Unity of Thought, Word & Action

This week as I was reading from several leadership books, I came across the above definition of integrity.  Integrity is the unity of thought, word and action.  I was struck by that definition.  I usually think of integrity in terms of someone holding to high values, maintaining a position or set of values.  This definition struck a chord.

My word of the year is consistency.  As I read this new found definition of integrity I could not help but think about my own quest to be consistent.  It seemed to me the two were suddenly one and the same.  I desire to be consistent in my thoughts, words and actions.  I want to be true to the values I profess to hold, the passions I say I have, the priorities I have chosen.

So, in the end does being consistent lead me to integrity?  Or is integrity being consistent?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that word unity changes everything.

I have been in a very difficult leadership position as of late.  It has strained friendships, brought tension into my home and seeds of doubt have overtaken my mind.  It is easy in those times to want to push back, fight, bring people together in thought, word and action.  Five to six years ago that is exactly what I would have done.  But here is the truth.  I can not control other people.  I can’t cause someone to love something the way I do.  I can’t persuade someone to see value in someone or something.  I can’t force people to do what they say and mean what they say.   As I watch those who say they understood and desired the same things I did, step back, distance themselves from me, I am reminded that all too often we abandon our words, thoughts or choose a different course of action.  We live in a world where there always seems to be the desire to have a winning group and a losing group.  We live in a world where people desire to be right for rights sake, or seek to avoid any conflict at the cost of abandoning their morals and values.   I cringe at the divide that has been created and I know it to be wrong.  Unity.  The only way for anyone or anything to succeed, to grow, to develop, to be true.

I heeded the words of my wise husband this weekend and stepped back from the situation. I was raw.  I was alone.  But as I stepped back I realized my only real choice, the only thing I could really do was check my own behavior.  I am very sincere in my desire to see a holistic, full beyond measure approach to this particular thing.  I believe and value the legacy left by so many who plowed the fields, paved the way so that this thing could exist.  I didn’t take this leadership position to be right.  I didn’t take this leadership position to build a kingdom or to pick a side.  I took this leadership position because I believe that people can come together, can create programs that develop whole beings.  I believe in grace and I know my God to be greater than all that is within me.  To be consistent then I have to continue to show grace, I have to continue to extend an open invitation for all to work alongside each other.  I have to continue to put myself out there, knowing I will be hurt, disappointed, fatigued.  I can’t choose a side, even when others want to make me.  I can’t seek to win at the numbers game, but have to stay focused on the purpose, the calling.

This place I am right now is hard.  It is worth it though, because I desire to grow more consistent and I know this is but a learning opportunity.

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I have access to the Master Teacher, the Christ who knew no sin yet bore the world’s.  The God who can be trusted, who is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  May this journey to be more consistent make me more like Him.

 

Consistent

This year my word is consistent.  In the past my word for the year has been more about a quality I want to have or a skill I want to improve.  However, this year, after a roller coaster of a ride these past three years, I felt prayerfully led to be consistent.  Like Paul, I so often know what to do, and yet I fail to do it.  I desire to serve God with my whole being-body, spirit and mind.   Yet so often these past three years I have let fear or doubt sink into the depths of my mind, keeping me from God’s best.

It is scary approaching 50.  Not only that, but as I approach 50 my twin girls turn 18 and leave the next for college.  I find myself longing to have something to take the place of 18 years at home, giving full-time to manage our home and raise our daughters.  In the midst of thinking toward the future I can fall into the trap of second guessing, wondering if I have been enough, and doubting there is a place for me.  I am learning though, learning that Satan knows just how to sidetrack me.  I am learning how to overcome the doubt, stop the negative talk before it settles deep into my mind.  I am growing.

I am grateful for the lessons of these past few years.  I can’t say I have any clearer sense of what lies ahead, but this I know.  The more consistent I am to fill my mind with God’s word, to establish habits that bring me greater health and physical strength, the more able I am to see the appointments God has placed before me right now.  I am also reminded as I stop along the path each day to sit in His presence, He desires nothing more from than I finish this stay-at-home mom thing strong!  I am so thankful for friends who speak truth into my life.  I am so thankful for the habit or morning quiet time with God that sets my heart, mind and spirit straight for the day.  This year, the task at hand is to keep my heart, mind and spirit straight-to be consistent:  unchanging in achievement or effect over a period of time; compatible or in agreement with something (God!)

25 Years Looking Back

My husband and I celebrated 25 years of marriage this week.  We did so with little pomp and circumstance.  When we first got married I remember talking about extravagant trips when we hit the 25 year mark.  Funny how life changes.  No extravagant trips.  Instead we had a quiet week (our girls have been gone) and spent much of it reflecting on the past, making some decisions for the present and prioritizing for the future.  We celebrated with a quiet evening out, thinking how quickly time had passed.

