Not Just Enduring, But Standing

This is a post from the archives that I needed to be reminded of again. Hope it blesses you, too.

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I can be a pretty weak-willed woman. If I set my mind to something, I can visualize myself doing it with success — saying no to things I shouldn’t eat; refusing to say the thing that’s rising in my throat; running all the miles in my training program. But typically something happens between the vision and the action that derails me. It erupts out of nowhere like a volcanic chocolate lava cake. It dances on my tongue like Tic-Tacs. It makes running 6 miles feel like I’m trudging through a swamp.

It’s called temptation.

The initial resistance to temptation is strong. After all, I’ve decided what it is I’m going to accomplish, therefore my will is able to say no. But after any length of time, the doubt, desire and destruction arise and it’s just. so. hard.

I’ve always tried to remember the verse in 1 Corinthians as a sword to wield during these times. You know the one,

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (10:13)

I say it, I think it, I meditate on it…but again, there’s a disconnect between my head and my actions.

Please don’t think I’m a heretic; I believe every scripture is God-inspired and God-breathed. But being the writer-creative-type that I am, I think the disconnect for me is in the literal wording of this verse. In my mind, it sounds passive. The phrase, “so that you can endure it” doesn’t illustrate to me the armor-of-God bearing, authority-taking power of Christ that He died to give us.

So naturally when I’m faced with a plate of brownies or the impulse to talk sharply to my kids, the idea of simply enduring the temptation or bearing the temptation doesn’t make me feel victorious. And it doesn’t make me want to resist it, if I have to be honest. And even if I have resisted, I still feel weak afterwards.

  • Jesus said He gives us authority to trample on snakes and scorpions, and to overcome all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19).
  • He gave the disciples the authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:15) and cure diseases (Luke 9:1)
  • He said that whoever believes in Him will do the works He has been doing and will do even greater things than those (John 14:12).

So we can overcome the enemy, trample on snakes and do greater things than Jesus…yet simply endure temptation and try to bear it?

I’m sorry, but I just don’t think so.

This verse has come up again and again recently, and I just so happened to come across a translation that changed everything for me. It’s from the New International Reader’s Version:

“You are not tempted in the same way all other human beings are. God is faithful. He will not let you be tempted any more than you can take. But when you are tempted, God will give you a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Now that, my friends, is something I can latch on to.

I know the pure nature of temptation is that it’s hard; I’m not try to figure out a loophole to not being tempted, or to minimize how hard it is to withstand temptation. Believe me, I get how hard it is. A plate of my Aunt’s famous brownies later, I still get it.

But what I am saying is that I need some hope when it comes to temptation. That even though it took everything in me to resist, I wasn’t left a whimpering heap twitching on the floor afterwards. I want to resist it, feel the spiritual and physical benefits of resisting, and feel like Christ and I just did something together that was pretty spectacular.

That it was something I only could have done with His help and through His strength.

I want to do a dance and then bump some holy fists afterwards.

So when I read the version that says God will give a way out so that I can stand up under it…well, it fuels my desire to kick temptation in the backside. It makes me want to fight, not stand there and take the hits and proclaim afterwards, “At least I didn’t die!”

It paints a picture in my mind that shows me on my feet with my shoes of readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, my sword out and swinging and my belt of truth secure around my waist reminding me that “you, Lord are a shield around me, you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.” (Psalm 3:3)

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Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about.

What about you? What helps you when you’re faced with temptation? 

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Week 5: GIFTS (Foreign Languages)

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Here we are, the final installment of the Foreign Languages series. I do hope this has helped you define your relationships better, and helped equip you to speak love in the way that your loved one — spouse, friend, parent, sibling — will hear and receive. (In case you’ve missed the previous five weeks, you can read them all here.)

So gifts.

As best I can tell, the only person close to me that speaks love through gifts is my daughter. (And if I’ve misread you, GOOD HEAVENS I’M SORRY.) While it comes as no surprise that a child has a love language of giving and receiving gifts, I think now that she’s nine, we’ve narrowed hers down to gifts first, and words of affirmation second.

Lord, help me. Because I suck at speaking both.

I remember the first inklings that helped me figure out this was her: I’d bring her home a 99-cent Silly Putty from the grocery store and she treated it like gold. She refuses to ever throw away any toy because of who gave it to her and for what occasion. She wants to buy things for other people all the time and gets immense joy out of picking out gifts. Small things, like flowers picked from the meadow or a handmade card make her day — and make mine, too, because I get them when I’ve filled her little love tank.

