Being OK with Me

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I’m OK with myself. Really, I am. The title up there might indicate I don’t like myself very much. Most of the time, I’m OK with me. I see my strengths and weaknesses. I see how I’ve changed and grown over the years. I generally feel contentment about who I am, where I am and what I do.

But.

But, there is also this nagging feeling that I am not enough. I should be more or do more. I should fix something. I should try harder. There is a shadow following me around whispering, “I should. I should. I should.”

I know I’m not alone. I sense you feel it, too. I hear it when you talk about how you’re failing. I see it when you stand on the edge, wondering if you fit.  I know because, well, me too. I lay in my bed wondering what you think of me after our conversation earlier in the day. I cringe when you compare yourself to me, yet turn around and compare myself to you.

I read about it almost weekly on the internet. On a recent day, I came across two such posts. They were published on different days, but I stumbled upon them the same day.

I read these words and shout, “Amen!” Phrases that never come out of my mouth start popping into my head. “Preach it, Sista!” “You go, Girl!” You get the idea. The words of those posts are full of truth. They sooth and encourage, and I embrace them. I’m OK with me. For a few hours. Or maybe even a whole day.

But the shadow catches up to me again. I grasp for the truth, but it slips through my fingers.

My husband is leading a couple groups through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University this fall. At the end of the first DVD session, Dave says, “What would happen to the kingdom of God if the people of God were out of debt? How much of this world could we, as believers, change?”

I wonder the same about women. What could the women of God — the daughters of Christ — do for the kingdom of God if we were all OK with ourselves? How could God use us if I was OK with me and you were OK with you?

I want to recognize areas for growth and change in my life without a sense of shame.

I want to celebrate your gifts and successes without feeling like I’m not enough.

I want to lay in my bed praying for you, not worrying about what I said to you earlier in the day.

I want to compare my “right now” to my “used to be” and not some unrealistic idea of perfection.

You, too? Let’s wrestle with this for 31 days.*

*I originally intended to participate in the 31 Days series, but I was unable to complete the series in 31 days. It is an on-going series here. Thank you for grace as I work to complete it.

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I am a Writer.

I am participating in the ‘Writing Contest: You Are A Writer’ held by Positive Writer.

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It happened just a few weeks ago. I received an email from someone I was working with for a church committee. He wrote an article for the church newsletter I put together, and it needed to be condensed to also fit in the church bulletin. I offered to help. He liked my work and said in his email, “You should be a writer!”

I smiled and said to myself, “That’s because I am a writer!” And that was it! The first time I actually called myself a writer. It wasn’t heard outside my own head, but it has always been my head that needed to hear it most.

You would think someone with a degree in journalism, who blogs at three sites, would have called herself a writer years ago, but that hasn’t been the case. I was a “reporter” and “a person who sometimes writes,” but the phrase “I am a writer” was not in my vocabulary.

I’ve written before about my battle with words, how they swirl in my head and beg to be released from the prison in my brain. I’ve written before about why I didn’t call myself a writer, because I was too random about writing in this space. I never called myself a writer, even though I was writing.

I remember one summer as a kid when my brother and I made a newsletter talking about what was happening in our neighborhood. The summer after my freshman year of college, I sent a cheesy form letter to my college friends, asking about their summers. They all replied, and I published stories in a newsletter about what everyone was up to. (I mailed it out via snail mail, of course, since that was before it was common to have reliable internet access in your home.) My first job after graduating from college was with a news agency, and I gradually did more and more writing and even got some stories with “writer” behind my byline. When I left that job, my editor gave me a pen. “Keep writing,” she said. I’ve been writing and editing my church newsletter for nearly 13 years. Yet, if someone asked me if I was a writer, I hemmed and hawed and stuttered. “Well, sometimes I like to write,” I’d say.

I know I’m not alone in this battle to call oneself a writer. It seems a similar story for anyone who delves into the creative life, whether it be painting, sculpting or stringing together words. If you are a teacher, you teach people. If you are a plumber, you fix pipes. If you are a writer, you write. Right? It shouldn’t matter where or how often or if you’ve been published or paid.

Maybe I just needed more time to figure myself out. Maybe I needed the experience of writing regularly, which I have this year over at The Journey. Maybe I was afraid of admitting the truth because I don’t know where it will lead.

Whatever the issue, I’m over it. I’ve made the declaration, and I’m probably diving into deeper battles. But at least one thing is clear now:  I am a writer.

 

 

Book Review: You’re Already Amazing

I hear a missionary share about her work in Africa. I think, “Maybe I should go to Africa!”

I see a family with twelve children. I think, “Maybe I should have twelve kids!”

I read about a mom who cooks everything from scratch, homeschools her children, runs a business from home, has organized every square inch of her house, writes blog posts every day, and has a weekly date night with her husband, all while looking super cute in her thrift store finds. I think, “Maybe I should do all of that!”

It’s certainly okay to be inspired by someone’s story, challenged to re-think my life choices, or follow someone else’s example. But sometimes I’m working so hard to be like everybody else, that I forget to be who God made me to be. 

If you’ve ever felt the same, wondered what you should really be doing with your life, or wished you could just do life better, I recommend the book You’re Already Amazing by Holley Gerth.

And here’s the thing: we only get one you. There never has been, and never will be, another you in this world. God doesn’t have a backup plan or replacement policy. That’s why I feel so passionately about you being who you are and embracing it. We don’t need a copy of someone else–we need to the one and only, original you.

