Friday, October 29, 2010

Am I cool?

My eight year old has green paint on his red t-shirt. Unless he's decorating for Christmas it's not supposed to be there. Before you think I'm an unfair Momma, you should know that he has a perfectly good art smock in his school bag and we have encouraged him many, many times to wear it when painting at school. So another day goes by and another shirt is branded with paint.

So I ask him, "Why didn't you wear your smock?"

He had several answers. First it was "I forgot." Then it was "It was in my bag." Finally, we got down to some truth. Basically, he doesn't WANT to wear the art smock because NO ONE ELSE IS.

I get that. It's not COOL to wear an art smock when NO ONE ELSE is. At what point do we go from blissfully unaware to caring about whether other people find us "cool" or not? It's a right of passage, I guess.

I could say so much. I could say it doesn't matter what other kids are or are not doing. I could say that you may perceive that not wearing an art smock is cool, but who's the cool one when everyone else has paint all over their shirts and angry Mom's at home and you don't? I could say that you should be happy you have an art smock and paint to paint with and a shirt to get paint on and a school to go to when other people in this world have nothing.

But I guess the part that bothered me the most was he didn't listen to us. We asked him to put the smock on (even though no one else wears one) and he disobeyed. Peer pressure at eight!

How do we teach our kids not to care? How can they be confident in who they are if we aren't confident in who we are? Am I cool? (please don't tell me if I'm not) Am I acceptable?

Who gets the "privilege" of deciding my coolness factor? You give that power to people. And it is a privilege. Not everyone deserves it.

And ultimately it doesn't matter if you think I'm cool enough. I know Who I belong to. And He thinks I'm more then cool enough.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Deciding At The "T"

I have a very distinct memory of driving in the car with my brother. We decided to take a short cut in an area we weren't completely familiar with. The road ended at a "T" intersection and we had to choose whether to turn left or right. I remember one of us thought left and the other one thought right and since he was driving we went his way. We found our way. Turns out it wasn't the most efficient choice (we should have turned the other way), but we still got to where we were going.

For whatever reason, decision making is something I have trouble with. And I'm not all together sure why. Maybe it's because most of the time we are deciding something without knowing the outcome. How are some people confident in making decisions and others not so much? I'm sure some of it is personality and some of it is faith.

Whether you are deciding what restaurant to eat at or what car to buy or what school to go to or whether or not you should take that job or play that sport or commit yourself to another activity, we are making decisions every day, almost at every turn. Sometimes we are deciding whether to buy the oranges or the apples, but other times we need to make potentially life changing decisions that have a big impact.

Being a Christian, I know the best thing I can do before making a "big" decision is to pray about it. I have even been encouraged to pray about the "little" things, too. Asking God for guidance is what I need to do, but how will I know the answer? I have wrestled with that many times before, wanting God to make it abundantly clear what we should or shouldn't do. And sometimes, we wind up not making a decision at all because we're waiting. Not that waiting is a bad choice, but sometimes we let the deadline pass or the opportunity slip by because we can't seem to figure out what we should do. I wonder sometimes if making a decision, any decision, is better then not doing anything at all.

There are other times when we have made a decision about something only to ponder and question our choice after we have made it. Did we make the right one? Should we change our minds? Why is making decisions so difficult?

Some define a "decision" as "the act of making up your mind about something, or a position or opinion or judgment reached after consideration." I found a website about decision making. They defined a decision in a more practical sense: "The process of selecting from several choices, products, or ideas, and taking action." The most important part of this definition, I think, is the taking action part. Sometimes we just have to decide and implement.

Like the "T" in the road, you can't just sit there staring at the options all day. Sometimes you just have to choose; eenie-meenie or flip a coin or go with your gut. I believe God opens and closes doors. I believe if you are making a choice and you have been praying about it that God will direct and guide your steps. He may not hit you over the head with it. And He may allow you to make the wrong choice so you will learn from your mistake.

