My sister used to laugh at me, because in the course of conversation I would often mention a dear friend of mine. She would laugh, because she said that everyone was a dear friend to me. And I realized that she was right.
I don’t love with parts of me. If you are my friend, I am all in.
My life has been blessed with countless friends who feel the same way about me. They love me fully, faults and all, and there is no pretense.
Of course, when you love others with this almost reckless abandon, you open yourself up to deep hurts. It has been painful to learn that not everyone loves in this same way and the concept of seasonal friends is one that still doesn’t sit well with me even though I know it is reality.
Since I am surrounded by friends who are generous with their love and encouragement, I am surprised when I discover friends who think that this type of effusive love is disingenuous.
It’s not. For some. But for others, it might be. But this I know for sure…
I would much rather err on the side of effusive love and encouragement than withhold compliments for fear of being disingenuous or appealing to insecurity.
In talking with some friends, I have discovered that they at times withhold compliments or encouragement, because they think that the other person is insecure and in encouraging their insecure friends, they are in essence encouraging the insecurity. To this, I say, rubbish! If we are honest, there is insecurity in every single one of us. Left unchecked, this insecurity could result in sinful behaviors in our lives (false pride, overindulgence, lack of trust in Christ), but insecurity in itself is meant to drive us to the only place where true security can be found. The cross of Jesus Christ. As friends, it is not our job to judge another in their insecurities. We are not supposed to be the insecurity police! We are supposed to point others to Jesus.
Recently, I did some work on a prayer calendar and the words I was focusing on were words like “abundant”, “lavished”, “overflowing”, and “bountiful”. These are words that are found all over scripture in describing the kind of love God has for us and in his character.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! ~1 John 3:1
You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance. ~Psalm 66:12
God does not withhold his love for us, but pours out his love on us.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me!
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love
Leading onward, leading homeward to Thy glorious rest above!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watches o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of every love the best!
‘Tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest!
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis a heaven of heavens to me;
And it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee! (Samuel Trevor Francis)
His love for us is deep and wide and when we express love towards others in the same way, we are living out the image of God in our lives. As followers of Christ, we should be generous in our love. This doesn’t mean we should be fake. We need to be genuine in our generosity, but if you find yourself in a place where you are withholding encouragement from others, I would challenge you to study the love of Christ.
Jesus was willing to die for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He didn’t wait for us to be worthy of His love. I am so grateful for this!
My kids have a poster that says “Too many toys, never enough books!”. I think we should hang one that says, “Too much judgment, never enough encouragement!”.
“There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy and not pain around us.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Be genuine, but be generous.
There has been a great deal of discussion lately about being vulnerable and keeping it real. While most of the time I think this is a wonderful way to live, there are important times to not share everything.
It’s taken me awhile to figure this out. When Facebook first came onto the scene, I loved the opportunity to share my daily life with friends and family. As someone who has moved a great deal and has not lived in the same state with any of my immediate family in my adult life, these glimpses into the lives of those I love and being able to share pieces of my life became a huge gift and a delightful blessing.
But life has become increasingly more complicated.
We have been through some turbulent times resulting in a loss of relationships. Years later, there are still almost daily reminders of the friendships that have been lost. It’s painful.
Our children are growing older and entering a more difficult time in life. Difficult and sensitive.
The ministry we serve in has increased in size and with that increase is greater responsibility and demands on our time.
My sweet Daddy went home to be with Jesus and I miss him.
When the pressures of life are particularly difficult, I need space to be able to pray. What I don’t need is to be vulnerable with the masses and allow people who might not genuinely care about me to enter into these hurting places, bringing criticisms and judgment.
As my children grow older, I am finding that I need to grow with them. While there are hundreds of moments in the day that I want to share with the world, there are times when I need to simply be quiet. There are parts of their stories that are not mine to tell.
This doesn’t mean that I am not keeping it real. It just doesn’t. While I am responsible for telling the truth, I am not responsible for the perceptions and assumptions people make based on pieces of the puzzle. I used to think that I had to share everything in order for people to know me. But this is not true at all. The only one who needs to know everything about my life already does.
