Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Your Final Interview

Thank you Sharon Jaynes for today’s post:

My palms were slightly sweaty, yet calm. My posture was poised, yet not stiff. My dress was conservative, yet fashionable. I waited in a small room lined with bookshelves, diplomas, and awards. A mammoth wooden desk dwarfed my small chair positioned in the center of the interrogation room.

It was my first job interview. I wonder if you remember yours.

After completing Dental Hygiene School and passing both State and National Boards, I was ready to cross over the bridge from student to the employed. Even though Dr. Ford (the man who would decide my professional destiny) seemed somewhat intimidating, I felt fairly confident. My GPA was excellent and board scores commendable. I was ready for anything this guy had to throw at me.

Let the games begin, I mused. And so they did.

“What was the last book you read?” he asked.

“Reviewing for National Boards and The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis,” I replied.
“What did you eat for breakfast this morning?” he questioned.

“Coffee cake and milk,” I answered.

“What’s your least favorite household job?” he volleyed.

“Dusting,” I returned.

“What would you do if you bought a set of living room furniture and it went on sale the next day?” he shot.

“Return it and buy it back again at the sale price,” I returned fire.

This line of rapid fire questioning went on for forty-five minutes. For each question, I offered an honest reply. But all the while I was thinking, “What does this have to do with dentistry? Is this what I’ve studied so hard for?”

After a few more minutes of chitchat, Dr. Ford leaned forward, and with a sincere smile said, “Sharon, we would like for you to join our team.”

I was shocked! In my naiveté, I looked my prospective boss in the eye and asked, “Aren’t you even going to ask me what kind of grades I made in school?”

With that, Dr. Ford threw back his head and filled the room with thunderous laughter. With a twinkle in his eye he answered, “I imagine they were pretty good.”

I could feel the color start at the end of my toes and rise to the top of my head. Did I really say that out loud? How did that comment escape my practiced lips? I wanted to crawl under my chair and never come out.

Thus began my career as a dental hygienist. I learned a lot over the next few years, but perhaps the most important lesson took place in the interview. What I discovered was that Dr. Ford was much more interested in my character than my credentials—what was in my heart than what was in my head. Even though the questions seemed pointless to me, they spoke volumes to him about my life choices in common everyday situations.

And today, I’m thinking about my final interview…and your final interview…the one where the keeper of the Pearly Gates asks the important questions. See, God’s not going to ask about our accomplishments here on earth. He’s not interested in worldly credentials.

For that last interview He will ask you one question: “Do you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that I raised Him from the dead?”

That’s the answer that counts.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV).

What about you? What will your answer be?

 

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Prioritize THIS above Your List

Thank you Gwen Smith for today’s message:

Many of us check off neatly penciled boxes. Some draw lines through the tasks we’ve finished. A select few of us even add things to our lists after we’ve done something that wasn’t on our list … so we can mark it off! (I may or may not do this…) Some of us keep track in our heads, while others track progress of daily goals on paper, on a computer, or on an app.

At times I fluff my list. Instead of simply writing, “Do three loads of laundry,” I’ll create twelve list items to check off that read:

  • Wash whites
  • Dry whites
  • Fold/hang whites
  • Put away whites
  • Wash colors
  • Dry colors
  • Fold/hang colors
  • Put away colors
  • Wash darks
  • Dry darks
  • Fold/hang darks
  • Put away darks

I just love to check boxes. I think it’s because I sincerely want to be a productive person. I want to feel like I’m accomplishing something. It’s pretty much a daily struggle for me. As an optimist, I wake up anticipating that the seconds, minutes, and hours of each day will bend to cooperate with the demands of my list.

And …it never works out that simply or efficiently.

You struggle with this too, right? Most of us feel frustrated and at times, overwhelmed by the abyss of a rarely satisfied to-do list. It’s exhausting. We face constant demands that call to us and vie for our attention. We sift through the essentials and the fire drills, then we go to bed, wake up, and do it all again.

The good news is that we don’t need to face our lists alone. God offers to come along side of us daily to provide the strength, perspective, and wisdom we need. He helps us prioritize our days when we turn to Him in prayer. In the Bible, we read of a woman who approached each day with God-power and God-perspective:

“She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks” (Proverbs 31:17, NIV).

Though this is an impressive statement about her work ethic, and though it seems this fictional woman dominates her daily to-do list, it’s important that we consider the source of her strength: God. At the end of the chapter, Scripture shows us that she “…fears the Lord…” (Proverbs 31:30, NIV). This means that she lives in awe of God. That she worships and prioritizes Him above all else. That the source of her strength is rooted in her dependence on and reverence of God.

Ours should be, too.

