September 24: For When You're Running on Empty

Life has a steady ebb and flow in which there is a constant emptying and a continual need to fill up.

Water evaporates from puddles, lakes and neighborhood mosquito-breeders, and once the clouds are heavy, dark and grey, it falls back to earth again.

The gas light comes on in the car, begging for an influx of petroleum before it will go a mile further.

Dishes are unloaded, and, especially with a large family, dirty ones are always at the ready to be loaded in the dishwasher. And repeat.

Early morning coffee cups are sucked dry, needing refilled before 9am if there's to be a prayer of making in through the long day ahead with littles, who sleep about as long as they are tall.

Leaves begin to transform brilliantly this time of year, reaching their glorious potential just before withering and descending to autumn's carpet below. The barrenness of winter makes room for new life come spring.

Bank accounts dwindle as payday approaches, clean clothes are depleted until laundry day arrives, and it never fails that all the toys get dumped out of the bin before any get picked up again.

I watched a video about animal life in the African desert. About the lizards that patrol the hot desert sand in search of beetles to eat in order to survive another day. The beetles are not only their food source but their daily water intake, as well. In a climate where water is scarce, any source of water will have to due. It's a matter of life and death.

Once a year, there is a torrential downpour of a few sacred inches. The water would fall on the nearby mountains and run down the sides in streams, finally emptying out into the river basin below. Animals would flock by the dozens to sip the precious, life-giving liquid before it disappeared into the dry, cracked ground, ashy and peeling with a thirst of it's own. The window of time was only a couple days, and after that, besides some evidence of erosion, the basin returned to it's barren, desolate form.

Lately I find myself empty. Stressed, tired, cracked and worn. I realized today, that from the time the kids get home from school to the time I put them to bed, I'm stressed. Somewhat with their behavior. They seem to be extra crazy, which is merely a fallout from sitting and listening and behaving all day.  So I feel like, in a way, I'm corralling a herd of ornery elephants that have no desire to behave in a civilized manner, let alone sit down, again, and complete homework.

And then there's the homework part itself, which for some is very easy and speedy, and for others, like a bad visit to the dentist, complete with Novocaine, pliers, drills and the like. I hate the dentist, so I get that.

But the homework. At the mention of it, I begin to grow tense because I know the evening of teeth pulling that lies ahead. And I dread even the thought of it. I hate the pile, about a half-inch thick, of avoided work that hitched a ride home to be completed this weekend.

It's hard because he struggles. Because he's behind. Because he hates it, probably more then I do. He hates it and doesn't understand it and is lacking the motivation to even try. He doesn't seem to realize that not doing it won't make it go away. Not learning the material will not make the next lesson easier. And so we struggle together, Ben mostly these days, pulling teeth until well after bedtime.

Emptying that folder one porcelain piece at a time. One assignment at a time. One spelling word, one math problem, one hair on our head at a time. Ben pulls them out of his beard, because, well, he's bald.

Emptying the "homework" side and filling the "return to school" side. Emptying patience and filling up frustration. Emptying grace and welling with stress.

And I also realized today, you can't fill a gas tank with water and expect the car to run. You can't fill a basin in the dessert with oil and expect the animals to survive. You can't empty a heart of all that is good--grace, patience, love--and replace it with frustration and stress. The heart won't run. The mind will deteriorate and shut down.

When I felt it today, the stress, bubbling to the surface once again at the thought of spending our long weekend hunched over the kitchen table, elbow deep in make-up work and obstinate attitudes and frustration, I raised my head, clenched my teeth, and said "STOP."

Just stop.

Stress was not going to fill the space any longer. Fear would no longer be in control. I could feel myself relax almost immediately at the thought of not needing to stress out.

Stress is not the boss of me. Imagine that.

I think with the school thing in particular, I feel responsible to a degree. I feel the need to fix it, to make it better. Now granted, I need to do my part as a parent and be an adult and such, but the other stuff is out of my control.

I can't control his attitude or willingness to work.

I can't make him miraculously understand the things that are so confusing to him.

I can't catch him up to the rest of his class overnight.

I can't be there at school when he's refusing to do his work, participate in reading, or try on his test.

I just can't.

All those things empty me. Because I want it to be better. I want him to no longer struggle, to be confident, to have the focus and will to work. I want our evenings to be different. But stress doesn't have to fill the emptiness.

