Why People Win Over Achievement

“I’m learning over and over again that connection heals me more than achievement ever could.” Shauna Niequist

Often times we believe when our dreams come true, everything else will fall into place. That we’ll be content, happy. That we’ll be the person we want to be. Finally.

The shocking truth is it doesn’t happen, Even remotely. Because if you’ve attached your emotional health, your worth to achievement then you are sitting on a rocky foundation. It will be shaken at the first criticism or self-doubt.

With success and achievement come the whispers that you can do more. Be more. It will never be enough, especially if we believe we aren’t enough to begin with.

Why? Because we’ve attached ourselves to a black hole that can never be fed enough. There will always be someone better, faster and smarter. There will always be another level to conquer. Another award to win. It’s become all about us. It’s a ton of pressure.

I’ve been thinking about Shauna Niequist’s quote since I read it a week ago. It was in my Overcomer study on Philippians by Margaret Feinberg.

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Niequist is right but I don’t really want to admit it. It’s a bitterly hard pill to swallow for this introvert and recovering people hater to admit that we need each other. It’s one of the hardest struggles I have in ministry. Sometimes I drift to the “dark side” and think ministry would be so much better if not for the people. We might actually get God’s work done. Oh yeah, that’s right, God’s work is people. Shoot.

Why is connection, key to healing and not achievement? Because it is through people we get glimpses of God, His love for us and his acceptance of us. Achievements, success, more money, awards are momentarily great but they can’t do what people do. Love us. As we are. Achievement always demands more. That we be more. Do more. Acquire more.

Connection is relational. It only requires we engage. That doesn’t necessarily mean talk either. Sometimes it means just listening for our benefit or someone else’s.

 

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Connection is spiritual. I totally believe in kindred spirits. But I also believe connecting to someone totally different than you can be equally as rewarding.

It’s spiritual because it comes from God, who created us for relationship. It also points us back to God.  He’s the only relationship that can totally heal us.  He uses other people to help us down that road and direct us back to him but He is the true physician.  He gifts us with other people and the connection they bring to our hearts.

People who genuinely love us let us be who we are, while at the same time they inspire us to be better. It’s not the same as achievement. They love us even if we hadn’t written a book, got a promotion, won a race. It will never matter what we do. It only matters that we be.

Love. Acceptance. Understanding. Kindness. These are a few of the building blocks to health and healing. Kids who are loved, accepted, and are understood and grow up in a kind environment, usually grow into healthy adults. For those of us who missed out on those things, as adults we can still do ourselves a favour and learn to love, accept and understand ourselves. Be kind to ourselves. It’s never too late to grow into the person we want to be.

If we in return show love, acceptance, understanding and kindness, they can help us on the road to healing. Every time we choose to give them away, we become more of who we were meant to be and that is healthy. If I make the effort to join in and be a part of a group, instead of hiding, I find that my heart gets lighter and my mood better. (Usually 🙂 Knowing you did the right thing too, can certainly make a difference in feeling better about yourself.

How did I learn this? In community. Of. Course.

In many different communities; a course that helped me deal with anxiety, many different churches, MOPS, family and friends. My life is richer because of them all. The awards and accomplishments have added to it too as well as the failures but they fade, the friendships, the love do not.

Maybe I’ll take that pill with a little bit of jam!

 

 

Asking for Directions

My scenery has changed this week. As I look out the windows, I see trees and cedars and I hear the waves crashing on the beach just beyond the front door. You can see the lake from the big front window.

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It’s a week to unwind, rejuvenate, and create. It’s a week I have begun to look forward to every spring. Last year I put the finishing touches on Whole here. Who knew then, what a year would bring!

This year I am in a different place on so many levels. I feel like I have ended, started and am in-between. Can you be in all those spaces at once? Do you ever feel like that?

I feel like I need to stop and ask for directions.

I’ve walked along the beach the last couple of mornings in the sunshine and wind. Watching and listening to the waves roll in is hypnotic, soothing. My shoes dig into the wet sand. (No I’m not a barefoot sand person!)

I see footprints (someone is a barefoot sand person!) shoe prints and dog paw prints in the sand. I notice the colour of the water – grey up close and a thin line of turquoise and cobalt blue along the horizon.

I beach comb by taking pictures of interesting things as I walk. Driftwood, rocks, little streams feeding into the Great Lake.

