Impart it.

    Need faith? Speak it.

    Need love? Show it.

    Because the opposite is also true.

    If you don’t give it, you won’t get it.

    You will never receive that which you are not willing to give.

    Is there something you need today? Peace or grace or hope or strength or encouragement or a smile? Give it—even if you don’t have it within yourself. Lean on His strength; borrow from His endless supply. You will find God fills those who are empty. He will meet your need when you are prepared to meet the needs of others. Remember, there is no reaping without planting.

    So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12 (NIV)

    And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:19 (NIV)

    Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. – Galatians 6:7-9 (NIV)

     

  • Why Quitting is Selfish

    Congratulations, double exclamation point, smiley face, parenthesis, hugs, parenthesis. I type the fraud through tears. Flooded with drops of not good enough, my eyes leak what the heart overflows. Her success feels like my failure, a cruel reminder of the position I’m not in, the place I’d like to be. I've been really tempted to quit lately, and this just serves to reinforce those feelings. I'm tired, no one cares anyway, it won't really matter, someone else can do it. I rehearse those lines almost daily.

    Why does he always do that—turn someone else’s joy into a sorrow all my own, make me feel so tired I can't see the truth? I’m genuinely happy for her—she’s worked hard and is so talented—she deserves all this and much more. My work isn't the same as hers. It's for a different group, for a different purpose, but just as needed. But within the span of mere seconds he’s crept in, reverting me back to the fourth grader who sucked at long division, the seventh grader gangly and awkward, the high schooler ever-seeking, never-finding, the graduate student desperately trying to prove herself.

    He wants to create competition from camaraderie, to make things that have nothing to do with me all about me by designing perceived divisions. He wants me to give up, to lose focus on the goal, to feel that what I do isn't important or needed. That’s what Satan does—he alters perception, warps reflection, amplifies inadequacy. He wants me to see my lack through her abundance, my can’t through her can, my exhaustion through her finish line. He tries to divert my attention by getting me to focus on my current location rather than my destination.

    But now I understand. Satan may try to stop me temporarily, but only I can do it permanently.

    I’m not where I’m going to be. It’s my time to be faithful in the little things, to trudge on when it goes without notice. God has a plan, but it won’t come to pass the way it’s supposed to without my cooperation.

    Plans require work, partnership. They require trust and patience and courage. God cannot work His plan for you without your consent and participation. The plan’s success is dependent on you—He will never force anything on you—even victory.

    What about you—will you believe the lie that because you’re not in the same place on the journey as someone else that you aren’t doing it right or that what you do isn't important? Don’t believe it. Be encouraged today. Satan wants you to stop. He wants you to think no one cares and that what you do doesn't matter. But remember, quitting is selfish. It limits your impact and potential. Others need you--your story, your words, your example. Your plan isn't just about you; it's also about everyone He's already prepared to see and hear you. If you quit now, how will they know? If you quit now, you could rob them of the only chance they may have to see Him.

    It takes perseverance and determination, but in the end, your faithfulness will be rewarded. Don’t let Satan convince you to quit. Remember why you started in the first place. If you need a break, take it, but please, never, ever give up. Someone somewhere (someone you may never even know about, someone who may never have the courage to reach out and tell you, someone who is about to let go) needs what God has put in you.

    But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded. – 2 Chronicles 15:7 (NIV)