The reality is, the future is largely out of my control. Maybe he won't finish all his makeup work and lose points. Maybe this weekend will be a horrible schoolwork experience. Maybe not. Maybe he won't pass the reading exam this year. Maybe he will fail this grade. Maybe he will have to start over again next year, maybe even in a different school. I don't know.

What I do know is that stress only adds to the grief, and there is a God who is so much bigger then all of it. And I can choose to rest in Him, knowing that whatever happens, though it may not be ideal, it won't be the end of the world. It won't be anything beyond the realm of redemption and renewal. I can remember that hope exists in Jesus, and I happen to know Him. I can let go and just rest, filling up to the brim with Water that Lives from a well that does not run dry, even in the most parched deserts of life.

If you find yourselves empty today, friends, only One thing will truly fill the depth of your soul. Rest in Him tonight.

{Thoughts after reading Matthew 14, Jesus Walks on Water}

When Facebook Becomes Your Default

I didn’t realize until I decided to give it up, to take a break for a while. 

Come evening when the world began slow and eyelids started to droop, I decided to put my phone DOWN. Enough is enough. 

And that’s when I noticed it. The quiet moments. The precious lulls in time I had rushed to Facebook to fill. 

As I lay in my bed that night, phone firmly placed on the nightstand instead of my palm, I honestly wondered to myself: well, now what do I do? What do I do with these slivers of time before sleep that are no longer spent staring into a 4.7in window?

Sad, but completely true.

And I began to wonder, if we are compulsively running to Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram or games or Netflix binges or anything else, for that matter) throughout the day…

When do we think?

When do we pray?

When do we listen to the still, small voice of God, if we give every quiet moment over to Facebook?

When do we read, something other then articles about the latest shooting or the 9 Signs You May Have a Leaky Gut or 5 Ways to Repurpose Baby Food Jars? I would read all those kinds of things, thinking I was informing myself and somehow improving my quality of life, but in reality, all I did was add to my already existent health anxiety and create more mental work for myself. 

Repurposing baby food jars? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Seriously.

When do we read, say, the Bible, or something that qualifies as real literature to enrich our lives?

When do we connect with our family without distractions?

When do we stop and listen to the tall tales of a two year old, however crazy sounding they may be, and get an uninterrupted glimpse into her creative little mind?

When do we roll down the window in the car on a summer drive and simply take in the smells of fresh cut grass and charcoal grills, notice the wildflowers, and feel the warm sun on our face, if we never look up?

When do we really talk with our husbands, after the kids are all asleep, so in ten years we still have a clue about the person sitting next to us on the couch?

Because if we're honest about it, there are things that steel our time—reinforce it, build it up, make it better and stronger and firmer, in the Lord and in relationship with others; encourage talents and gifts; help others—and there are things that steal our time—rob us of precious moments, productivity, and sleep that we can never get back.

We only have so much time here, so much time this day, and it’s so easy to waste it. It’s so easy to waste it without even wanting to because it’s become a bad habit.

Laundry that doesn’t get folded, craft supplies that never turn into gifts, books collected that never get finished. That’s just me, and that’s really just the beginning.

I know God is calling me to better things, more fruitful things. Things that I really do want to spend my time on, except I keep getting tripped up by the easy, the available. So Facebook will no longer be my default, and we are parting ways, at least for a time. I may deactivate my account sometime in the near future, but for right now it will just sit idle, collecting notifications.

Instead of checking Facebook at stoplights, waiting to turn left, I'll focus on the road and talk to my kids.

Instead of pulling out my phone in the evening or multitasking during Netflix, I'll look my husband in the eye and talk to him about things that matter.

Instead of plugging in during bath time, I'll sit and watch my kids play.

I'll sit on the front porch, enjoy the breeze, and marvel at the fact that everyone but the baby can ride a bike without training wheels now. I'll wonder where the time has gone and make sure from here on out that I'm not too distracted to notice it slip on by.

I'll stop looking so often at a small 4.7in screen that I fail to see the entire world right in front of my face.

I’ll still be here, though, rambling about my usual stuff and posting pictures, so you know where to find me if you need me. I’d love to connect with you all in the comments, through email, or better yet, in person!

I hope you have a great day, and if you want me to know what you had for lunch, what you’re doing with your kids today, or that you’re pissed off at your husband about something, you’ll have to text me, because otherwise, I won’t notice.

And that’s not such a bad thing.

