Bad at something new

I did a thing today. For me, it was a big thing. Not so much because of what I did, but the fact that I did it.

Can I let you in on a little secret about me? For pretty much my entire adult life, I’ve been a starter. Often a reluctant starter. And rarely a finisher when it comes to fitness goals. I’d get frustrated with the way the jeans fit or how the skirt looked and begrudgingly exercise for a few days, maybe a few weeks and on one or 2 occasions a few months. But then I’d quit. I guarantee you I could give you a valid reason.

But I’d always let a valid reason for “taking it easy ” turn into a bad excuse for quitting. Always. Then months would go by again before I started the ridiculous cycle over again. Until August.

This August, I decided that I was going to train for a 5k. I wanted to train for and complete a 5k before the cross country season was over. (Key to success 1: Commit to the end before you begin.) The 5k distance is what Payne has run all of high school in cross country. I wanted to do it before he was done at Tivy.

Within a short time of starting my training, our church announced a 5k at the camp our church owns here in town. It would be a tough course, but it would also be a smaller field of runners. And it fell on a rare Saturday that had nothing else on the calendar. I paid the registration. (Key to success 2: Commit in a way that motivates you to do the thing. I hate wasted money. If I paid, I’d show up.)

A couple of weeks into training, it started to get harder. I seriously had ZERO motivation to get out the door. Z E R O. I was sore all the time. I didn’t “see” results. I had so much self-doubt. Could I even really do this? But I went out. Because I was more determined to be healthy than I was to be lazy. Honestly, the motivation to go was rarely there when I’d take the first step out the door. (Key to success 3: Determination is a greater force than motivation. Motivation is fleeting. Determination is what you have to commit to.)

Throughout the training program I had so many days that I’d read what that day’s workout entailed and be overwhelmed with self-doubt. I literally had to be my own hype man to even start. And every time one of those days came around and I finished the workout, I’d cry during my cool down. Because I did it. I pushed through how hard it was, how much my legs hurt, how hot and humid or cold and windy it was. AND I FINISHED. (Key to success 4: BELIEVE that you are more capable than you can imagine. Quiet the self-doubt and DO THE THING.)

The last 2 weeks have been challenging training wise. We’ve traveled 3 weekends in a row. Texas is being Texas and we’ve had all 4 season cycle through multiple times. I haven’t been able to stay on my training schedule like I wanted. As today approached I felt less & less prepared. Less and less capable. That self-doubt made its big entrance to my mind and almost won.

Y’all, yesterday I was using not having proper cold weather running clothes as the reason I shouldn’t run today. Wouldn’t you know that even our small town has multiple retailers that sell such things? And even had them on clearance! There went that excuse. By last night, I was so consumed by self-doubt that I was certain I wouldn’t run today. Would I even be able to finish? What if I finished dead last? What if my time was really bad? What if this was really too hard for me? Then I saw this and cried.

I was brave enough to start. Was I brave enough to be bad at it, but still finish it? (Key to success 5: The process is where the learning happens. The commitment to the thing is what’s important. Being good at the new thing right away isn’t the goal. Sticking with it long enough to not be bad is the goal.) Reading that, coupled with Payne telling me he was meeting me out there to support me got me to bed with a little more courage. (Side note: Remember earlier when I said we had that rare Saturday with nothing on the schedule, so this was the perfect date? That unicorn disappeared quickly. Addison’s soccer team finished the regular season in 1st place. Her first playoff game? The exact same date & time as my 5k. I told Chad if he showed up for me, I’d walk right off that course and drive to her game. Because both of us needed to do the thing today. And she needed one of her people there for her.)

This morning that self-doubt was well rested enough to wake up with me and almost paralyze me. I hadn’t told but 6 people I was training for this. And 3 of those share a house with me. I knew how many times I’d started something, talked all about it then didn’t finish. I just needed this one to be me fighting me to get to the end. And a few runners who just get this crazy thing to really get my struggles & help me through the hard stuff. Even as I was driving to Mount Wesley this morning, I was tempted to turn around. A couple of quick texts to Kendra and Paige, and the last bit of encouragement I needed kept my car pointed the right direction. (Key to success 6: Find your people. For me, this time, it was the 3 in my house, one that was training for the same event, and 2 that are seasoned runners. Your people want to cheer you to success. And they can handle your self-doubt and whatever things threaten to derail you. And they can talk you off the ledge when you’re ready to quit.)

