Being OK With Where You Are {Chapter 5}

summertime; woman in red dress standing on green field over blue sky

Do you feel a little broken down? Are you ready for a breath of fresh air?

Me, too.

From Chapter 5: {Standing on the Promises}

 

When God Tosses You a Lifeline Take It

I learned something last week while my girls were casually swimming at the pool.  My three year old needed to use the little girl’s room, so I took off her water wings for a minute to make the trip to the facilities easier. When we returned to the pool both she and I forgot to put them back on. I walked back to my chair and she unknowingly went in the water without them. It only seemed like a second when I turned around and saw her struggling to get to the side of the pool. Luckily, my ten year old was near her, grabbed her, and pulled her to safety. It happened so quickly. She went from bouncing in the pool, to quickly being in trouble.

Ironically, on the other side of the pool a certified life guard was conducting a water safety course for a group of boys who looked to be around twelve years old. How odd for them to be learning how to save someone and my struggling daughter was only a few feet from them. They had no idea.

After she was once again water-winged and I was sitting on the edge of the pool within two inches of her, I watched the class in action. One of the things I learned was when a person is in trouble and offered a lifeline, the life guard needs to say, “Take the ring.” In fact, when the boys would practice this task, he made them say it over and over. “Take the ring.” I suppose this is because the drowning person is so busy struggling, they don’t see the lifeline being tossed their way.

When we are not OK with where we are, we struggle just like my three year old did in the water that day. Sometimes, it happens so quickly we don’t even see it coming. One minute we are fine and the next minute we are in over our head and doing our best to make it on our own strength. Other times, we find ourselves struggling for days or even weeks and we miss the lifeline God has given us. We miss Him because we are overwhelmed by life. All the while He is throwing us our lifeline and saying, “Take the ring.” Gratefully, He is the ultimate life guard and keeps tossing it to us until we grab it.

God’s Word, His Promise, Our Lifeline

Several years ago, I was sitting at table waiting to sing with Travis Cottrell and Mandisa when God tossed me a particular lifeline for the second time.  Beth Moore invited my church choir to sing during one of her live events. I was so excited, because it was Beth Moore for crying out loud. I love her so much and this was a golden opportunity. I guess I was one of the only ones to feel this way, because only two of us showed up. We were also joined by the choir of the Second Baptist Church. They were very excited Beth called and had several members in attendance. The other woman from my choir was Jeana, and since I sort of  knew her, we sat together and swapped stories while we waited.

I hadn’t been in town long, maybe about a year and my heart was desperately lonely. I guess you could say, I was not OK with where I was in the lager picture of things. I mean I was very much OK with singing with Travis and Mandisa and meeting Ms. Beth Moore. I was not OK with being alone in my newish city where making friends was tough on this mid-western girl. Jeana was kind and for some reason I felt like I could pour out my pitiful tale of woe to her. She listened for a while and then leaned forward and said to me:

“What has God promised you?”

I sat back and thought about giving her an easy and obvious answer. When she leaned in and said it again using a bit different inflection:

Stacey, what has God promised YOU?”

It was at this point, I remembered the verse I had taped to my refrigerator door:

“Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, Rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19 (NASB)

God tossed me a lifeline in this verse as we were packing to move to Florida the year before. I knew it was a promise for my heart. I believed it. But, somewhere in the process of relocating and the struggles of day to day life, I forgot. I would walk to the refrigerator, open it a million times each day with my promise taped to the front, and forget to let it be the balm my soul needed.

Jeana’s question was another lifeline for me. God used her to bring me to a powerful realization: I already had all I needed to move forward and find my way with Him. I had His Word. It was right in front of me every day. Foolishly, I had been content to drown in my own sea of misery instead of grabbing onto His lifeline. So, in all grace, He tossed it to me once again and called to my heart, “Stacey, take the ring.”

For the next hour I sang my heart out with the Second Baptist Choir, Jeana, Travis and Mandisa. I also sat and listened to Beth teach from the Word. I left that day, a different girl. I was determined to keep God’s Word not only in front of me, but in my heart as well.