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As I reach the point where I’m going to turn around, I see a sailboat beached. It’s yellow and pretty. Reminds me of summer stories of fun, sea and romance.

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After taking a couple of pictures, I turn around and head back the way I came. I’m thinking about the boat. I liked it. I wonder about what it would feel like to sail it?

As I’m walking back, I spot another boat. A blue rowboat. It looks like it’s made of wood.  I hadn’t seen it on my way up the beach. I stop and take a few pictures. The beauty is in it’s rustic appearance.

How could I have missed it before? I had walked right by it.

Blind. How many times are we blind to things that are right in front of us? Like the rowboat, we pass by, absorbed in our thoughts, our worries, our stuff.

How do you walk? Do you walk with your head down? Where are you looking? I often walk looking at the ground, intent on where my feet are taking me. Do you do this too? We miss a lot because we are not looking up, don’t we?

I had caught myself a couple of times staring at the sand rather than the beautiful water and trees and sky around me. I was missing the good stuff because I was looking down instead of up.

Look up.

Wake up.

Get up.

It’s starting to become my mantra. Perhaps it’s the directions I’ve wanted to ask for.

Looking up instantly engages us in our surroundings. We see who’s there, what’s happening. We are free to enjoy the scenery. We become aware of where we are and our place in it.

Waking up frees us from our blindness. Sometimes we are so involved in our heads, in what we are doing, in just trying to keep up with everything, that we fall asleep to everything else. We miss the boat so to speak. We don’t see the offer of something else, something new, something different. We bypass the beauty because we are engrossed in our small worlds.

Getting up is action. Don’t just sit there but go investigate that invitation, that beauty. Get up close to the boat. Touch it. Get in it. Take the next step.

If we don’t start to look up, wake up and get up, what are we missing? I think we miss not only things in this world but also in the spiritual world. As we look up, wake up and get up we become engaged not just physically but emotionally, and spiritually. We become more in tune with what is going on in both the physical and spiritual realms. We are ready to receive the next directive.

We become available. “Here I am Lord send me.”

I’m not sure about you but I want to be that person who doesn’t just see the boat, but gets in the boat and heads out to sea, following the One who does know the way.

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Seeking His Face

I’m not a big socialite. But when I do venture out into the masses, I usually don’t go just for something to do. I go with a purpose. I am seeking someone or something.

If I go to a party or a gathering, there is one person I will seek out. I scan the crowd looking for the face I am seeking. I listen for their laugh and the timbre of their voice. I may be searching for my husband, my sons or a friend.

When we seek, we look until we find, don’t we? We are purposefully looking for someone or something in particular.  Children seek out Easter eggs on Easter morning.  They eagerly look until they find the brightly coloured sweet treats.

Today’s verse of the day from biblegateway.com was from Hebrews 11:6, The Voice. Without faith no one can please God because the one coming to God must believe He exists, and He rewards those who come seeking. (emphasis mine).

It was the last part of the verse that caught my attention. He rewards those who come seeking.

It struck me that all I have to do is come seeking Him. I don’t have to be anything else. We think we have to have cleaned up our mess first before we seek Him out.  We believe we need to at least try to have it together before we go to God. We tell ourselves we need to have solved our problems before we seek His face.

We have to be perfect.

But it doesn’t say anywhere in that verse or in the bible, that we have to have it altogether to come to God. To look for Him. To seek Him out.  The ill and infirm sought Jesus out.  Those who had blown it and those who were socially unacceptable came looking for Him. Those who had doubts came to Him.  He welcomed them all.  He didn’t turn them away.  He could handle it all.

We just have to come. Seek and you shall find him. (Mat 7:7)

If we had solved our problems or cleaned ourselves up, we wouldn’t need Jesus right? We’d be patting ourselves on the back.  We would be thinking we did it ourselves.  Our pride would tell us that we can handle it. No need to bother the Almighty. We got this.

It’s a big lie that we believe. Satan likes to keep us feeling like we are not good enough so we don’t seek God.  If we do manage to make some small progress bettering ourselves, then we believe we don’t need Him. It’s a vicious cycle.

However the verse from Hebrews is simple, Believe He exists and seek Him out. And he’ll reward you.