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Our marriage is a testament to the grace of God.  By all measures, we shouldn’t have made it.  We can now laugh about it, but we seriously faced just about every stressor you could face in our first 5 years of marriage. My parents divorced about a year before I got married.  That meant lots of emotions running high during the wedding planning and day of.  It also meant VERY limited resources and I had to be creative.  Two weeks after our honeymoon a cyst was found on my cervix and we went through a “this could be cancerous” scare.  Fortunately it was not, but out-patient surgery followed.  Within our first 18 months of marriage my mother lived with us and then my brother.   Within the first 2 years of marriage Paul’s mom was diagnosed with cancer, we built a home, entered a 6 year long infertility phase, and my mother lived with us again.  Paul’s mom passed away shortly after our three year anniversary.  My brother lived with us one more time and over the course of the next 15 years my mother lived with us several more times for various lengths of time.  The firm Paul had been working for disbanded and we were faced with opening his own appraisal firm.

I won’t bore you with any more details, but as you can see, our marriage was full of stressors at the beginning.  I wish I could tell you we handled it all well, but we didn’t.  There were arguments.  I was on some occasions an emotional wreck. We were hurt, disappointed, angry and often felt alone.  So how did we survive?  By the grace of God, and a whole lot of humor.  I don’t say that tritely.  There were moments we both wanted to call it quits.  We loved each other, but boy was it hard to like each other some days.  Not to mention, we both grew weary.  Have you ever been there?  You don’t want to give up, but you just honestly don’t have the energy to keep going?  My husband, a fixer like most men, felt defeated on many a day.  I can remember evenings when we didn’t have the energy or emotional reserves to be happy or angry.  There were even moments when the only words we could speak were, “Divorce is not an option.”

Thankfully during those difficult years we also had much to celebrate.  We welcomed three nieces/nephews.  We built three homes.  We had some fabulous vacations with friends.  Paul’s business flourished.  We worked in the youth department and had lots of entertainment as we served and bonded with those students, many still dear friends.  We had a pastor who prayed for us, walked alongside us, and again, became a very special friend.  The day we finally arrived at the hospital for an emergency C-section this dear pastor immediately brought his staff and prayed over me and the staff as I was wheeled into surgery.

This week as we looked back, while the difficult times were real and are still vivid in our memories, we were able to think more of the joy, the lessons, the character building.  We are able to stand at the 25 year mark truly believing we can survive anything-by the grace of God.  We are able to see that while we made decisions to help family too much, financially gave too much, we also see that each decision was made based upon scripture, our desire to honor our mother and father, to care for family, the wounded, the desolate.  My husband is so good at staying away from the “coulda, woulda, shoulda” thoughts.  (unlike myself)  My husband is so good at looking to the future with hope, trusting God.  Throughout each decision he has always looked me in the eye and said, “He will provide.  He always has and He always will.  Not necessarily what we want, but it will be what we need and what we can handle.”  I married a rock.  Sometimes a stubborn rock, but that is another story.  I married a rock, a man of faith who gives way more than he takes, who fights for family and lives by faith. He brings laughter into our days and keeps his eye on the prize.

Standing at the 25 year mark feels good.  I would love to have taken some of the moments back.  I’d love to have NOT experienced some of the experiences.  Yet, as we stand together in this place I know we are who we are because of each moment, each experience.  I have no doubt we’ll make the next 25 years.  I also have no doubt they won’t be easy.  I have no doubt we have more trials to face, more heart ache ahead.  I also know we have much joy ahead.  By the grace of God we’ll carry on.

The Love Hate Relationship with Summer

Summer.  It is amazing to me how we as moms can have such a love hate relationship with summer.  Come about April most of us begin to long for the “lazy” days of summer.  We are tiring of the lunch making, the homework, the after-school activities, the schedules.  We dream of days filled with no schedule, moments by the pool, sleeping in a little later (if we are lucky), no back packs to check, no homework to battle through.

Then summer hits.  BAM!  Within the matter of a few days we begin to seek out activities.  What will we do with these children all summer?  The camps, birthday parties, family vacation, reunions, etc… fill the calendar and we realize that in no time at all we will back at it.  We gaze at the long list of all we thought we’d do this summer and realize there is no way!

It is a love hate relationship.  But isn’t much of life that way?  Too often we look forward to something missing the moments right in front of us.  We find ourselves in the midst of the time we anticipated and we panic, we realize we have failed to plan or the reality of our limited time hits us in the face.  In a matter of moments we can go from dreaming to being overwhelmed and panicked. The words ” I’m bored”, are uttered by a child and our emotions go through the roof.