How did I do this? I’ll tell you that verse and I became great friends. I memorized it frontwards and back. I talked to God about it a lot. I shared it with friends. It became my banner cry back to the One who made the promise mine in the first place.

He knew I was in a wilderness. (He knew right where I was.)

He knew I felt as though I was in the desert. (He understood my heart.)

His promise to me, BEFORE we moved, was to do a new thing. 

He would be the One to do a new thing. (I didn’t have to do it.)

The new thing would be a path straight through the wilderness of not being ok. (I just needed to follow.)  

The promise was ahead of me. (Before)

The promise was with me. (With)

Would I choose to see the lifeline? 

Yes, I would. 

Is this your lifeline? Has God tossed it to you before? Would you do me a favor today, and grab on with both hands? ”

***

Sweet friend, God has a promise for you, too. One of my all time favorites that I list later in this chapter is:

If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Romans 8:31 (NLT)

Praise His name! He is for us! This gives me such hope, especially when I am discouraged.. Do you have a promise to share today? I’d love to hear it in the comments. I hope you come back next time for Chapter 6.

xo,

Stacey

 

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Being OK With Where You Are {Chapter 4}

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Today, we start Chapter 4 and I have a feeling this will hit us all in the place we hurt most. My friend Tanya calls “Quiet Competition.” I think if we are going to be OK with where we are, this is something we have to face and overcome with the grace only Jesus can give.

What is it? Let’s read part of Chapter 4….

 

From Chapter 4 {The “C” Word}:

“Comparison is the death of joy.” 
― Mark Twain

“When you are not OK with where you are it is likely your best friend is having the time of her life. Her prayers are being checked off with ‘yeses’  in groups of ten. The sun is shining, her fortune cookie outlook is fantastic, and she is ten pounds lighter. Bless her heart, you love her but you are a bit bothered by it all. You will find yourself clapping courteously for her on the outside, while you shout on the inside , “It just isn’t fair.”

Nothing brings out the comparison monster quicker than admitting you are not OK with where you are. It is as though the enemy is crouched in the corner waiting to attack the moment you say it out loud. He is quick to show you, when you are in the midst of your struggle, how great everyone else seems to be doing. In fact, he takes great delight in parading in front of you the success stories of your closest friends and the masses as you sit rehearsing your latest dashed hope.

Nobody Loves Me, Everybody Hates Me

We are an all girl household except for one very brave super dad. We lean towards a flair for the dramatic. If there is one phrase I hear almost daily it is, “That isn’t fair. Why did she get more than me?” I tend to roll my eyes at this approach because I know good and well the accuser had her fair share. This approach rarely works for me. I tell my girls, “Life isn’t fair. This is a great lesson to learn young.”  I also sound just like my mother when I say it. I want them to know, the sooner they realize there is no fair-o-meter hanging mysteriously in the sky the better off they will be. They usually sulk off to their room and toss themselves on their bed in a heap of tears that would give Scarlet O’Hara a run for her money. They are convinced nobody loves them, everybody hates them and they might as well stop living all together. How could they when life just isn’t fair? 

We grown up girls feel it too. I have done my fair share of wailing on my bed. We desperately want life to be fair. And by fair, I mean we want our version of fair. We want things to go our way, on our schedule, with our people.  If we are honest, at times we want God to be a good fairy who shows up with a magic wand. We want Him to turn our soot covered rags into fairytale worthy ball gowns every single time we ask. And for once, we want it to be about us, not our sister. You know what I’ve discovered? It isn’t just us or our kids who know this feeling. Bible girls felt it, too. Just ask Martha.

Mary and Martha and throwing your sister under the bus.

Martha was standing in the kitchen. Mary was at the feet of Jesus. One of them was not happy with where she was, or maybe she was not happy with where her sister was by comparison. Do you know the story?