— Holley Gerth, You’re Already Amazing, pg. 180

God did not create me to go around trying to be like everyone else. He uniquely designed and gifted me for a purpose. I sometimes wish God would just send me an email and tell me what to do with my life. And while You’re Already Amazing is not an email from God, it is an encouraging book with plenty of words that likely would be included if God were to send you an email. {Grin.}

With a series of tools, questions and examples, Holley helps you better recognize and evaluate your strengths, skills, relational style, personality and more, all with a warm, conversational style that makes you feel like you are chatting at her kitchen table. She weaves in a bit of poetry and shares stories from the women she counsels, her friends and her own life. She addresses lies you believe about being perfect and comparing ourselves to others, and gives guidance for determining where God’s journey is taking you.

This book seems incredibly timely for me, as I ponder what to do with my life in the coming years when my kids will all be in school. It also seems like a great book to keep as a reference, to re-read when I’m questioning a decision or headed to a new season of life.

More than anything, this book left me feeling content to be me. Just me. Quirks, issues, imperfections and hopes included.

And, psssst! Do you know what? The same goes for you! You’re amazing!

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If you’d like to know more about the book, check out DaySpring’s site here.

For more about the author, check out HolleyGerth.com.

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*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of You’re Already Amazing in exchange for this review, however all opinions are mine. Gracias.

Words.

Baskets of laundry stand in line, waiting their turn to spin in soapy water. A load of damp towels and washcloths rest in stiff, crumpled shapes against the sides of the washing machine, ready to be tumbled and warmed. Yet another load of hand-me-downs and garage sale finds sits in the dryer, waiting to move into their new spaces in drawers and on hangers, needed to accommodate the growing legs and arms of my children.

I sit at my dining room table and push lunch crumbs from beneath my bare toes and wonder why I am typing and not sweeping or folding or anything more productive than putting words on a screen.

I remember the words of writers Ann Voskamp and Holley Gerth telling the importance of words, of offering what we’ve been given as worship to the One who has given all to us.

And it seemed God whispered that in the Kingdom there isn’t much difference between a hungry belly and a hungry heart. There are all kinds of needs. And all kinds of ways to meet them. Sometimes that means actual food and a trip to another country. Other times it means daily bread of words offered from wherever we are.

— Holley Gerth, Can Words really Change the World?

A blonde girl dressed in pink asks me to carry a plastic castle from the basement, and I feel guilty for entertaining words and not playing with her.

I remember my old roommate Mandy’s words that pursuing her art is not selfish, but being a good steward of the gifts given her.

If God has called us to it and partnered with us in it and equipped us for it, then we are not being selfish, we are instead stewards of the gift. We are responsible for caring for it, nurturing it and using it well.

— Mandy Steward, Messy Canvas: Selfish or a Steward? — Part 1

This game I play with words, debating their value in this season of life, is not new. It’s the reason I started this blog and later quit this blog. They, the words, dance around in my head, sometimes singing and sometimes taunting. They sometimes whisper and sometimes yell.

Another blonde girl dressed for Yellow Day at preschool arrives, knocking at the front door. She’s given a ride home by my friend, and I feel guilty for losing track of time and failing to greet her at the door.

Yet the words keep swirling, asking to be set free from their prison in my head.

I remember how I cringed as we started to sing an old hymn at church on Sunday. I had longed for a more modern song, yet as the familiar tune filled the sanctuary, I realized the words — more words — were just for me.

Could we with ink the ocean fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill,
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above,
Would drain the ocean dry.
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky.

— The Love of God, by Frederick M. Lehman

The words are persistent. They will not go away. I beg and plead with them to leave me be, and they beg and plead back for me to stop pushing them away.

So, I stop the tug-of-war and pause before returning to the sweeping and laundry and other productive things. I dip into the ocean of ink and start painting on the parchment filled sky.

Song for a Savior

We are going through the book of Luke during Sunday morning sermons at our church right now. I was really struck by Mary’s response after being told she would carry and deliver the Son of God. While none of us will get the honor of giving birth to the Savior of the world, those of us who are Christians have Christ living in us! Mary’s song can really be our song, too.

Mary’s Song

46 And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

— Luke 1:46-55

Outlive Your Life

1.75 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day.

1 billion are hungry.

147 million children are orphans.

It’s hard to even comprehend those numbers, let alone begin to figure out what can be done to fix them.

Then, there is the neighbor who just lost a job.

A friend who lost a child.

A grandmother who has lost her memory.

So, what are we to do about all of the needs and hurts in the world? Can we really even make a difference? Can one person really do enough make an impact?

Max Lucado says, “Yes!” We can make a difference, in fact, we were made to make a difference! In his newest book, Outlive Your Life, Lucado says we should stop seeing the above statistics as unfixable problems and start seeing them as opportunities to step up, make a difference and share God’s love with the world.

Outlive Your Life is based on the book of Acts from the Bible and the stories of early Christ followers. They were ordinary people who made a difference, eventually spreading the hope found in God to the far reaches of the globe. Lucado weaves throughout more modern stories of people who did things that seemed small but had a huge impact on the lives of others.

My favorite story is about a Texas high school football coach with a winning team who asked his fans to cheer for their opponent, a team of kids from a correctional facility. More than 200 fans made banners, learned the names of players and cheered their hearts out for a group of kids that usually have no one on their side. It completely stunned the opposing team. After the game, one of the incarcerated kids participated in a group prayer. “Lord,” he said, “I don’t know how this happened, so I don’t know how to say thank you, but I never would’ve known there was so many people in the world that cared about us.” (Page 124)

I highly recommend this book. As with all Lucado books, I love his story-telling style and ability to make Bible stories come to life. Outlive Your Life will not leave you feeling condemned for not doing enough. Instead, you will feel encouraged and inspired to act in ways where God leads. Lucado uses Biblical principles to give practical advice to figure out how God has uniquely designed you to make a difference. The book has short, easy to read chapters, making it ideal for anyone.

In keeping with the message of the book, all of the author’s royalties are being used to help children and families through World Vision and other faith-based compassion ministries.

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I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.