There may be other rewards but the main reward is Him. I AM, present in our lives.  His presence trumps everything else; the unsolvable problem, the explosive mess, the unredeemable relationship, the life that looks unsalvageable. His presence turns it all upside down and makes it workable. So the impossible is possible with God.  (Luke 1:37 The Voice)

All we have to do is seek His Face and He does the rest.

The Whole Story

Do you have a childhood dream that still sits in your heart and mind? That you go back to when you daydream?  Since I can remember, I have wanted to tell stories. Then it morphed into writing and then into writing articles and books.

I fulfilled part of that dream recently. I wrote a book and it’s being published next month. I wrote it with pastors’ wives in mind but it’s for anyone who ever felt they didn’t fit the role they were in. Pastor’s wife, ministry leader, mother…

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I set out to write a guide because I felt so lost as to what it was I was supposed to be doing as the spouse of a pastor. (Seriously, seminaries need to offer courses for the spouses! But I digress.) The book did not turn out to be a guide.  I never really figured out what I was doing so how could I instruct others?! Instead, it’s about how God can use each one of us, even when we think He’s made a mistake in choosing us because….you fill in the blank.

It took over ten years to write it. I began the project when my boys were teeny tiny. On Mark’s day off, I would head to his office for a couple of hours to write. On the way, I’d grab a Tim’s (that’s Canada speak for coffee), a bagel and cream cheese (those were the days I could eat cream cheese). Then I’d sit, savouring the food, the coffee and the quiet. Then I’d get to work.

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I didn’t own a laptop so I’d write old school or I’d borrow Mark’s laptop and then email my document to myself. I lost a whole chapter once. It wasn’t always easy or convenient but it was important that I carve out that time.

Many of those years were tumultuous and the writing was a cathartic exercise. It provided a way to put a voice on the last few years of ministry, marriage and motherhood. It provided me an outlet to vent my frustrations, anger and sadness. It opened a door to look for God in it all. It maintained my sanity.

I have a gem of a husband who not only encouraged me to go on his day off but insisted on it if I tried to get out of it. He knew I was a better mom and wife when I had time to myself, to do the things I loved. I realize that not everyone has this. I am so grateful.

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I tried to walk away from this book, this message, so many times. I didn’t always want to be the messenger.

I finished most of the writing a couple of years ago. I tried unsuccessfully to pitch the book with publishers but they felt it was too much of a niche book.

Last spring I heard about a Canada wide contest for non-fiction faith manuscripts by women. I decided to enter.

I didn’t win but I placed as one of the four finalists. It opened the door to publishing. And here I am. Scared out of my wits and crazy excited at the same time.

It’s been a lesson in perseverance. We want what we want right now. We are impatient. I am one of the worst. I am surprised that God stuck with me because honestly, I’ve been a bit of a brat over the years. But then, that’s grace, right? We are given what we don’t deserve. That’s love. That’s God, I Am.

If you have a dream, a vision, something laid upon your heart and you think there’s an expiry date, stop. As long as you breathe, there is no expiry date on your dream. Keep taking the next step.

The end result is worth it, but it’s the journey there, that gives it value. It’s in the journey that the message on your heart gets it’s first student. (You.) It’s the path there, that teaches the lessons, sustains growth and prunes the rot. In the end, you reach your destination (book, dream, etc.) which is totally awesome, but really, you are the prize.

Because along the journey, you have matured, deepened your relationship with God and are that much closer to being who you were created to be.

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It’s an awesome experience to see a dream fulfilled. It is humbling to put something you created out there for people to read, dissect and judge. They may love it or they may hate it. I have freaked out at both aspects. It’s taking me way out of my comfort zone.

In the bigger picture, beyond my comfort,  I am excited to see what God is going to do. This is not my book. It’s not my message. It’s His and I’m anxious to see where He’s going with it. I want to see Him do what He does best.  Work the impossible.

I’m going to enjoy this gift while it lasts, but I’m also looking to Him for the future, for the next adventure.

Day 1

Ministry. Marriage. Motherhood. There have been times I wasn’t sure I’d survive them. Sometimes they come together in a tsunami of life and I think I’m going to go right under.

Not a positive way to start the new year is it? Especially if it’s one filled with promise. Or maybe it’s already started on the negative and that kind of thought isn’t going to make it get any better.

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January 1 always comes wrapped up shiny and bright, luring us to raise our expectations, hope for better things to come and generally feel good. Until the first major crisis. For some of us, it didn’t take very long for that to happen.