Life is teaching me some difficult, but important lessons. I am learning who I should be vulnerable with and where I need to set my boundaries.
I share a lot, but I don’t share everything. And I won’t. Being genuine is extremely important to me, but keeping it real in the sense of sharing all the things is not.
I haven’t mentioned it lately, but this is one of the things that my one word for the year- dignity- is teaching me. Dignity requires discretion, knowing when to speak and when to remain silent.
In addition to all of these lessons, I am learning that we can be a huge blessing to others when we don’t make assumptions based on what they do or don’t share. When we pursue truly knowing someone and not simply judging them based on their social media presence, we are blessed and we are a blessing.
November is a great time to focus on gratitude. Today I am grateful for the many friends who love me for me, not for who they assume or expect me to be, but faults and all, they just love me. Loving me like Jesus…
Thank you for knowing everything about me and still loving me. I am so grateful that with you, there is no managing of my social profile. May I be quick to pray and slow to post statuses. May I seek your approval and not the likes of a fickle following.
There are certain things I never thought I would say until I became a parent. Things like don’t lick your armpit! and why would you put the lightsaber in the toilet?!! But I have started saying something recently that has really surprised me. It’s this…
Stop trying to please me.
You would think having children who try to please you would be a wonderful thing, right? That it would lead to sweet peace and harmony in the home. But I have found the exact opposite to be true. Here’s why.
My daughter is in the dreaded tween years, but she is developing a maturity that she didn’t have when she was a little younger. She now realizes that life is better for her when she is thinking about others. And so, she has been working really hard to make me happy. The problem is that she forgets to ask how she can help me and simply assumes that she knows. This leads to all kinds of frustration and catastrophes.
I get irritated with her for messing up when she could have easily asked me and then she gets frustrated with me, because she was trying so hard to please me.
And so I have started begging her to stop trying to please me and to start asking me what I need her to do.
For instance, please don’t play with your sister before dinner (and get her all riled up and crazy), when what I really need is for you to help set the table.
Please don’t tell your brothers what to do, when what I really need is for you to set an example for them.
Please don’t load the dishwasher and then not run it. It would be better for me to know that the dishes are dirty. If you load it, run it.
Please don’t take your sister out of the shopping cart and then let her wander off. Just don’t. (Do I really have to explain why this is a bad idea?)
You see, while my daughter’s intentions are good, she has not quite figured out how to truly please me. I don’t expect her to know these things fully (even I don’t know what I want half the time!), but I do expect her to ask.
The other thing I never thought I would say?
Stop saying, “I’m sorry”.
This too seems like the wrong parenting move and yet my husband and I are saying it more and more. We are tired of hearing “I’m sorry”, but feeling like our children don’t really mean it. Being sorry implies a desire to change, but without change, one must question the motives of the heart behind the words. We don’t want our children to use “I’m sorry” as an excuse for bad behavior. I can almost see the wheels turning inside their heads- if I say “I’m sorry” she won’t get mad at me. Meanwhile, what I really want is for my children to admit their faults and their sin, so that they can change and be changed.
Whenever I am learning something in my parenting, it seems like those same lessons apply to my relationship with God. How often do I try to please God and forget to ask what He desires from me? What would happen if instead of trying to do things FOR God, I stopped and simply sought Him? What if my motivations for pleasing God came from an earnest desire to know Him?
I have discovered that when I am truly seeking to know God and to learn of Him, my life is less of a frenzy and more of a fulfilling kind of living. Why do I choose to live any other way?
In my relationship with God, I want “I’m sorry” to be taken out of my vocabulary. I desire for it to be replaced with a true heart of contrition, one willing to admit faults and desirous of true repentance. I don’t want to feel bad about what I do and then keep doing it! Admitting that I am wrong and need God’s work in my heart, invites Him to do the work that only He can do, work that results in true change.
Rather than trying to please God in my own wisdom, I want to please Him by seeking to know Him and His will for me. Instead of saying “I’m sorry”, I want to admit when I am wrong and seek His change in my life.