Giving and receiving gifts is something many people enjoy, for sure. But for the person whose primary love language is gifts, it goes beyond the “Aw, thank you, I love it” and turns into “You actually thought about me and what I’d like and took time to get this JUST. FOR. ME. Yippeeeeeee!”

See the difference?

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a gifted one? Here are two ways to tell (really, this is just about the easiest love language to discern):

  1. They get you gifts. Wow. So insightful  right? But gift speakers love to give gifts as much as receive them. Maybe they pick up a magazine for you regularly while they’re at the store. Or they remember that a few months ago you admired a particular candle and buy it for you. In other words, they give you a tangible representation of their love for you. Often.
  2. Their face lights up when you get something for them. Maybe it’s 99-cent Silly Putty. Maybe it’s a bag of their favorite candy or a bunch of flowers for no reason. Regardless of what it is, their faces light up and  you can visibly see their joy in receiving the gift. It’s not just an appreciation they show on their faces — it’s a look of feeling treasured. Big difference.

KEY PHRASES

Giving gifts is all about showing you are thinking about the other person thoroughly. Here are some ways to speak gifts to your loved one:

  1. Forget about holidays and birthdays. These are standard gift-giving times and absolutely do not count. (Unless you’ve put a ton of time in selecting the perfect gift that will knock their socks off. Like a diamond Tiffany band. Or whatever.) Instead, set aside a small amount of money that can go toward picking up little gifts throughout the year.
  2. Consider gifts that keep on giving. If gifts is really hard for you to speak, consider something that they’ll continue receiving after you purchase it once — a magazine subscription, a something-0f-the-month club. Auto schedule something they enjoy — like a Stitch Fix or Birch Box — something that comes monthly and is full of fun little surprises they’ll enjoy. And each time they receive the magazine or box or book, they’ll remember your thoughtfulness and feel incredibly loved.

CLOSED ROADS

It would really easy to think that a gift person would be materialistic, high-maintenance or high-budget. But that is simply not the case at all. The cost of the gift has nothing to do with the love attached to it — whether they are giving or receiving. It’s purely the thought of it. A hand-picked card from the store, a hydrangea from the yard, or something you made yourself all have as much an impact as a diamond Tiffany band. Or whatever.

Also, while you should not focus all your gift-giving on holidays and birthdays, it is important to stress to NOT forget about them altogether!! Just as a harsh word is toxic to a words of affirmation person, a belated or missed anniversary gift, or a thoughtless one is disastrous to your gift person. Because remember, for them, gifts means you were carefully thinking about them — to miss an important occasion means you weren’t thinking at all.

CHALLENGE

This week, find one small gift you can get for your loved one, and leave it for them either in their car, at their desk at work, or another unexpected place for them to find. Also, start a gift idea list in a notebook or in Evernote! This is the best thing to do with a gifts person. Each time you hear them mention something they like — from a commercial, a magazine, a store — write it down. When you’re ready to give a gift, you can just choose from the list based on what fits your budget.

What about you? Do you speak gifts, or does your spouse? What types of gift-giving have meant the most to you or them?

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The Fears of After (FMF #40)

I link up with Lisa-Jo on Fridays for a writing flash mob…throwing caution to the wind and gathering to share what a few minutes of free writing can buy. 

Today’s topic: AFTER

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GO.

The squabbles in the back seat reached a crescendo of “let me do it!” and “no, let me do it!” and I had to remind my 9 year-old that her 3 year-old little brother can, in fact, do it.

She let go and fell into a slump with her head on her hands. I wanted to ignore it — I really, really wanted to — but felt that all-too-familiar gentle nudge that I shouldn’t. So I pulled over to the side of the mountainous road and asked if she was okay.

With huge tears in her eyes she lifted her head exclaimed, “I don’t want Paxton to grow up! I want him to stay little forever!”

Ah. 

I rubbed her knee and looked deep into her eyes. “Oh honey, I know you do. It’s exactly how I feel every day about both of you. But you know what? He’s still going to love you more than anything, even after he can do things for himself.”

“How do you know?”

“Because you do a lot of things for yourself without my help, but you still love me, right?”

She nodded and dried her tears and joined in on what her baby brother was doing.

I know what she was thinking — that after he grows up he won’t want to sit with her at the computer playing games anymore. That he won’t hold her hand when they ride the carousel. That he won’t want her to sleep on the top bunk on the weekends. That he won’t choose her over anyone else to play with.