Your list looks different from mine. We have unique goals, friendships, jobs, responsibilities, and families. Whether you are in the work force, unemployed, or retired … or a stay-at-home mom, a single mom, or an empty nester … a wife, a widow, single, or divorced, God can and will give you the strength and guidance you need when you prioritize and revere Him.

Consider the following verses:

“Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” (Galatians 3:3, NIV)

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV)

God will strengthen our arms for the tasks of today when we prioritize Him above the list.Let’s go to Him now and ask for direction, wisdom, renewal, and strength.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

The Treasures God Longs to Give a Mom

1c72e184b26b691d71737c8ad0adda93Thank you ALICIA BRUXVOORT for today’s words of encouragement….

“I don’t even know who I am anymore,” my friend moaned as we sat side-by-side on a park bench at the end of a long summer’s day. “It’s like these kids are stripping away the old me, and I just feel hollow inside.”

She jostled the baby on her lap and dabbed the tears streaking toward her chin. Then she turned her head to gaze at our crew in the sandbox.

“We’re gonna make the biggest hole ever!” exclaimed one of our preschoolers, as he plunged his chubby fist into the gritty grains. The other kids echoed his enthusiasm and dropped to their knees to dig.

My friend stared at the cavern in the sand, and my stomach churned with empathy. I pulled my friend into a one-armed hug and tried to formulate a comforting response. But my thoughts were quickly interrupted by a squeamish squeal.

“Eowww! There’s garbage in here!” My daughter waved a dirty drinking straw in the air and flung it over her shoulder.

Sure enough, the deeper the kids dug, the more debris they discovered. Their gritty fingers unearthed soggy brown leaves and grimy grey rocks, twisted twigs and long-forgotten gum wrappers.

And that’s when I realized that my experience of motherhood has been a bit like a dirty sandbox dig. Simply put, motherhood is an unspoken invitation for God to excavate our souls.

I never knew what lurked in the depths of me until I became a mother.

I didn’t realize the expanse of my own impatience; I wasn’t aware of the parameters of my pride. I didn’t recognize the breadth of my selfish ambition or the width of my weakness, until God asked me to lay down my life for the children He’d entrusted into my care.

Let’s face it … kids expose our hearts on a whole new level. And in His infinite wisdom, God our Maker uses the daily demands of motherhood to excavate the garbage in our souls.

Selfishness? It’s uprooted piece by painful piece each time we rise in the dark of night to feed a baby or comfort an anxious child. It’s unearthed every time we hold a bucket in front of a sick child, mop a muddy floor or tackle a tower of dirty laundry.

Perfectionism? It’s shaved sliver by sliver as we trade firm abs for stretch marks and spotless windows for smudgy handprints; as we stumble through grocery aisles with spit-up on our collars and wailing ones on our hips. It’s steadily shredded as we embrace our tweens’ goofy mannerisms and our toddlers’ peculiar fashion sense.

Pride? It’s uprooted every time we admit that we don’t have all the answers and we can’t do it all. It’s eradicated when we choose to listen rather than lecture, to compromise rather than control.

It’s humbling — this heart dig — and harrowing at times. It can leave a mama feeling insecure and confused, conflicted and strange.

But what if this soul excavation is more than just an identity crisis? What if it’s a holy hollowing?

Our key verse, Ezekiel 36:26, reminds us God is in the business of making things new — including our hearts. He’s committed to scooping out the impurities within us so we have room to house more of His Spirit, a greater portion of His love.

The process may be painful, but here’s the good news: When God empties us, He doesn’t leave us that way. He offers to fill our purged places with something new. God’s excavation is always intended for transformation.

The chasm in the sandbox resembled a moon crater, and the kids stood back to admire their work. Suddenly, eyes brightened. “Hey, that hole’s big enough to hold treasure now!” a little digger declared.

And in an instant, our scoopers turned into scavengers. They scattered across the park in a flurry of excitement and began to search for hidden treasure.

My friend shuffled the sleeping baby in her arms and flashed me a subtle smile. And as our kids filled that huge hole with playground pearls, I wondered if a mama’s soul excavation is just God’s merciful way of carving out more room in her heart for the treasures He longs to give her.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

There You Are!

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Thank you JILL SAVAGE for today’s words of encouragement…

I walked into the room, secretly hoping someone would come talk to me, welcome me to the group and make me feel comfortable. When that didn’t happen in the initial moments, I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my email so it appeared I was connected to someone. Anyone.

“Jill, look around and see.”

The words weren’t audible, but God’s voice resonated deep in my soul.

I moved my eyes from the phone to glance around the room. I questioned whether I actually belonged here. These women looked so put together.

Jill, every woman here has a backstory … just like you. Stop comparing your insides to their outsides. They may look put together on the outside, but I’m at work in each of their imperfect lives on the inside. Can you see them through My eyes?