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.” Luke 10: 38-40

This is a snapshot moment in the lives of two sisters. In it we find a house full of hungry people and Martha bearing the weight of feeding them all. She was frustrated. When we are not OK with where we are, tension rises. Can you feel it too in this story?

From Martha’s view, she had the short end of the stick. She was quick to throw Mary under the bus because in her estimation, it was not fair she was doing all the work.

Where was Mary while Martha was in the kitchen? She was lounging at the feet of Jesus. Mary did not feel the tension. Martha was not having it. In comparing herself to Mary, any joy she may have had in serving Jesus died on the spot.

But Jesus said: “Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details, but really only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.”  Luke 10:41-42, The Voice Translation

I love how Jesus uses Martha’s name twice to make sure He has her attention. I think He said it tenderly. I think He looked her straight in the eye. He was not so much excusing Mary, but gently pulling Martha back to the one thing she was missing. While she was busying complaining about where she was and where Mary wasn’t, she was missing Jesus. He was drawing her back to Himself.

God is saying this to us as well. “Girl, you are so anxious and concerned over your place in life, but only one thing matters.”  Do you hear Him? He is drawing us back to Himself.  He is making a place at His feet for us. We will probably come to Him frustrated, anxious, and with our list of complaints. We may feel like He is holding out on us. We may tell Him it is not fair. The truth is, what He is offering is what really matters. It is a deeper relationship with Him. He is willing to use anything in our lives to accomplish this if we will let Him. The question is, will we take that seat? Will we go deeper with Him, or will we continue to look around at everyone else and want what they have? ”

***

Comparison is a two headed monster. It keeps us in an ugly place and it makes us want what our sister has. If we want to grow through this process and find Jesus in the middle of it, we have to look to Him and not others.  When we are in a place of struggle, we have to look ten times more to Christ and His Word.

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Q. Oh sweet friend I know this is so hard. Do you struggle with the “C” Word  - Comparison?  Has it stolen your last bit of joy? What would it look like in your life if you accepted the invitation to sit next to the feet of Jesus and go deeper with Him instead?

More to come later this week.

xo,

Stacey

P.S. To find out more about the book, Being OK with Where You Are, go here.

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What To Say When You Are Not OK

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Q.  ”How should I respond to people who ask me how I’m doing? I don’t want to be false and just say, “Fine” but then again I don’t want to whine or complain to everyone either.” – Robyn

This is a question my sweet new friend Robyn from Zambia asked last week. I thought it would be a great question to answer here, because I’m just guessing you may want to hear the answer, too! So here are my thoughts:

  • Thank them for asking.

If someone takes the time to ask how you are doing, I would affirm the person by saying “Thank you so much for asking.” Let’s face it, most of the time people are too busy to ask and care, so if someone is doing both, by all means tell them how much you appreciate their heart.

  •  Be honest – don’t whine.

You might say, “You know, the truth is, life has been hard,” or “Honestly, I’ve been struggling lately.” This is not whining. It is a fact. But, please don’t stop here. If you do, your caring friend will feel like they have to fix you or they might be sorry they asked in the first place. Nobody wants that, right?

  • Point them to a promise.

What you say next can either point them to a promise or turn into a whine-fest. You have an opportunity at this pivotal moment, to pull back the veil of fine and share your heart. You don’t need to preach a sermon, but simply say, “This is what I’m learning…” or “God is teaching me  this…” or even, “But this is the promise from His Word I am clinging to…”  The temptation here is to focus on ourselves because we like sympathy. But Truth always lifts people up. As you hear yourself telling your friend what God is teaching you, the bonus will be you are reminded and lifted as well.

  • Listen to their heart.

A lot of times, when you authentically share your story with someone they will in turn share something with you. They might be struggling too and your words will bless them. Or, they may be drawn into your life and offer to pray for you. Either way, this is true:

“I’ve learned a thing or two during this experience. The first is that when we are winning and life looks good on the outside, people want to be like us. But, when we are honest and share our broken and disappointed places, others strongly connect with us. When we are strongly connected with others, we can find purpose in our struggles like never before. In this honest and connected place we also find a powerful pocket of influence.” Being OK With Where You Are, chapter 3.