The website I found, although geared to making career decisions, lays out 7 steps in making a decision that I thought were valid enough to share with you.
Identify the decision to be made - exactly what are you trying to decide?
Know yourself - what are your strengths, weaknesses, skills, values and interests
Identify options - list the various choices so far
Gather information and data - about each alternative
Evaluate options that will solve the problem - pros, cons and risks of each alternative
Select the best option- may be necessary to loop back and gather more info
Develop a plan of action - and implement it!
(This model was developed by Rick Roberts of the University of North Florida career services.)
Ultimately wisdom in our decision making comes from God. Do you pause long enough to hear what He has to say? I might guess that God doesn't really care whether we buy the red one or the blue one, or whether we have chicken or beef for dinner tonight. But coming to God in prayer, even in the little things, is like going to our parents for advice. He wants to know that we care what He thinks. Boy do I need to do more of that.

Are you a good decision maker? What's your secret?

If you have prayed and asked God to guide you in making a particular decision, how did you know what He wanted you to do?

I'm willing to guess we all have testimonies of how God showed us the way in making a decision. Would you be willing to share?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why You Do What You Do?

My husband's alarm clock is set nearly half an hour fast. I think so he can hit the snooze button like a hundred times before he actually HAS to get up.

I need to wet my toothbrush with the toothpaste on it before I start to brush.

Someone I know cannot have their food touching on the plate at ALL costs.

We all have things we do. Some annoying, some strange, some perfectly normal or so we think. Why do we do the things we do? The examples above are silly OCD kinds of things, but we all act the way we act for some reason. Chalk a lot of it up to personality, but that isn't all of it.

In a marriage care group we attend we took a personality assessment test to see what our L.O.V.E. styles are and how they work with our spouse's style. It was an interesting activity and my results were mostly true for me. The thing about these personality style tests is that they don't measure how life experiences, good & bad, contribute to who you are. Would our test results be different if this or that hadn't happened in our life?

The truth is that life experiences, particularly negative ones, have a real effect on who we are, the choices we make, and how we relate to others. Where's the test that measures that?

I think it's easy to look back at the things that have happened in our lives and feel victimized.
"I'm this way because of how I was raised."
"I can't trust because I have never been able to trust anyone."
"People always let me down, that's why I have to do it myself."
"She made me feel bad about myself, that's why I have bad self-esteem."
Do you ever find yourself making excuses or justifying your behavior by blaming someone else? I am not saying that the choices others make don't contribute to why we are the way we are. For a long time I didn't even realize that the reasons I struggle with certain things or why I react to situations or people in a particular way were because of experiences I had in my life. I never connected it before. Like cause and effect, we can be acting or REacting because of issues we aren't even fully aware of yet.

I believe that it is important to self-evaluate. Have you ever asked yourself why you do certain things? Why are you so angry? Why do you have trouble being yourself around others? Why do you take control of EVERYTHING?

Can you connect the dots? Can you understand yourself a little better by figuring out not just what you do, but why you do it?

Self-evaluating isn't where you stop. Once you figure out what you do and why you do it you need to take it a step further. Because if you don't, I believe you will get stuck in that victim, "poor me" place. I think I hovered in the ignorance/self-pity place for a little while and then I read this:
"Sin is sin. A child finds ways to protect or numb herself... But when, as an adult, she allows these behaviors to continue in a way that keeps her from deeply entering into relationship with those she is called to love, she is no longer simply "coping" in a legitimate way. She is violating God's highest commandments. Sin that is ignored or denied lingers like an untreated infection." ("Wounded Heart" by Dr. Dan B. Allender)
As much as I didn't want to hear it at the time, the truth of these statements have stayed in my heart & mind since the day I read them. When traumatic things happen we find ways of coping. There may be completely justified reasons why you act the way you do, but when you know better it's no longer innocence but sin.

If I choose to be an untrusting, self-protective adult that's a sin, irregardless of why I am that way. The key word is "choose". As I said before, some of us, maybe most of us are either in ignorance or denial of why we do the things we do. But if we are making sinful choices, we cannot live the life God wants for us. We are bound and chained by the things that happened to us in the past. If we never move past them, never understand their effects on us, never address the choices we are making because of what happened, then we are sinfully stuck.