Mustering every ounce of courage I could find, I left the safety of my seat and the feigned interest in my phone to walk across the room and start a conversation with another woman sitting alone. Initially it was awkward, but as we talked it felt good to actually be connecting with someone.

I once read there are two kinds of people in this world: those who walk into a room and say, “Here I am. Come talk to me. Come make me feel comfortable,” and those who walk into a room and say, “There you are! You look interesting to get to know. I’d like to learn more about you.”

Jesus was a master at being a “there you are” person. He saw people and reached out to them.

Zaccheaus. The woman at the well. Each of His disciples. Jesus sought them out. He pursued them. He really saw them.

If I’m honest, sometimes I don’t see well.

In social settings I’m often more focused on my own comfort than I am on making others feel comfortable.

As a parent, particularly when my kids were younger, I often parented “by herd.” I herded all five kids to church. To school. To activities. I saw them as a group instead of the unique individuals God made them to be.

Sometimes I don’t see my husband. My heart screams, “Here I am. Look at me,” and I miss opportunities to bless and encourage him, or really see how tired or discouraged he is.

Oh, to see others more like Jesus. To fully live out the message of today’s key verse, Philippians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

We aren’t perfect, but each and every day God is perfecting you and me to be more like Jesus. That includes moving from being a “here I am” person to being more of a “there you are” person as often as we can.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Relax, Reflect, Recharge

Where You Sit Is How You Stand

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The words that reduced me to tears came from a Dove Soap video produced in France:
“You have a big chest and short legs. Some women can make that work. But you … you’ve got no charm. You’re just fat and ordinary.”
“Every time you smile, those baby teeth you have make you look like a mouse.”
“Sit straight up so your belly doesn’t look so big.”

In the video, women had been asked to record a journal with all the thoughts they had about themselves throughout the day. Dove then turned the women’s thoughts into a dialogue that played at a street café within earshot of several other tables, including tables where the original women sat.

Strangers overhearing the conversation were appalled to hear how the women spoke to one another, and they interrupted the exchange.
“That’s so violent what you’re saying to her! You should stop. Your words are so unkind.”

When the original women realized those spoken words were the thoughts they’d written in their journals, they were mortified.
“It’s so horrifying. I hope my daughter never speaks to herself like that,” one woman observed.

I sat weeping at my kitchen table through the whole video, realizing it wasn’t just those women. I do it too. So many of us do. Over and over we devalue ourselves. Over and over we choose to believe lies over truth.
But we cannot walk into our full potential in Christ when we falsely believe who God created us to be falls woefully short.

How often and easily do we forget our value? How often do we believe lies of the world instead of words from our Creator about us? We set aside the truth that Jesus came and lived and died to prove to us we are of great value to the God of the heavens. Even Dove Soap sees our value. Our renowned Creator has given us inherent value. Yet, we call “ugly” what God calls a “masterpiece.” (Ephesians 2:10, NLT) And then we operate according to the lies and lose the capacity to follow Him.

How we minimize Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice when we insist that more must be done to redeem our messy lives. We make Satan’s job so simple. He plants one tiny lie somewhere along the path, and we take it all the way to our own self-destruction.
We all have them, those lies we believe. Then we adopt new ideas we think will cover them. But eventually the facade cracks, and the old lies remain … still distorting our beliefs about everything. Instead of moving forward in curiosity after God, we get stuck on lies about ourselves. It’s time we learn to uncover the lies, to name them, to call them out! Time to stop believing them and replace them with Christ’s truth.

I get it, though. We forget what God says about our identity in Him. We get wrapped up in things around us. Our families and jobs require so much of us we can lose ourselves — and turn into people we never thought we’d become. The harsh reality of life exploits and exposes us. So we turn inward and try to protect what little we think remains. We know there is more to life, but we don’t even have the energy to be curious about it. Then one day we wake up lost and don’t know how to get back to what or who we used to be.

You are not what you do. Your value isn’t decided by a number on the tag in the back of your jeans, your profession or by your roles: career woman, wife, mom, sister, friend, etc. Those are gifts you have, traits you exhibit. But they don’t define the core of your being. You aren’t the sum of your mistakes or the messed-up identity you once wore.
Your identity is simple. It’s clear. It’s beautiful. Your identity is purely who God says you are. Beautiful, redeemed, renamed, engraved on the hands of Christ, where you will never be forgotten.

I recently heard it said that “the things around us can’t define how we stand, when we’re actually seated with God” because:
“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-4, NIV).

Where we sit determines how we stand. So stand tall in your seats, sisters. Stand true in honor and dignity and kindness and grace. Wear the truth that was made for you. Toss off the raggedy clothes of mistaken identity and put on the “garments of salvation” and “robe of righteousness” found in Isaiah 61:10, that are yours in Christ Jesus.

Thank you  Logan Wolfman.