That she won’t confide in me anymore and will turn to a friend instead. That the day is coming where she won’t choose me to put her to bed, regardless of the arguments we had that day. That she won’t hold my hand while we walk around Target, or want to do American Girl Mommy and Me games together.

Ah.

I know those fears of after. And they make me want to fall into a slump with my head on my hands, too. But like my girl, I have to embrace the changes and choose to see love even when I feel unwanted.

Because the love never goes away, it simply grows up.

STOP.

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When You Pursue Your Dreams and Fail

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We tend to pursue our dreams in secret, don’t we?

We tip-toe toward them in our fuzzy slippers and robes during the darkest hours, daring not to make a sound as if we don’t want to wake up the dream slayers — the fears and doubts and uncertainties that are deaf but know we’re coming anyway.

We whisper our dreams softly, don’t we?

It’s almost impossible to hear them ourselves and it’s easy to forget we ever uttered them at all. Instead of living them out loud, we tuck them into our books at night and they sit on our nightstand collecting dust until it’s time to read again, then fall asleep again, then dream again.

Why are we so quiet about having dreams, or speaking dreams or pursuing dreams? Can I share something with you?

I’m tired of whispering my dreams.

Not many people know this, but in the past nine months I’ve had an amazing publisher interested in my book — a book that has been a dream of mine for six years. It passed Acquisitions Committee and then went to Publications Board twice. After the second time, they finally settled on a no.

I’ve been sitting with that no for a couple of weeks now, and honestly I’m okay with the answer. But what I’m not okay with is how I’ve handled the process of this dream.

Because I never told more than a handful of people what was happening during the entire nine months. Somewhere along the way in my life, I’ve believed that in order to have a dream you have to keep it quiet until it comes to pass. Like there’s some superstitious jinx on sharing it that will prevent it from becoming a reality.

But you know what the consequence is for pursuing dreams so fearfully and quietly? We lose dreamers. (tweet) We stop teaching others that regardless of the outcome, it’s healthy to dream. And most importantly, we lose the opportunity to show others how to trust Jesus, even when we pursue our dreams and “fail.”

From the world’s point of view, I have failed in reaching my dream. By not getting a book deal, I can easily become convinced that dream has died and that I need to pursue a more “realistic” dream.

But can I tell you something?

I think I actually succeeded. Because every other time in my life when I’ve been faced with rejection, I’ve allowed it to break me. I’ve taken it personally and let it dictate who I am and what I’m worth. And you know what? This was the first time in my life I didn’t do that.

Can I tell you something else?

Over the past nine months, I wasn’t sure if I wanted God’s will for my life more than I wanted this book. I quite honestly had a very, very hard time separating the two, and it became my constant prayer that the book wasn’t becoming an idol. I wasn’t sure where my heart truly stood on the matter.

And you know what else?

While I’m still saddened and disappointed by this loss, my peace and trust in my Lord has not wavered. Even for a second. I know and trust — even when I cannot see — that He has a plan for me and my life. And I know now, by that nonsensical yet supernatural peace, that I do want His will more than a book.

And my most favorite thing of all?

Through this my daughter has gotten to see that we don’t always succeed in everything we set out to do. That sometimes we can reach out and touch our dreams for a split second, but they can still slip out of our fingers in an instant — but that doesn’t stop our dreaming. It just makes us press in and work harder and believe God more. I am proud that she got to see me cry and mourn, but that I can put my hope in Jesus — the Dream Maker — and not just the dream itself.

Because “we are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan” (Romans 8:28, The Voice, emphasis mine).

So in the end, I think I won.

Why would I stay silent about that kind of success?

I think from now on I’m going to live my dreams out loud instead of tip-toeing toward them in my fuzzy slippers and robe. Not because I’m seeking attention or accolades for myself, but because I don’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spur another on in victory. And maybe if we all saw each other courageously pursuing dreams — regardless of the outcome — we’d find the courage to pursue more of ours, too.

So here’s to beating the drum and marching loudly in the dream parade — eyes on the Conductor as He orchestrates everything to work toward beautiful and good things.

Note: This is not a post where I’m searching for affirmation or encouragement or assurances that my book will get published some day. Just wanted to encourage you, my friends, to look toward the sun and find your dreams and pursue them loudly.

What about you? Do you have any dreams you want to live out loud? Please share — let’s encourage each other to wildly dream and love the Dream Giver.

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Week 4: Acts of Service (Foreign Languages)

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I have a friend whose love language used to be physical touch. And then she had three kids.