In the Era of Opinions, Be Quick to Listen: People Need to Be Understood More Then They Need Your Two Cents

News travels more rapidly then electricity these days, whether it be an interview concerning gender identity or massive protests on city streets, and the situation in the limelight begins to unravel before our very eyes, thanks to trending social media.

Everyone feels compelled to weigh in with an opinion. A hashtag is assigned, by someone much more clever then I, and the tweets start piling up faster then cards in a game of Speed. People near and far suddenly remember they have a finger to point with, and each of them believe that they have the correct point of view, while the rest of the country is going to hell in a hand basket.

Sound familiar?

Now, even though I'm a contributing member of the blogosphere, I tend to keep my thoughts on national headlines to myself. Being a private person by nature, I prefer to take in an abundance of information and process it internally. To be a fly on that inter-cranial wall could be quite frightening, I'm sure.

But the other half of it is, I don't think the world needs to voice an opinion on everything. 

In this Era of Opinions, I fear that we have elevated the opinions of the leaders, reporters, and celebrities in society to a lofty pedestal, taking them as gospel. Public figures throw their two cents into the ring and onlookers begin falling in line with them, taking sides as if watching a bull fight, only everyone is convinced that they are the ones rooting for the matador.

I sit back and watch the trending topics unfold, leaders and celebrities and newscasts stepping forward one by one to cast their vote on the matter, as if somehow the one with the most backers wins. I see commenters voicing either their proud support or utter disappointment in the public figure for their stance on the matter.

I mean, how could we possibly disagree with each other on such sensitive issues as race, systemic poverty and violence, and sexual identity??

What I've come to realize is that behind every opinion, especially those held with deep conviction, exists a backstory. But seldom do we take time to ask the right questions and attempt to understand how they arrived at the conclusion they did. No, we're generally too busy throwing our own spare change into the playing field, hoping to make a small dent in the helmet of thick-headedness worn by mankind. Maybe the thought is that if enough people chime in, together they'll be able to break through.

But here's what I know:

When all is said and done, you're free to think whatever you want, but you haven't loved well until you've tried to understand. And understanding, oftentimes, requires withholding judgement opinions and just listening. Being still. Sitting there in the uncomfortable awkwardness for a while and just taking it all in. Quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.

And you know what? Even after you've heard and understood, you still may not agree, and that's okay. But now you've earned the right to voice your opinion with kindness. Not a moment before, friends. I'm a firm believer that until you've walked a mile in someone's shoes, you have no idea what it's like to be them and shouldn't pretend to, even from behind a computer screen. 

A chasm exists between knowing intellectually and knowing from experience. Take parenting for example. There was a time in my life when I thought I knew all about how to be a good parent, internal chastisement practically seeping from my pores at the sight of a toddler's public meltdown and unsolicited advice at the ready.

Then I had kids.

And now I know how much I did not know.

More then this world needs another opinion, it needs love and action. Before you sound off on the latest Internet debate, do something. Make a donation, reach out to someone you know who is personally affected by the current hot topic, or extend a hand across the divide and sit down with someone you don't understand, and try to.

Because there's always two sides to every story, and neither one of them is the whole truth. The Dowager Countess said something like that regarding not taking sides in a divorce, and I think in her witty wisdom, she was spot on. Likewise, your opinion on the matter doesn't automatically void another. Often they are two parts of a whole, the big picture of which we will most likely not be able to fully grasp this side of heaven.

At the end of the day, we all share the common thread of humanity, and we need to start focusing more on the things that bring us together instead of tear us apart. Last week I tried to search Google for "children's books on homophones," but what I actually typed was "children's books on homophobes." The search results were much different then what I'd expected, as you can imagine, although the two words are only differentiated by a letter.

But in that silly mistake lies a valuable lesson, and that is if we as a people choose to focus more on the homophones rather then the homophobes, we'll all be in a much better place. We are as different as the myriad of unique facets of the God who created us, so let's find a common ground and cordially agree to disagree on the rest.

Maybe what the world needs is less pontificating and more listening.

Less assuming and more understanding.

Less suggestion and more action.

Less accusation and more love.

We need to listen more because it's impossible to teach an ignorant person something they think they already know. And how will you realize you don't know unless you stop to listen? Unless you take the time to walk down the street in their shoes, step by painful step?

Opinions are chump change--everybody's got em. But if they don't inspire us to extend grace to each other, to make a difference in the life of just one, then they're useless. Go forth and love in action today, my friends, and check your opinions at the door. Because what you think isn't nearly as important as how well you love.

Preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.
St. Francis of Assisi

Dear Christian: The Hard Truth About Being "Blessed"

The valley was brimming with people now, the steady hum of their presence filling the air. Maybe it was late in the day, the sun pulling close to the horizon in a colorful embrace, and it was time to move on. Or perhaps there were some things just too precious for the masses—things they wouldn't yet understand. But those who loved him, those who were wholly committed and desperate for truth, they followed Him. They climbed with him, following his every step as he wove a dusty path up the mountainside.

And in that solitary place perched atop a hill, away from the chatter and bustle of the world, He sat down with His friends. When His lips parted, the soft whisper of truth emerged.

You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God...

The world applauds those who achieve successful careers, luxury vehicles, 2.5 children and a suburban palace. But the outcasts—the bankrupt, the homeless, the impoverished, the senile, and the addicts—provoke a very different response. Sometimes it's because Haves just don’t understand, and sometimes it's because the least of these remind them of the fact that “failure” in this life is only one bad choice away. One disaster away. One job loss away.

But Jesus whispers of having nothing left. Of no way out, of a sleeve completely void of any last tricks, of bridges burned and contacts tapped. Of circumstances kicking away the material crutches that prop you up and give you a sense of indelibility. Because when you finally get to the end of your rope and fall, God will surely be there to catch you, even if it’s not how you imagined or wished He would.

Truth, you see, is a paradox. It's always the opposite of what we tend to think in our selfish, human nature. Jesus speaks of a world upside down, and He continues:

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

Bodies forever altered by years of childbearing, lives cut too short, job eliminations and life savings flushed down the stock market toilet. The world tells you that once you’ve lost your figure, your spouse or child, your job of 30 years or your net worth, you no longer have value.

But Jesus whispers of there being space now. Space for him to reach across the brokenhearted divide and pull you close. Space in the hollow of grief for the hope and healing that will make life whole, and worth living, again. It’s always His great mercy to remind us of our dependence on Him, because it’s something we easily forget.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

We are a society that is more connected then ever before, and with the simple click of a button, everyone is able to put their best foot forward and showcase it for the world to see. "Friends" are easier to accumulate then pennies in a jar, and the abundance of information, opinions, crafty ideas and shining success stories can make even the most confident person feel as if they don't measure up. Certain talents and gifts are envied, while others, especially ones beyond the glare of the spotlight, are often ignored.

And while humans create a hierarchy of worth based on trending appetites, Jesus whispers that the real blessing lies in knowing who you are, and being content with that. Thriving in your uniqueness, not a mirror image of what’s popular, is the real reward. And the satisfaction found in freely living out your purpose is something money could never buy. 

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

Our fallenness draws us to comfort foods, to late night snacks on the couch, to eating our emotions and drinking our problems away, but Jesus beckons us to Himself. He invites us to eat the Bread of Life, that He may sustain us when we can't go on. He sees our pain, and He gives us Himself, the only nourishment that will ever truly soothe the hunger inside.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

The Selfie Generation, they call us, although that’s merely a symptom of a bigger problem. There has never been a people group more self-focused or self-indulgent then this one, except, perhaps, those that come after us because of the example we set. But Jesus whispers of an outward focus, an others-orientation, a lack of entitlement. Because He knows that even more blessed then the receiver is the giver, and that once we are finally emptied of ourselves we are indeed full.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

Family pictures withcolor-coordinated, smiling children in a row; good behavior masquerading as holiness; front lawns pristinely manicured; beds made, houses tidy, and 401K's even tidier. Oh, how the world longs to have it all together and reveres those who appear so.

Jesus whispers from left field that the exterior means nothing without a heart fully devoted to Him. That a life built without Him is one built in vain. That even the most put-together individuals are but whitewashed tombs, dead on the inside, without the love of Christ. That you'll never be able to see God at work in the world, or all the good things He has for you to do, without a heart focused on Him.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

There exists this thing called a “comment section.” It’s a sliver of internet dark space in which grown adults are reduced to a bunch of squabbling toddlers, yelling back and forth about whose toy it really is, who has a right to the toy more and for what reason, assuming the worst possible intentions about the other, and spewing horrendous names in the process. And somehow many of these “adults” think this is ok--to shout things from behind the “protection” of a computer screen that they wouldn’t dare mumble to someone’s face.