Even as I lined up this morning, I questioned myself. But that determination took over. And I did it. It was hard. It was stupid cold. It definitely wasn’t pretty. It was slower than I’d hoped it would be. But thanks to Spencer running alongside me, I finished. Thanks to Payne & Kendra finding us along the way to cheer, we finished. I didn’t just start, I finished.

And this one standing at the finish cheering me on? It was a full circle moment. I cried…of course I did. (I also made it to the second half of the soccer playoff game to watch Addi advance to next week’s championship game!)

Friends, let me tell you this. You can do the thing. Just start. Set goals. Make your determination big enough to compensate for lack of motivation. Believe in you. Be your own hype man. Because other people encouraging you can only go so far if you don’t believe what you’re hearing. Find your people. They might be different for every thing that you do. But find them. They’ll be just as determined for you as you are for yourself. Let go of doing it “right” or perfectly or even well while you’re learning and just do the thing. JUST DO THE THING.

If I can train for and compete in a 5k at not-29-years-old, you can do your thing. Y O U C A N D O T H E T H I N G!

We will NOT go home

I had to process and chew and pray before I could sit down to this computer. Then I had to pray some more. Because nothing can clearly reveal my need for Jesus more than a person who seeks to demean, marginalize or defame another human.

I think now I’ve settled in a place of strength and worth. Because those things don’t come from a man. But from my Father. So here’s your disclaimer. If you hold to the ancient, chauvinistic, unbiblical, non-Christlike notion that women belong at home and not in ministry, you should step off this train. Or maybe you should hold on tight.

Over the weekend a video begin to make its rounds on social media of a panel of men, dressed in fancy suits, pretending to be the voice of God. A man, to a round of applause and laughter said of a female leader of the faith, “Go Home. There is no case that can be made biblically for a woman preaching. Period. Paragraph. End of discussion.” His cohort proceeded to call Beth Moore, a woman of God, whose teaching has led thousands to the feet of Jesus, narcissistic. They went on to describe the compelling nature with which Beth teaches this way: “Just because you have the skill to sell jewelry on the the tv sales channel doesn’t mean you should be preaching.” I can’t say anything more here. Because I wouldn’t represent Jesus well. Moving on.

I won’t link the video. I won’t even say their names. These clowns (that’s my daughter’s affectionate word for anyone actin’ a fool right now, and if the shoe fits…) aren’t worth the airtime. But I will climb to the very tippy top of my soap box, pick up my megaphone and answer. LOUDLY.

To those who wish to silence women in the church. Have fun with that. Here’s the thing. The ministry, the voice we have? YOU DIDN’T GIVE IT TO US. YOU DIDN’T CALL US TO IT. AND YOU CANNOT SILENCE IT.

We were not called by you and our calling does not hinge on your permission or approval. Our Father, the creator of it all, called us. Our Father called us just as he called Esther, Deborah, Lydia, Mary Magdeline, Hagar and countless other women in the Bible. Or did you skip those parts because they didn’t fit your narrative? Do you forget that it was a woman who carried probably the greatest responsibility of all mankind in raising JESUS? We don’t know much about Joseph from Scripture, but throughout all of Jesus 33 years, we hear about Mary. She was present at home for him and in ministry with him. She wasn’t relegated to cooking & cleaning & staying silent.

Sisters, if you’re still with me, hear this. The God of all creation looked at this vast expanse and said, “This place needs one of her. This place needs the voice and experience and leading that only she can give.” And HE empowers you to step into your gifts and your calling. For Him. Maybe that’s behind the pulpit in a church or on a mission field in a foreign land or in front of children or youth weekly. Maybe that’s in a classroom or a boardroom or a store front or an office. Maybe that’s rallied around the living room table instilling the virtues of the Father in future world changers. That’s the thing though. No man can tell you what your calling is. Wherever it is that God is leading, HE IS THE ONE LEADING. Cling to him. Seek his voice. Turn off the noise. The voices that say you have no position to speak? THEY ARE NOISE. Resounding gongs and clanging symbols (1 Corinthians 13:1).