One day, she threatened her husband within an inch of his life if he tried to show love by grabbing her hand or pulling her into a hug.

Now, he shows her he loves her by cleaning up the kitchen or vacuuming the living room.

And she feels loved, and their marriage is thriving.

Acts of service is alive and well, serving marriages and relationships of all kinds. You might be thinking that you don’t speak acts of service, or anyone you know…but you might be wrong.

  • Wives show love by ironing perfect creases into their husband’s shirts joyfully
  • Husbands show love by going to the grocery store and unloading and putting away all the groceries
  • Friends show love by creating the perfect birthday party complete with their loved one’s favorite foods — made from scratch, of course
  • Dads show sons love by offering to come help build retaining walls and do other projects around the house
  • Moms show daughters love by showing up when you’ve had a hard week to clean up around the house, fix meals and drive kids to school

Anything sound familiar and starting to ring some bells?

Acts of service is a hands-on, tangible way to show how much you love someone. And I haven’t read this or done any scientific documentation on this theory, but in my personal experience, those that speak acts of service have a harder time verbalizing their feelings. So when they’re not sure what to say, they at least know what to do — and when they do, they do better than anyone else, hands down.

THE MAP

How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is acts of service? Here are a few ways to tell:

  1. They hint about tasks being completed. Your wife might mention, again, how the grass is overgrown. Or your husband might mention the dust collecting in the bedroom or under the bed. These hints might come in the form of a joke, or even a downright nag. Pay attention.
  2. Their face lights up when you say, “can I do that for you?” This is easy to overlook, because you might be spending the whole time mentally thinking, “please say no…please say no.” But if you think your loved one speaks acts of service, keep your eyes and ears open on purpose when you ask if you can do something for them. Their non-verbal reaction might tell you everything you need to know.
  3. They do little things that aren’t “theirs” to do. Your wife might consistently do “your” chores — maybe taking out the garbage, or changing the oil in the car (do people do that on their own anymore?). When your friend comes over, she might roll up her sleeves and just show up in the kitchen and start cleaning while you’re finishing getting dinner ready, or insist she doesn’t leave your house without helping clean up. Your husband might just walk into the laundry room and start folding laundry or getting another load going.

KEY PHRASES

Acts of service is all about selflessness. Here are some easy ways to speak acts of service to your loved one:

  1. Seek opportunities. Start small and do the unexpected random act of service. Grab your mans briefcase and coat when he gets in the door and put them away for him. Gather up all his shoes peppering the bedroom floor and put them all back in the closet. Show up at your friend’s house when you know she’s having a hard day with a dessert you made from Pinterest. Look for small ways to serve.
  2. Be appreciative. Pay attention. When you see your husband jumping in and putting away the kids clothes or cleaning up after dinner, say thank you. Or give her a quick squeeze when you see she’s fixed the buttons on your sport coat. When your loved one speaks service, they are pouring themselves out to serve you — it leaves them feeling vulnerable. Be appreciative.
  3. Respect their rules and boundaries. If your wife has rules about making sure your clothes are right-side-out before putting them in the hamper, then do it. When small boundaries or rules are violated, your loved one will feel taken advantage of, and completely unappreciated. After all, she’s going through the effort to actually wash, fold and put away all the clothes. The least you can do is keep your shirt from being inside-out when she’s doing it.

CLOSED ROADS

If service isn’t your thing, you are going to have to seriously stretch yourself to start speaking this. Maybe you grew up in a home where your mom literally did everything — you didn’t see this practiced at all. There’s no excuses though. If your spouse speaks service, you have to start speaking it, too.

It doesn’t matter how long a day you had, how tired you are, how mentally spent you feel. When you get home, you’re going to have to appreciate that your spouse had a long day too…so roll up your sleeves and do something.

Also…and this is ONLY from my personal experienceyour loved one who speaks service might be a little particular about how things are done. Some might call them control freaks, but I’m not going to. They just spend their time speaking DO, and so they know exactly how they like things DONE. Don’t fight it or argue it or tell them to let it go — simply remember number 3 above and respect their rules and boundaries. And reserve the commentary for your prayer time.

CHALLENGE

This week, when you see your spouse frantically running around trying to do it all, gently walk up and ask, “can I do that for you?” Even if they say no (because they might like it done their way and don’t trust you’ll do that), sometimes the asking speaks volumes.

The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.

What about you? Do you speak acts of service, or does your spouse? What has and hasn’t worked for you?

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