Whatever place you find yourself in today, whether it’s cyber or reality, Jesus speaks of sowing seeds of peace. Dealing with conflict is a lost art, but learning how to do so is vital to relationships, especially in a family. We were created to turn chaos into order, dissention into reconciliation, squabbling into resolution, and fighting into peace. Working through those clashes and coming out on the other side—that makes for one tight-knit clan.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

This bitter taste of persecution is foreign to the tongues of Americans. For most of us, we cannot fathom what it would be like to live in a country where laws dictated a belief system. Where it was illegal to go to church, to own a bible, to pray in public. And even in the information age in which we live, many are still oblivious to the persecution of those around the world, or worse yet, choose to turn a blind eye.

The painful stories drift across the ocean, and when the stench wafts ashore, we praise God that we were born in a free country. A country in which we can believe and live as we choose, where we have just as much a right to be grateful for our freedoms as we have to take them for granted and squander them completely.

But many were not born here, and they didn’t have a say in that decision, either. The hard truth is, God knows. He sees. He hears their cries and collects their tears. He even goes as far as to say count yourselves blessed, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven. Rejoice and be glad, for although this present life is wasting away before your very eyes, great will be the reward in heaven.

To have the kind of unwavering faith that perseveres, that waits for the abstract, blissful promise of heaven’s glory in the face of unimaginable suffering is as foreign as the Middle East. How great is the love of one who willingly walks the green mile out of devotion to Him.

You’re blessed…

Oh, how we squander the richness contained in those words. I truly believe that we don't mean to—most of us are just a product of the culture in which we live. But we take the deep fullness of God contained in blessing and trade it for the material, the temporary. That which will wither like a flower in the hot desert sun, here today and gone tomorrow. We cheapen it, casting aside the indwelling of a Living God and grasping desperately instead for the idol, which, once attained, evaporates as smoke before our very eyes.

True blessing isn’t marked by the degree of temporary comfort or happiness achieved but rather by the unique opportunity provided by less then ideal circumstances to draw close to God. A closeness that couldn’t be achieved except for the sharing of suffering. And that is the blessing: Jesus Himself.

It’s a paradigm shift. The world shouts in our pain, encouraging us to avoid it at all costs. To drown it out, ignore it, bury it, and numb it away. To get out of it as fast as possible, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, and go on pursuing the American Dream. And if it turns out to be broken, just throw it away and get a new one.

But Jesus. When the world shouts, he whispers, and sometimes you have to climb to a quiet place just to hear Him, to make out His voice from the crowd. Jesus invites us in, into the pain, into the suffering. He asks us to sit there a while, to soak it all in and not waste a hot second of it. And He’s not only there with us, so we don’t have to go it alone, HE’S THERE.

True blessing exists when we arrive at the end of ourselves, when we have nothing left to give, for it’s there that God resides. What it comes down to with each and every blessing is being stripped of ourselves. Stripped of our self-sufficiency, stripped of our earthly comforts, stripped of our masks, stripped of our fleshly desires, stripped of our selfishness, stripped of our need to perform, stripped of our pride, and stripped of our fear. Like an expert carpenter shaving down a block of wood, strip by strip, to carve from it something beautiful, so the Lord strips us. And with each swipe of the blade, the excess falls away, and we begin to look more and more like the finished product--Jesus. The blessing is always Him.

So whether you need to get over yourself, out from under yourself, past yourself or to the end of yourself, do it today. Because God is waiting there. And I don’t know about you, but I, for one, have a lot to learn about being blessed.

Matthew 5: You’re Blessed {MSG}
1-2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said: 
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. 
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. 
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat. 
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for. 
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. 
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. 
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom. 
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. 

On Making Resolutions: A Life Left on Autopilot will Eventually Crash and Burn

I have a love/hate relationship with New Year's Resolutions. Statistics say that only about 45% of Americans even bother to make New Year's Resolutions. We are quite the motivated bunch, ay?

In 2014, the top ten resolutions were:

Lose Weight
Getting Organized
Spend Less, Save More
Enjoy Life to the Fullest
Staying Fit and Healthy
Learn Something Exciting
Quit Smoking
Help Others in Their Dreams
Fall in Love
Spend More Time with Family

Of those 45%, only 8% actually succeed in achieving their resolution. Clearly, the deck is stacked against me, so the "hate" side says why even bother. I'm not likely to be among the few, the proud, and the brave who actually achieve it anyways. They must be cut from a different cloth--a sturdier, more resilient cloth. Something like canvas or leather. I'm more like the cloth you find on the clearance rack--the funky, bright colored one no one else wanted that's kinda thin, uneven, and frays easily.