 I’m not going to tell you this type of real is easy. In fact, the enemy flat out hates this type of talk because your story is a reminder that Jesus is active in your life and you are trusting in Him. The truth is our not OK places have the power to encourage others in their not OK places, too. We simply have to tell be willing to tell them.

Let’s be brave.

Let’s be honest.

Let’s point them to Jesus and His Word.

xo,

Stacey

Find the book, “Being OK with Where You Are” right here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Being OK With Where You Are {Chapter 3}

summertime; woman in red dress standing on green field over blue sky

From Chapter 3 {Removing the Veil of Fine}: 

“You might be OK with telling God you are not OK. You may figure, He knows anyway.  It isn’t easy, but it makes good sense to be on the same page with the One who knows your heart from the inside out. David knew this truth, too:

“O Eternal One, You have explored my heart and know exactly who I am; You even know the small details like when I take a seat and when I stand up again. Even when I am far away, You know what I’m thinking. You observe my wanderings and my sleeping, my waking and my dreaming, and You know everything I do in more detail than even I know. You know what I’m going to say long before I say it. It is true, Eternal One, that You know everything and everyone.”

Psalm 139: 1-4, The Voice Translation

Did you catch that? The Eternal One, He knows everything. He knows more than we know. I find this comforting in every way. I can rest in this truth for days.

However, one thing not comforting is the idea of everyone else knowing the small details of my life. I would rather keep my not-being-ok-with-where-I-am  between me and God. I know He can keep a good secret, but my Facebook Friends might be another story. Plus, if I tell them, I’m not OK, they might reject me and call me crazy.

My friend Emily Freeman writes about this so beautifully in Graceful: Letting Go of the Try Hard Life:

“The fear of rejection drives me hard, eating away at my courage. And so my love is cautious. My faith is timid. My story is small. I long to be seen, but I feel safe when I’m invisible. So I stay the good girl. And I hide,” p. 19.

This is the story of my life.  I lived small and played the good and fine girl part like a pro. I did not want others to see my weariness, so I hid behind a veil of, “Fine.”  About a two years ago, I finally stepped out from my favorite hiding place.

I could tell you my story, but I think I’ll save it for the book. Plus, if you have been around here any length of time, you know it already. Instead, I’m going to jump ahead in the chapter to one of my favorite Bible stories. It is filled with drama and has an amazing truth for us as we move toward being OK with where we are…

Veils, Sister-Wives, and the One Who Loves us Truly, Madly, & Deeply

When I think of hiding and veils I think of Leah. She is the poster-girl for hiding. Her story of hiding is found in Genesis chapter twenty-nine.

“Now Laban had two daughters. The older daughter was named Leah, and the younger one was Rachel. There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face.” Genesis 29:16-17, NLT

I can see her trying to blend in, not rock the boat, and be the kind of girl who was okay with where she was. But the truth is there was no sparkle in her eyes. She was not okay. 

“Since Jacob was in love with Rachel, he told her father, “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter, as my wife.”

So Laban invited everyone in the neighborhood and prepared a wedding feast. But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.” Genesis 29:18-23, NLT

The girl without a sparkle in her eyes pretended to be the girl with the lovely face.  She hid behind the veil and played the part. Now, I’m willing to entertain the fact that Leah did not have a whole lot to say about the part she was asked to play. Scripture simply states it happened. We don’t know for sure. But, what I think might be possible, is Leah was able to follow through with the plan because she had been hiding for years. This was all too familiar territory for her. “Live small, stay invisible, be the good girl who always does what you are told,” she might have thought.

We see in the story of Leah how hiding can lead to a whole mess of trouble.  One man, two women, and twelve children set the stage for a massive sister-wives drama. It sounds to me more like a HBO series than a Bible story. I’m so glad God included this in His Word. Real women, who live real broken lives I can identify with speak loudly to me, especially when I am not ok with where I am.  My heart breaks for Leah. Does yours, too? Do you see yourself in her distant stare wondering what could have been?