That’s just it. Life happens. None of us can go through all 365 days and not have the stuff that makes up life thrown at us. It’s impossible.

So as we spit out the confetti and deal with loved ones, sickness, impossible situations, I think it’s important to realize that the whole facade of New Years is exactly that. A facade. Because any day can be a fresh start. Day 1. Any day can bring about rebirth. Rejuvenation. On any given day, we can choose to start over. Begin.

We put all our excitement into New Years’s only to be frustrated and disappointed when we stumble or fall. We think because we broke our resolutions, we failed. Why bother now?

Because that’s not what it’s about. Yes, we can decide that any day is Day 1 but the fact is we will probably have about twenty Day 1’s in a given year. Because we will stumble. We will fall. We will give in to temptation. It’s not about being perfect from Day 1 on. It’s about learning to get up when we fall after Day 1. It’s about growth and learning from mistakes. We move on when we learn from our messes. We don’t need to go back to Day 1 because we’ve already grown and so we can move into Day 2 or whatever day it is.

A new day or year cannot bring change. It’s only a starting point. So is our attitude. They both open the door to change. There is only one person that can bring about transformation.

It’s not us.

Our church’s mission statement is this: “Our vision at Bethany is to lead people into a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (NLT)

We can hope to change all we like. We can work our tails off to change and we might succeed for a little while but we’ll end up disillusioned and exhausted. I know this all too well. I have to believe real change can only come through a relationship with Jesus because I’ve tried it the other ways. It doesn’t work.

A relationship can make a difference in a person’t life.  Think about teens and their friends. Good or bad influences can alter decisions our kids’ make and how they live their lives.  Think of the Holy Spirit as the ultimate good influence.  Giving His Spirit access to our minds, hearts, attitudes and bodies makes us different. He’s not transforming us into better versions of ourselves, although that’s a bonus.  He is making us more like Christ.  That is the only way transformation can happen.

And it can happen on Day 1 or Day 101.

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The Swing Set

There are things disappearing from our lives. Over the last thirteen years they’ve moved in and made themselves at home. Now some are MIA. Gone. They were there, I blinked, they were only a memory.

Pieces of my boys’ childhood are fading and then are gone entirely. Can things change so much in one year? Apparently, yes they can.

Our backyard is empty for the first time in a very long time. We sold the swing set. It really wasn’t used for swinging. Instead it had become an apparatus for boys-who-think they-are-invincible-and-can’t-get-hurt tricks. Before someone broke their neck, the swing set needed to go.

I can’t say I’m sorry. Not just because of the injury factor, either. We bought it a couple of months after moving here to replace the one we’d left behind at our old house, in another city. I never really liked it. Neither did my youngest son. We both still mourned what we’d left behind and the new swing set only served as a reminder of loss. The fun had on that old swing set. Watching my boy out the kitchen window, swinging fast and high, lost in a world of make-believe. The large yard and the big maple tree that sheltered the swing set and sand box like a big hug, keeping the hot rays of the sun off the kids. I don’t think my son or I will ever get over losing that.

For me, I feel guilty about taking that away from him, way too soon. I know I should get over it but…

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My youngest son looking at the For Sale sign on our old house.  His posture says it all.

So I can’t say I was sorry to see the swing set go. I was happy that a little family was taking it and it is going to be enjoyed so much now.

As my husband and I stood, looking at the empty space in the yard, we thought about the possibilities of what could be. The empty space was rather freeing, I thought. Always a gardener, my husband had a few ideas. I’ll let him go to it.

Although the swing was a reminder of things left behind in another time and space, perhaps the empty space is a way of making room for something new. I thought I could replace the old swing set with a new one but I couldn’t. My son just never adjusted. He didn’t play on it like he did the one in Windsor. It wasn’t the same nor should it have been. Some things are just too priceless to be replaced.

So four years later, perhaps it’s time to let it go and make room for something new. TURN to the possibilities of new dreams, ideas and fun.

Life is like that too, don’t you think? Sometimes we need to let go of the old for the new. TURN to new dreams, people, ideas and experiences. Dare to let go of the old even though they were once and may still be, precious. Mourn them, yes, but realize they had their time but now it’s time to TURN and move on.  (Move on not replace.)