The number of people who never succeed and fail at their resolution every year is 24%. Much better odds there.

But the "love" side has one vital piece of data to volley back for the win:

People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

Bam. Take that sturdy fabric. Everyone likes the clearance rack better, anyways.

So basically, more then half of America is screwed before they even get started this new year.

Are you among them?

I'm kinda tempted to be. Take the easy way out, or what seems like the easy way, at least. But it's like what I've learned about food over the last year or so: what's easiest isn't always what's best. What's convenient isn't always what's good for you. In fact, it's usually the opposite.

You see, setting goals is the easy part. Anybody can do that:

lose weight

Pencil + paper + two words. Done.

The hard part comes afterwards. The follow-through. The finishing. The keep on keepin' on when that's the last thing you want to do. Because you're tired and have had enough and see an easy way out. When you don't feel like working so hard anymore with all the planning and preparing and stuff. The dying to self nonsense. Sometimes you just want to do what you want to do without thinking about the consequences. 

But there are consequences. Because a life left to its own devices, on autopilot, will eventually crash and burn just like anything else. It's inevitable. Ever drive down a street in the city and see the majority of the houses boarded up, paint peeling, roofs sagging, wood rotting with the decay of neglect? Or the child who was never given boundaries or the appropriate discipline or direction while he was young, only to have his freedom locked up behind steel bars because the will could no longer be controlled? 

In order to succeed, there needs to be a plan. Goals. Boundaries and effort to live within and thrive in those boundaries. Hard work and sacrifice. Upkeep and maintenance on a house, parenting skills and love to shepherd a child, and intentional goals and a strategic plan in life. 

And not just any plan, a detailed plan. How will you lose weight? What will you do, each day, to get there? What is the number you're working towards? Write it down. And then tell a friend or two or five, because Lord knows you will need the encouragement and accountability in the valleys. You also need to be prepared to accept the accountability when it smacks you in the face and tells you to keep moving. The valleys will most certainly come, because by June only 46% of the people who made resolutions to begin with will still be working on maintaining them. And to me, that number seems kinda high...

It's not enough to write down lose weight and expect it to miraculously happen on it's own. It won't. That's how I operate most of the time, though, unfortunately. I just sort of "wing it" in life and settle for good enough. Kinda nailing it. Sorta. Because anything above and beyond mediocre requires hard work and discipline, and in my selfish nature, I don't often want to do that.

And more often then not I don't want to strive towards improvement because I miss the value and the worth there. I miss MY value and worth. I don't see it. Because if I could truly grasp my potential or who the Lord has created me to be,  I would never stop running towards that goal. I'd be unstoppable. 

If I don't give life my all, if I settle for just winging it and hoping it all works out okay, I've bought a lie. I've succumbed to the false belief that ultimately I'm not important. That my time is of no value, that I have nothing to offer this world. My friends, there could be nothing farther from the truth, but the Enemy would love for you to buy into those lies. And stay there all year among the other 55%.

Let me be the first one to tell you this year:

You are worth it. You are more then a cheap clearance rack fabric with fraying edges--you are a beautiful, strong tapestry, meticulously and artfully woven together by the designer and Creator Himself. You are valuable, and what your unique, beautiful life has to offer this hurting world is important. YOU are important. You are worth fighting for.

So fight.

Make a detailed plan. Start small. Climbing a mountain and changing the world {or your life} are achieved the same way: one step at a time. One choice at a time. One day at a time. Let's fling our inadequacies behind us and look ahead. To possibility. Let's focus on the goal and keep pushing forward. Let's do this. And I'm starting to sound like a Home Depot commercial. Hey, if a voice-over by Josh Lucas would help a sister out, just insert that here and read on.

But the times when you can't do it, when you simply can't go on another step, remember that He can. And He will always give you the strength you need to keep going. Because what He wants more then anything is for you to look more like Him each day. As long as you're seeking Him, nothing in heaven or on earth can stand in you way. 

Yes, it will be hard. Hard work is by very definition HARD. You know, just incase that slipped by you unnoticed. But it will be worth it, because you're worth it, remember? And this world desperately needs people who care enough about something to work for it even when it sucks. Especially when it sucks. Because the world and the people in it are worth fighting for, too. 

Here's to the New Year and the New You, whatever that happens to be. I'm rooting for ya. Kindly return the favor? 


The unexamined life is not worth living. ~Socrates