Yet, even in her hiding we see a loving God who met her right where she was. He knew her hiding places. He saw the one Jacob did not love and chose to bless her. He brought her out of hiding into a beautiful story of legacy through her son Judah. One of my favorite books adds this about the story of Leah:

“Now when Leah knew that God loved her, in her heart suddenly it didn’t matter anymore whether her husband loved her the best, or if she was the prettiest. Someone had chosen her, someone did love her—with a Never Stopping, Never Giving Up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.” The Jesus Storybook Bible, p 74.

God’s love frees us up, like Leah, to be drawn out of our hiding places, too. He wants us to share our stories and help others to see we work from acceptance not toward it. You know, when Leah took off the veil of fine, I think she was smiling from ear to ear. God loved her, and no matter what others said, that would never change.”

:::

Do you need to take off the veil of fine? Is God calling you to come out of your favorite hiding place? Oh sweet sister, let Him draw you out of there. He has a beautiful story wants to write through you. And it can start, today.

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If this particular chapter didn’t get all up in your business, I’m guessing the next one will. At least that is what many have already told me. It is all about the “C” word.  We all struggle with it.  Can you guess it? More next week.

xo,
Stacey

For more on the book, go here.

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Being Ok With Where You Are {Chapter 2}

OK-Where-You-Are-Book-Proof-promoI really don’t intend for this to feel like a ten step program to being ok with where you are.  Most of the time I find myself going back and forth between the ‘steps’ like a game of hopscotch. Some days, they happen simultaneously in my life.  In general, you don’t have to complete one to be ready to move ahead to another. You might think of  How to Be Ok With Where You Are as an abstract painting instead of a paint by number. It may get a bit messy at times, but in the end you still get a vivid and personal piece of art.

My hope is you feel the freedom to jump to a section that seems to be a sticking point for you. You have that option. This is absolutely true for all the chapters with one exception. Chapter 1 and 2 always go together, like Ebony and Ivory, Anne Shirley and Dianna Barry, or Bugs Bunny and the Road Runner. If you are willing to read and walk through chapter 1 you need to read and walk through chapter 2. You can’t separate the two.

You may pause, take a breath and brace yourself for chapter 2. This is totally fine with me. Please, by all means grab a cup cup of coffee or some chocolate because you just admitted you are not ok with where you are. This is huge. This is life changing. Now that I think of it, you should probably take a moment to prepare yourself, because chapter 2 may be the hardest one. I know it is for me.

So by all means, when you are ready, read on.

woman enjoying nature; woman in red dress walking on an empty road

 

{From Chapter 2: Give It To God}

Do you remember this poem? My dentist had it on a poster hanging from the ceiling with push pins back in the 1980′s. It had a girl on a beach tossing a dove into the air and read:

If you love something set it free.

If it comes back to you it was yours.

If it doesn’t it was never meant to be. – Author Unknown

Lately, I feel like I am living in this tired poem and giving my “it” to God is a bit like tossing that dove into the air. I know there are shades of truth here. I have to be willing to let go of what I was hoping like crazy was God’s best for me. There is one one major difference, however. When I give my “it” to God I am not setting it free to fly and let the universe decide to bring it back or not. Instead, I am surrendering my plans to a personal God who loves me and knows what is best for my heart.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11

The trouble comes when I have something I really want to fit in God’s plan for my life and think I know better. I tend to hold on like a toddler who doesn’t want to share with her playmate. “Mine!” is a word I am all to familiar with in a house full of girls. It is next to impossible to unwrap my three year old’s hands from a toy she thinks she deserves. Parenting 101 teaches you to not  force the child’s hand, but offer her something better.