Our family intentionally cleared our calendar this summer.  No family vacation.  No camps.  We decided instead to simply be at home, a home we just had the opportunity to build.  We decided to go with the unexpected, to spend more time with family and friends.  I decided to keep pursuing better health and engage in more of my creative pursuits.

beachseatSounds great doesn’t it.  A “lazy” summer at home.  Well, let me be honest.  Two weeks in and the above picture is where I think I want to be.  I’m missing the family vacation.  I’m doubting our decisions-even though we reached them as a family.  I see what others are doing and I feel the comparisons creeping in.  Why?  Why do we go there?

I know why I do.  I take my eye off the prize.  I look around more than I look within.  I forget that I am right where God wants me to be, with the people He has entrusted to my care for just a little while.  I forget that through prayer and seeking we made decisions we believed were best for us.  I forget to trust He will see us through, even the leaner times, the darker times.

So, while I have moments wishing I was in a chair on the beach, I am going to focus on being where I am.  I’m going to treasure the moments by my pool listening to nieces and nephews laugh, taking in the squeals of high school girls, breathing in deep the quiet moments captured sitting alone in the sun by my little space of paradise.  I’m going to be thankful for a home in which we rest, land safely.  I’m going to appreciate the fact my 16 year old daughters would rather be here than elsewhere, that they still share with their dad and I.

Summer is here.  I have anticipated it.  I’m going to rest in it-soak it up.  I’m not going to rush it.  I’m not going to fall prey to the comparisons, the regrets, the looking around.  I’m going to take today for what it is and be-be in the moment, be grateful, be content.

Battling Failure

It is Monday.  Yep, it is a Monday.  I had big plans for today.  A great blog post, clean house, some advanced cooking for the week completed, research for an organizing project…  Big plans for a big week.  Instead, I literally got knocked off my feet and my day derailed at 6:00 a.m.

I have two dogs.  We have a love hate relationship.  Most days I love them, but Monday and Thursday when I am cleaning and handling home maintenance I hate them.  This morning, the cute white one, decided to attack the front window with vengeance and bark her head off.  Now mind you, I had yet to get my first cup of coffee drunk.

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I ran to the window, sandwich bread and knife in hand, to politely “shoo” the dog away from the window.  About the moment I took my last step toward the window, the “lovable” black and white, thirteen year old, I guess now partially blind, dog decided to join in on the barking chorus and lunged straight through my legs.  The leg already in mid air was propelled into the air forcing my other leg up off the floor.  Sandwich bread and knife went flying, as did the rest of my body.  I have a bulging disc in my neck which I am acutely aware of.   In a moment of panic I decided it would be best to try to twist my body, as if at this age I have any control, and land on my side so as to avoid any further neck injury.  I have no doubt it looked as ugly as it felt.  I landed instead flat on my side, elbow and knee slamming into the hardwood floor.  My neck popped as I tensed the muscles trying to keep my head upright.  All I can say is that in an instant I became aware of every muscle in my body.  Throbbing pain.  I really didn’t want to cry.  I wanted to fling two dogs out the window.  Instead I cried. Mostly because I had fallen and couldn’t get up.

Have you ever been there?  That moment in time when something bad happens, a mistake, a misspoken word.  You go straight to negative, angry, bad.  The hopes of the previous moment are gone.  Your confidence, your strength.  It flees. It so often amazes me – how quickly I can go from good to bad, how quickly I can begin to feel like a failure, the one person who can’t get it together, get the tasks done, spare the moments for the friend, laugh, find time for the hobby that feeds my soul.  Been there?  How is it I can get there so quickly?

I have battled the pain all day.  Truth be known I have battled the ugly thoughts all day – not about the dogs, not about anyone, just about me.  I have battled the urge to give in, to declare defeat.  I have battled the tears of physical pain, mental fears and heartfelt hurts that Satan so quickly reminds me of in these moments.  But I chose to push through today. I didn’t get it all done.  The exercise meant to help me push back on the infringing age 50 got set aside.  I could have stopped and stayed right there.  There have been times I would have.  Frankly it is easier.  It’s not beneficial though.  No, giving in to the fear of failure, the lost hope, the darkness never helps.  How do I push through?  I focus on what I can do.  It wasn’t a lot today, but it was something.  I made those calls to friends I knew were struggling needing a word of encouragement.  I read back through the cards and notes I keep in my “special box”, words of encouragement from friends,clients and acquaintances.  It’s hard.  Pushing back, pushing through takes strength, commitment.  The pain is still here.  The tear still appear in an instant. But, the darkness is lifting.  The lies brought on by thoughts of failure I are pushed back.  Truth sets in.  It slowly heals, like a salve gently pouring over the wound.