Making room for whatever new thing God has for us. Opening ourselves; our minds and hearts to something new, different and most likely out of our comfort zones. If things stay the same, they get stagnant. We get stagnant. Stiff. Joints rust.

I’m starting to realize that God sends new relationships, opportunities, jobs, dreams, trials to keep us fresh and alive. To keep us in tune with Him. There’s nothing like something new to get our adrenaline pumping and our senses alert. Change, it’s what I’m really talking about, but there’s something about that word I hate, so we’ll keep going with new, is not necessarily bad. We need to keep that in mind.

Maybe you like change. More power to you I say! But for those of us who struggle with it, maybe a little free space where something used to be, can be a reminder that new can be freeing. New can be life-giving, if we give it a chance.

Eternal One: Don’t revel only in the past,
        or spend all your time recounting the victories of days gone by.
    Watch closely: I am preparing something new; it’s happening now, even as I speak,
        and you’re about to see it. I am preparing a way through the desert;
    Waters will flow where there had been none.
    Wild animals in the fields will honor Me;
        the wild dogs and surly birds will join in.
    There will be water enough for My chosen people,
        trickling springs and clear streams running through the desert.
Isaiah 43:18-20 The Voice

TURN to Trust

She knew that the Lord would provide the strength to accomplish His purpose.
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I finally emptied and put away some goodies I had gotten at a conference. I’d looked through it previously but had not done anything with it except separate the books out and then everything got shoved back in the bag to deal with “later.”

I’m pretty proud of myself. That bag could have sat there for a year. I know. I have a problem. I mean what’s the big deal? Empty the darn thing already. I could write several blogs on the issues that surround it but that’s not what I want to address today.

It’s what I found in the bag. Or rather had forgotten about. A sign. In more ways than one.

Because before clearing out the bag and putting everything away, I had been reading a book, Unlikely Rebel by Kelli Gotthardt. Sitting in her counsellor’s office she had been freaking out that she was going to mess up her kids. Her counsellor listens, then wisely says to Kelli, ‘ “This isn’t really about your kids, is it? This is about you learning to trust.” ‘ (p. 78, Unlikely Rebel)  Busted.

Just like Kelli, I have to learn to trust my kids with God. TURN to Him.  TURN to trusting Him to look after them, to love them, to care for them. I have to acknowledge that He can do all this better than I can. He can clean up my mess and mistakes. He can make it all better. Better than before even.

As parents we all have to come to this: to TURN to God and trust or go insane with worry, with control-itis (yes that’s a word!) and a whole host of other unhealthy issues.

Restless after reading, I decided to be productive and empty that bag. Get it up off the floor.

And then I came upon my sign. God was continuing this conversation with me.
Because it’s been an ongoing debate between me, myself and I and also with Him.

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As parents we all make mistakes with our children. It’s impossible not to because none of us are perfect. Even if we were, our children have minds of their own and interpret situations in different ways that we cannot always control. They may read circumstances or intentions wrong and come away with a wound that despite our best intentions, we could not have prevented.

I have to accept that. So do you.

At some point I have to trust God to walk my children through their issues. Just as He has been faithful to journey with me through mine. The only thing I can control here is to pray that they see their need for God, His grace and for truth to replace lies.

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She knew that the Lord would provide the strength to accomplish HIS purpose.

And not just with my kids. But with me too. He will finish what he has started. In me. Some days it feels like two steps forward and a hundred back. Other days we aren’t moving. At.All.

At these times I have to remind myself that He will accomplish HIS purpose. In me. In my kids. In my church. In my world. She knew that the Lord….

Some days I just need to know.

Finally as I’m glancing at the other word art I’d received in that bag, He finishes the conversation. It says: My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor 12:9

Guess what Jen? My power is made perfect in your weakness. All that stuff you think is weak, is imperfect, is a mess? It’s the stuff I use to make you whole. Show my power in your life, in your boys’ lives, in the church and in the world. I AM so much bigger than your weakness, your mistakes, your mess. My power is made perfect in your weakness. What are you doing wasting time worrying? Trust me, I AM.  Know that I AM. TURN to Me.

Whatever it is we are wrestling with today, whether it be kids, spouses, jobs, dreams, losses, I hope that you and I will know that the Lord… and we will trust Him to complete His purpose, and make his power perfect, in our lives and in the world around us.

I think that’s all I’m going to clean up today…