I'm not saying that one day you will understand that your lack of trust in relationships was because you never had a trustworthy friend growing up and that realization will magically cause you to trust people again. What I am saying is the realization of your lack of trust, coupled with the legitimate reason that caused you not to trust, will give you insight and motivation to make some changes. Your awareness of your trust issue may help you to make different choices. You may be reminded when you start down a path to distrust that you are not trusting because of someone or something else from the past. Not because all people are not trustworthy.

This is powerful and it's not easy. Realizing what you are doing and why isn't that fun. It might mean you need to forgive someone who hurt you. It might mean you need to work through the pain and trauma of what happened before you can make efforts to change it's effect on your life (this can be done with a trusted counselor). It can be upsetting. You may have been reacting that way as long as you can remember. It may seem impossible to change. And you might be right, if you are trying to do it on your own.

The changes in my life and my husband's life could not have been done in our own strength. God is still at work in our lives, revealing things that are holding us back. Growing and maturing us by encouraging us to work through issues we still struggle with. Change is hard. Making different choices; bold, "unlike us" choices is not easy. It takes a commitment to healing, to obeying God's word, and often, to other people, especially the ones that love us. The Holy Spirit in us can show us the way.

Change is a desire of the heart. God will show us what needs changing if we are willing to ask.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)
Why do you do the things you do? Are you held back by things that happened to you in the past? Do they keep you from living the life you were created to live? Are you "sinfully stuck"?

Friday, October 8, 2010

No More Secrets


Yesterday was a deep day. I blame reading this post about secrets from HOLY EXPERIENCE. It rattled something in me. I was overwhelmed. Maybe because I agree with her. Maybe because my life now is a result of turning secrets into light. I wish I could explain to you all what's gone on in my life. I wish I could share with you the way God changed me. He changed my life. And I don't know how to make that clear to you without sharing the rawest parts of me.

But here's my conflict. We are encouraged to be "real". "Real" is who we really are. Not a mask. Not what you want me to be. "Real" is who I am deep inside. It's my thoughts and my opinions and my hurts and my joys. Some of us just can't go there. Some of us are so guarded and protected inside that they dare not reveal themselves to anyone.

What are we afraid of?

Yesterday, unplanned, I shared my story with a trusted friend. My WHOLE story. The things I allude to. The reality of what I generally refer to. It was a God moment. We cried together. How can you not? How can you not feel overwhelmed when you see how God works and moves in a life? When my friend says, "I don't know how you did it." And I say, "That's because I didn't. God did." And that may sound like Christian-speak, all fluffy and fake. But I MEAN it! In my circumstances, I was not the one in control. The strength and grace to carry on did NOT come from me. I can hardly explain it. I just walked, one foot in front of the other, led from one moment to the next. Now six years after my world came crashing down I can see that it was not because of my own strength. The world is proof of that. Most people would not have made the same choices I made. It was God in me -- and I am on my knees thankful for that.

So that post about secrets gets into my core. Because I want you to see God in my story. Not just because I tell you He was there but because you would see Him yourself. People close to us that knew us "then" and know us "now" can see it. They can see the change. They know something happened. And if you know anything about change you know that it isn't easy. That most people say they can't change. Some people want to change but don't know how. Well our change happened because God made it so. Not because we were capable of that kind of change on our own.

Maybe you don't tell the world your deep secrets or hidden shame, but I think the point is that you can share it with someone or a group of trusted someones. Does anyone know the deepest parts of who you are? Because I have experienced the pain of keeping secrets inside. I have to deal with the repercussions of that now because it effects who you are. It clouds your thoughts, it filters what you hear other people say, it keeps you from trusting other people. Stuffed down secrets can make you sick. They can effect your relationships. They keep you in a place where you feel all alone, like you're the only one. And that's a place that keeps you from moving forward in your life, from letting go, from living life.

You can live without shame and guilt if you can be authentically you in all circumstances. Most of us struggle with what other people think, but why is it that we care so much about that? If you really knew me you wouldn't like me? And if you don't like me because of who I am then why do I want you in my life anyway? We're all broken.

At the end of the day, not being truly you can ultimately keep God's story from being revealed; keeps others from seeing God.

What's the story God is weaving in your life? Why are you afraid to share it? What's holding you back?

Related Posts with Thumbnails