Often, God will orchestrate my life in such a way I have no choice but to let go of my “it” because it is not part of His good plan for my life. His hand extends to me and He whispers, “Dear one, if you keep holding on to that, you can’t hold on to my hand. There simply isn’t room for you to hold both.” Faith comes when I can’t see what else He is holding in His other hand or where His plan will lead. It feels like giving it to God is letting it go. When really, it is about having a hand to grab His and readying my heart to receive what He wants to give me instead. I have to trust His plan is infinitely better. At the end of the day, it is really about surrender.”

***

I’m not really crazy about that “s” word either. But there it sits just the same.  The rest of chapter 2 unpacks it and hopefully will lead us both to better things. What am I saying? Of course it does! It leads us to chapter 3 which I will share part of with you soon.

xo,

Stacey

For more information on “Being OK with Where You Are” go here.

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Being OK with Where You Are {chapter 1}

OK-Where-You-Are-Book-Proof-promoRemember last summer how we wrote a book together? Well, I wrote and  you showed up each week to read, comment, and hold me accountable. You were awesome by the way. The book came out last September (2013). I thought it would be a good idea to re-post the original 10 part series. I certainly could use the time to consider the journey God took me on last summer in light of recent life changing events.

This week, we’ll focus on a couple of chapters, with a few more the next. Unless of course it takes longer than that. This is highly possible. Thanks for being here, again. Let’s be OK together.

Here is a bit of background on the book to get us started:

Recently, I had an Olympic sized disappointment of my own. Something I had been working hard on for months fell through my fingertips. I could almost hear the gasp of the crowd in my ears as my own dream died in the form of a short email. I took a moment (translation the better part of a day) to dance with the disappointment and then I had a decision to make. What next? 

This was not an unfamiliar place for me. In my 40+ years I have had many disappointments. Some may seem small, others were life changing. I began to think back on each of those times in my life and saw a theme.  I saw for the first, time learning to be OK with where you are  is a process.

Confession time: I hate process.

I’m not entirely on the other side of it. This book is my way of walking through it and not getting stuck along the way.I love that you are here. It is so much better to walk together. I’m secretly hoping we can work out  being ok with where we are together.

I promise to cheer loudly for you. I’m hoping you’ll cheer for me, too.

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{From Chapter 1}  

Admit it.

“I’ve never been a runner. There was one time in college when I tried to become one because I desperately needed to shed the freshman fifteen. My roommate Nichole loved to run. She ran for the sheer fun of it. I was pretty sure I didn’t, remembering my days on the high school volley ball team. But, I needed results and fast. So I asked her to help me. She took on the challenge with great delight.

We would run after class just before dinner. Up hills and down, I felt every pound of the pavement on my entire body. She would glide effortlessly beside me while I gasped for air. After our run she would say, “Wow, that was great!” and then proceed to make and eat the biggest plate of pasta I have ever seen. I wanted to die and eat a pint of ice cream. I’m pretty sure I whined consistently about it to everyone who would listen.  One day while running it occurred to me, “I hate this. I hate everything about it. So why am I doing it?”

I quit running that day.

Nichole went on to run marathons and mini-marathons. She simply loved to run. I did not. The day I admitted I was not a runner was the end of my running career, but it was the beginning of something else. I started walking instead. Walking worked for me. I could walk for miles without hurting. My mind was able to slow and could release the frustrations of my day or casually communicate with whoever might be with me at the time. Usually, this was just me and Jesus. As it turns out, He likes walking, too.

Sometimes trying to be OK with where you are feels like running when you hate it. You are gasping for air and really all you want to do is stop the madness. You might also be steadily whining about it to everyone around you. Consider this your permission slip to admit it and stop running around pretending you are OK.

It is OK to admit it to yourself and God. Don’t worry, He can take it. You’ll feel better, too. It will also be the first step in your new journey. This new journey will take you straight to the heart of God.  If you let Him lead the way you will find you are not only OK with where you are, you are grateful for how you arrived.”

 

Join me tomorrow for part of Chapter 2.

xo,

Stacey

Update: Did you know you can download the entire first chapter for free? Yes, you can. Just go here.

For more information on how to purchase “Being OK with Where You Are” go here.

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