Friend, if you have had a terrible, no good, very bad day, stop and regroup.  Remember who you really are.  You are here for a purpose.  Mistakes will happen.  Falls will occur (let’s just hope not brought on by a dog).  You learn.  You keep going.  It will hurt, it will be hard, but you are worth it.  You were made to make a difference.  You were made in God’s image, His child.

I am probably going to hurt more tomorrow.  And I have a feeling I am still going to be thinking negative thoughts about these two stinking cute dogs.  But the darkness of failure has passed.  I’m learning.  I’m gonna keep going.

Mother’s Day-With Mixed Emotions

Like many, yesterday was a great day.  My husband and daughters treated me like a queen.  The entire weekend was full of acts of kindness, special treats and notes from the heart.  I loved every minute of it, just as I love being mom.  So, why the mixed emotions?

I am a firm believer God uses circumstances, the hardships and joys of life, to grow us, but more importantly to tender our hearts.  I have said it before and will say it again, our greatest ministries come from our brokenness.  While I have much to celebrate as a mother, there was a time that was not so.  Six long years yearning for a child.  Years of doctors appointments, loss, pain, disappointment, envy, anger, marital tension, loss of friendships…  Six Mother’s Day celebrations that weren’t easy, each one bringing with it wonder if it would be different the following year.

My husband lost his mother all too soon.  A loving, gracious, giving woman.  A woman I had only four short years to know. A woman who would have loved her grand-daughters with abandon.  A woman of quiet strength who was a great source of encouragement.  We too often long for her to still be present, thinking of how different life would be were she still here.

I still have my mother.  For that I am blessed.  But it is a tenuous relationship, one healing after years of untreated depression leading to a reversal of roles, words spoken in anger that can’t be erased, financial strain providing home and help with spending gone out of control during moments of manic.  She loves with passion.  She perseveres.  I have learned to release, to know my limits and to see God’s infinite care and provision.

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Motherhood should be honored.  I am thankful our nation still honors those who create, who serve as the glue in our homes, our churches, our neighborhoods, cities and nation.  I am thankful we still see the significance of mothering.  I am reminded though, that while some celebrate, some are struggling.  Their chance to mother has not yet come forth.  Others know they will never mother.  Many seek to heal relationships with mothers, with children.  Others, revisit loss and the pain of a mother no longer present.

In the midst of my personal celebration I thanked God for the hardships.  I am grateful for the twinges of pain that remind me to think of others, to bend knee in their honor, standing in the gap for them asking God’s mercies be unleashed.  I am reminded every day is similar.  Each day holds victories and celebrations for some, while loss and pain exists for others.  I celebrated Mother’s Day with mixed emotions.  I’d rather celebrate that way than oblivious to all that is around me.  I’d rather remember the sorrow, the pain, than simply celebrate the gifts, the victories.  I’d rather hope for the future than live only for the moment.

When Hope is Lost

Hope is a difficult thing.  And all too often, my hope seems lost.  I see it in my daughter too.  It breaks a heart to lose hope, to see the one you love lose hope.

Our human nature hopes in things to come-circumstances.  We hope for new jobs, new provisions, new friends, new opportunities.  We want our circumstances to change, believing our lives will change.  And there is truth in that.  The hope of the human nature breeds dreams.  We picture our circumstances or the circumstances of others to be different, better.  But human nature hope can deceive.  Circumstances don’t always change.  The new job never comes.  The loved one dies.  The friendship is lost.  Striving doesn’t change the circumstance and we lose hope.  In those moments I doubt.  I wonder if I’ve made all the wrong choices, decisions.  I wonder what I could have done or do differently.  In those moments I feel the weight of past mistakes, the weight of a world not right.  I see it in my daughter too.  The struggling to hope in a future.  The struggling to want something different and yet having no idea how to make that happen, to get there.  The struggling to look past the seemingly perfect lives of others, the successes and believe there is more for me.  When hope gets difficult, it seems I am only reminded of all the hurts, the injustices, the losses.

Hope is a difficult thing.  And when hope in circumstances fails me, when all my striving, my dreaming, my planning seem to get me no where, I realize hope has to be something different.

“But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,” Psalm 33:18

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I am reminded he bore my sin at the cross, my pain he takes upon himself each time I come to him.  I am reminded his death and resurrection offers hope in a new day, a new life that is mine at his appointed time.  While may circumstances may not change, his love never changes, the work he did at the cross remains forever, the place he has prepared for me endures.  I must teach the daughter to hope-not in circumstances, but in him, her heavenly father.  I must point her to the cross, the only place where life is changed.  She and I must learn together to quit looking around and look up.

When hope is lost, it can only be found again at the foot of the cross.