I pray that my kids will learn this as well. And may peace reign in our home!
Dear children of mine,
There are certain lessons in life that I wish I could teach you without you having to go through the heartache of learning them. But there are not any shortcuts in life. And truth be told, one of the greatest joys in parenting is seeing you grow in wisdom and strength and maturity. Hard knocks and all.
It has taken me a long time to learn the lesson I want to share with you today. I hope and pray that you will learn it much sooner so that your life choices will not be swayed or affected in negative ways for not having learned it. The lesson is this…
No one else gets to determine what you are capable of doing.
It seems pretty simple and obvious, but my experience is that the opinions of others can creep in and affect your heart in painful and sometimes debilitating ways. And everyone has an opinion.
For too long, I believed that I was just mediocre, decent at what I did, but not exceptional. I believed this in part because I felt no compelling drive to pursue any traditional career path. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and the result was that I felt “less than” like somehow I was not as good as others, because I had no purpose.
Guys, I was so wrong. I am finally learning that my own story, written lovingly by our Heavenly Father, is just as important and meaningful as any other story. And so is yours!
This way of thinking was self imposed, influenced by what I perceived others thought of me. But there have also been overt critiques of me that have kept me from pursuing opportunities or following through on a dream or desire. I see this starting to happen in your lives, because half of you are entering the crazy, roller coaster, emotionally charged, “mean” years and my heart breaks with every story you tell.
I pray daily for a different outcome for you.
And so, I want to tell you this- if you have a dream of something you want to do with your life, please pursue it. Invite trusted, true, good intentioned, loving friends to share opinions. But disregard the opinions of those who are overly critical, competitive or mean in the way they share opinions. You will always have a ton of voices telling you what you can and cannot do. Choose to listen to the right ones.
But there is a flip side to this lesson that is equally important. If we truly believe that no one else gets to determine what we are capable of doing, guess what? YOU don’t get to do that to others, to impose your own opinions of what they can or can’t do on them. Now I know the temptation, sweet ones! I know how hard it is to not lash out when someone else has been mean to you. It is hard not to act on the desire to put someone else in their place. But here is the second part of this lesson that I want you to learn…
There is space for all of us.
You must never crush someone else’s dreams in order to pursue your own. You should never make someone else feel inferior in order for you to feel like you are successful. There is room for everyone to succeed in life and if we would ALL have this perspective, championing one another instead of crushing others, I believe this world would be a much better place.
Did you know that the four of you are teaching me this valuable lesson? I look at each one of you and I see very different characters with unique abilities. You are all so different, not just in physical appearance, but in personality, in talents and in abilities. You are teaching me that no one should try to fit into a box that society builds for them. I am so thankful that you are not cookie cutter versions of your Mom and Dad! You are your own people. And every day, I get to celebrate this.
When you are able to celebrate the success of others without feeling like you have to compete OR to fade into the background so as not to diminish their success, you will discover that you are free to pursue your own passions. Sometimes your dreams will be realized and other times they will not, but please know that successes and failures are both part of your story. You do not have to be defined by them. Instead, you get to learn and grow, because I guarantee that these things will be the foundation for other pursuits God has for you.
The hard truth is that everyone learns this lesson at a different rate, which means that you will continue to have negative, competitive voices in your life. I wish I could tell you that this ends in high school, but the truth is it only gets worse and is in some ways heightened when you have kids of your own. I have found that your hurts bring out a fierceness in me that I didn’t know was there prior to motherhood. When other kids are mean to you, I want to yell and scream. Which is why Exodus 14:14 is becoming more and more important in my life- “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” I am slowly learning that the trust I have in God to carry out His purpose in my life also applies to your lives. I can trust Him to fight for you and I must depend on Him to write your stories in the way He intends. I pray that you would trust Him as well and to seek His will in your life.
And I pray that you would pursue your own dreams, that you would reach for the stars and that you would bravely try new things, despite the naysayers and critics who will always be there.
Because there is space for all of us to pursue our own dreams. So, go for it! And know that I will have my pom-poms ready always.
Your biggest fan,