If any men are here, can I have a few seconds more? (To be clear, I’m not asking your permission. I’m asking you to stick it out just a bit longer. But if you’re here you probably already know that.) Men: your wives, sisters, mothers, daughters need your voice in this. It’s not enough that we women band together in strength and solidarity and say, “WE WILL NOT GO HOME”. We need the men around us to stand and say, “WE WELCOME YOU IN”. We need the men around us to speak louder than the voices who wish to silence us. We need the men around us to encourage us in our callings and giftings and leadings. We need the men around us to be wise enough to realize that empowering us in our ministry space makes you stronger as a man and as a spiritual leader.

If there is breath in you, God has a purpose for you. If God has a purpose for you, He also has a plan for you. If God has a plan for you, no man change that or take that away. And anyone who seeks to “put you in your place” because you’re a woman is not in tune with the heart of the Father.

If you are sitting in a church body that does anything less than encourage you to pursue all that Christ has for you, you are sitting in a church body that isn’t for Christ. A CHURCH THAT ISN’T FOR ALL PEOPLE FULLY LIVING OUT THEIR GOD ORDAINED PURPOSE IS NOT A CHURCH FOR CHRIST. Read that again.

So to the men in the fancy suits and the people who sat in their audience and applauded with approval, I leave you with this. You’ve awakened a lioness. A pack of us. Many of us have spoken in our circles. Many of us sent our support to those you tear down publicly. But now you’ve done just the opposite of what you’d hoped. You’ve empowered and emboldened us to step even more confidently into our ministry spaces and press in to the Father even more. Be ready. We’re coming. Not for you, but for the world that needs to know who Jesus really is. Lionesses who are known by name to the Father and who speak fearlessly with His permission, approval and full blessing. You can go home now. We’ll take it from here.

Catching Feelings

This week. What.a.week. Lots of things that made me laugh, smile, cry, cry again and again and again. But mostly made me think.

If you could hit rewind on my heart to 2 years ago, so many things would be different. My girl comfortably in her last years of elementary school. Still my little girl. My boy comfortably smack in the middle of high school (you know, just far enough from graduation that I could pretend it was in the distance). A handful of close friends who defined ride or die. It was a comfortable place. So comfortable that I decided to try something new and lead the high school girls from church.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I had convinced myself that I could be good for these girls. That my experiences, my past, my life could help them navigate years that are weird and sometimes hard and confusing and fun. But I never considered that they’d be good for me. I never considered that my heart needed them probably more than they needed me.

Over the last 2 years, the completely unexpected and unplanned happened. In the midst of losing one of those close ride or die friends, a few girls grabbed pieces of my heart. Over the last 2 years we’ve laughed together. We’ve cried together. We’ve questioned life together. We’ve prayed together. We’ve gone to concerts together. We’ve danced together. We’ve baked together. We’ve eaten A LOT of food together. Life. We’ve done life together.

This last week of telling these 3 girls goodbye has been hard on my heart. But so fulfilling, too. I know they have such big things ahead. I know the moving out and moving away is the next right thing. And I know they’ll be back. Family dinners, chocolate chip waffles & Jenga for days when breaks happen!

There’s also been something about these goodbyes that’s forced me to realize that a new year is starting. A year that makes my first born a SENIOR in high school. That makes me realize the next round of goodbyes will mean the biggest part of my heart yet will leave the dirty 8-30 to go out into the big old world. The tears my “baby” has shed the last 2 years during these goodbyes will be nothing like the ones I’ll dry next year. When she tells them all goodbye and also moves into the upside down world of middle school.

Today, I’ll let myself cry. Because good Lord these girls made me catch big feelings! Today I’ll let my heart be sad that goodbyes are a thing. Why can’t they all just stay!? And we’ve got some big lasts coming up in our house. Jesus, take the wheel because we all know I shouldn’t steer this ship!

But tomorrow? Look out, people. This will be a year of making everything big. And everything special. And seizing every moment. And saying YES a lot to the things that make my people smile.

Paige, Martie, Taylor – I love you BIG. Payne, Addi – let’s do life BIG this year! Friends, say a prayer for Chad. He has to handle this hot mess this year. Also, I’ll gladly accept all donations of whatever drink you deem appropriate for Senior year of high school.

Soft Answers

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1

It started just like every other Wednesday morning during the school year. I got up and got school-drop-off ready (mamas, you know what I mean), moved the 11-year-old through her morning and popped my head into the 16 year old’s room to make sure he was up. My girl & I headed out the door to drop her at school. Then I headed back home.

As I do every morning, after I pulled back into the garage, I launched my First5 devotional app. The car in the garage in the morning is the quietest place with the fewest distractions, so I sit there every morning and have my quiet time.

“If we control our reactions in the short-term, we don’t live with ‘reaction regret’ in the long-term”. Those were the first words I read.

It struck a chord. While I’ve worked hard, especially since becoming a parent, to control my reactions so that I don’t have ‘reaction regret’ later, sometimes I still react big. And over the top. And dramatic. So this devo spoke straight to that place that needs to calm down sometimes.

I had just closed the app and was about to open my car door when it happened. The text that every parent dreads once their kids start driving came in. “Yo I just rear ended a car. It’s not bad, I’m with the other driver right now…I went to stop and I didn’t hit the brakes soon enough…The police are coming to do a report.” (yes, he really started it with “yo” because 16)

I quickly told him I was on my way and backed out of the driveway. Y’all, I didn’t even ask him where he was. I just started driving. The 5 minutes it took for me to get to him felt like 30. He text a few more times before I got there apologizing. I pulled into the gas station where the two boys & police officer were parked and went straight to my boy. He told me it wasn’t bad and that no one was hurt, but I had to see it with my own eyes. He was right. No one hurt. The mama in me had to check over the other boy, too, once I found out he was also a high schooler. Very minor cosmetic damage. A quick and easy few minutes with the officer and other driver. Then it was just me & him.

He apologized again and I just told him it’s ok. I hugged him, prayed over him and off to school he went.

It wasn’t until I got home that the timing of the morning really hit me. See, I’ve tended to be a big reactor to little faults in his driving. Partly because riding with a 16-year-old is like taking your life in your own hands every time you get in the car and would cause even the staunchest advocate of prohibition to find a ridge runner for some moonshine. And partly because I REALLY want him to grasp how important safety is. (My first wreck was taking a guard rail off of I-10, bless my mom) But that Wednesday morning I didn’t. I controlled my reaction. I didn’t go on a rant about safe driving. I didn’t remind him that insurance is already almost a mortgage payment because he’s driving. I didn’t give him a lecture about not waiting until the last minute to leave the house in a rush. I just told him that it was ok. I just told him that no one was hurt and that’s all that mattered. I just told him that cars can be replaced, but he never could be. I gave soft answers.

I knew after getting home and replaying the morning that God placed that devotion in front of me that morning because my heart needed the soft words before my son needed them from me. The sweetness of the Father softening my heart because I need it every day, but my boy really needed it that day.

What if soft answers were our practice? Soft doesn’t mean not speaking truth. It doesn’t mean not correcting. It does mean pressing pause before we react. It does mean measuring our words and framing them in grace. It means controlling the reactions so that later we don’t regret the reactions and the words. Soft answers. Abundant grace. No regret.

Even if…It is well

Have you walked through a season where the only thing sustaining you is the head knowledge that God is there? Even though you can’t see Him or feel Him anywhere around you? You’ve stepped out in faith. You’ve done all the “right” things. You’ve prayed all the prayers. You’ve cried all the tears. You’ve read all of the verses. Yet you feel like God has led you to a wilderness place and left you there.

You beg for a change. For even just one sign that He’s still with you. And then it comes. Maybe not any change. Maybe not any movement from that wilderness place. But the reminder from Him that he’s there. For me, that usually comes in a song. A year ago this song met me in the wilderness. It didn’t move me, but it gave me the strength to push forward in that wilderness. And to say it is well…