Thursday, January 9, 2014

Hands Open Wide & Books That Make Us Different

"Just let it go."

She really hurt my feelings! - Just let it go.

He said I was getting chubby. -Just let it go.

I'm tired of being a doormat for people to walk on. - Just let it go.

That was really bad! - Just let it go.

I once believed that it was my job to bring justice to each and every life situation. I had a need to make everything and everyone be nice and fair. When I was told to "Just let it go", I instead chose to pick it up, and hang onto it....forever! It must be why God put me on this planet.

As I walked, arms loaded down with all the injustices, I often felt that the load was more than I could bear. I would hear the preachers say, "God will never give you more than you can bear." Wow! God must think I'm tough! (I said that to myself)
Carrying and maintaining the load was a big job, but somebody had to do it!

I listened to sermons about laying it all on the altar, or leaving it at the foot of the Old Rugged Cross. I drug the load to the altar and the cross, over and over. I surrendered my burden, and then as I got ready to stand up to leave, I would grab the load and set out on the next leg of my journey. Who would take care of  it if I walked away? What would I do with the pain caused this mess to begin with?

Then one day -

I heard a lady say, "You cannot live your life with open hands, if your arms are full."

Open hands to accept God's goodness.
Open hands to hold another hand.
Open hands to wipe tears.
Open hands to help.
Open hands to embrace life.
Open hands to lift in praise!

I sat there speechless. That woman had just hit the nail on the head!

Then came the deal-breaker!
This is how it played out in my head:
In order to live life with open hands, I had to lay down the load, and laying down the load meant surrendering every single thing. Surrendering every single thing meant letting it all go, and letting it all go, meant I had to let someone else take care of it. I knew that someone else was God. If I let God have it, He would ask me to forgive, and saying "I forgive you", must mean that it is okay that you hurt me, and that is not okay. Never has been, and never will be! (Imagine me picking that pile of stuff up, and walking away.)

Then I heard the lady say toward the end of her talk, "If you are unwilling to forgive, you are the one who is bound."

I said (to myself), "Well, that makes a lot of sense, because I've been carrying this unforgiven pile around for a long time, and I would not use "freedom" to describe my position in life. I don't want to live in chains, I want to live free, but what about all the people who have hurt me?"
God said (in my ear), "This isn't about them. It is about you living as I intended you to live- redeemed and free! Just let it all go, and walk away."

Redeemed and free-
Free to be myself.
Free to be happy when God laid good gifts in my hands.
Free to run.
Free to worship.
Free to hold.
Free to write down the gifts-counting to one thousand.
Free to feel the pain of injustice, and talk to The One who will right wrongs.
Free to build boundaries to keep the bad guys from hurting me.
Free to build boundaries that protect my heart.
Free to build boundaries that build healthy relationships.
Free to lay it all down, and let it go- knowing that God knows how to take care of it. Heavy loads are not a big deal to Him, because He is big!

Free? Redeemed? Yep, sign me up for all of that!!

He did. Yet, I still struggled often with the old voices that said, "If I forgive you, I am saying that it is not big deal that you hurt me."
I learned over time that was the enemy lying. I knew God's truth, and I knew that forgiveness was not releasing someone from the consequences of their sin, it was unlocking the chains that had me bound to their wrong-doing.

Then one day - (just about one week ago)

I got an email, stating that I was chosen to join a team who would be launching Sheila Walsh's new book, "The Storm Inside".

My assignment as a Launch Team Member, is to read the book (before it's released to the world); talk about it on Facebook and Twitter, and also blog about it (I'm doing that right now).

This morning I am reading chapter three: "Navigating Treacherous Waters - from Unforgiveness to Freedom."

As turned to page fifty-one, I see this:

"Forgiveness is not about removing someone else’s liability, but about setting our own hearts free. Did you hear that? It’s not about the other person’s sin; it’s about your freedom." (Sheila Walsh)

Do you see where God was taking me all this time? I do.

Instead of typing out a lengthy exhortation about the truth of that quote, I feel inclined to just let it settle in my heart.
I am hoping as you finish reading this blog, you will hear God talking in your ear too.

The Storm Inside" will be available to purchase on February 11, 2014. #storminside

Thursday, November 7, 2013

I'm Not Cool

It started with this:

"There is no way I could EVER drive a mini-van! I am not THAT mom! I'm WAY too cool for that!"

I heard the pretty thirty-something say those words this week, with a dramatic roll of her eyes, and I remembered being right there. I have been her. Often.

I remember the pressure to measure up and be cool. I remember the constant struggle to have it all, do it all, and be all.
I remember when it was more important my children matched perfectly on a stressful Sunday morning, than it was that we all walked out the door with hearts prepared to worship our King. I remember envying those who drove the cool cars, had the cool phones, and the cool clothes.
I remember trying to be the perfect Mom. I wore myself out trying to potty train a six-month-old, because my friend did. I played symphonies to my babies in-utero, so they would someday themselves compose a symphony. I prayed that the pediatric police wouldn't stop by my house to find that I had indeed laid my sleeping baby ON HER TUMMY! I laboriously wrote notes for lunch boxes, so my children would have emotionally healthy childhoods. I scrubbed. I cleaned. I organized, and scrubbed some more. I tried to do it all right, and cool, and perfect, because if I did, others might applaud.

Oh, how well I remember trying...the never ending trying.
I lived as one who was convinced that my value was wrapped around who I was, what I could do, or how well I could do it. I drug around the ball and chain of perfectionism, believing it would make everything perfect.

It did not.

It only made me miserable, and miserable to be around.

(One day, I might write a book about that.)

But in the meantime...
Sometimes out of left corner, those pressures and insecurities will still come knocking. So upon hearing that driving a mini-van does not make one cool, I began a dialogue with myself that went like this:

"Sheila, you drive a mini-van (Yes, I do. An old one.). You are that Mom! (Yes, I am, but I can still be cool, right?) You are not cool! (I'm not cool!)

Then I waited. I waited for an all too familiar feeling of inadequacy to creep in.

It didn't.

Did you catch that? I absolutely did not care that I drive a mini-van, and that someone thinks that I am un-cool. (But, my mini-van is paid for!)

So then I said this to myself. Actually, I believe God whispered it to me.

"Sheila, rejoice! Your value is not tied up in what you drive."

Many years ago, I gathered my children around me for a bedtime story, and read them a new book we had been given for Christmas. It was titled "You Are Special" (Max Lucado).

I read aloud, and as I turned the pages, the tears flowed and dripped off my chin.

In Wemmickville the wooden residents walk around with two boxes. One box is full of gray dots, and one box is full of gold stars. All day they go about sticking dots or stars on each other. If one can throw a stick really far, he gets gold stars. If another has a big nose, he gets a gray dot. If one has short arms and frizzy hair, she gets covered in gray dots, but if one can sing beautifully, she will get showered in gold stars!
One little guy "Punchinello, never gets any gold stars, only gray dots because he isn't talented or handsome. He watches the wooden people scurry around to give out stars and dots, and says, "It's not right." He climbs the hill to talk to His maker, Eli the Woodcarver.

Eli scoops down and picks Punchinello up, to set him on the bench. He lovingly looks at all the gray dots covering his wooden creation. Punchinello pours his heart out to Eli, and Eli starts telling him that it doesn't matter what others think about him, but that he is special just they way he is. He tells Punchinello that if he will stop caring what the others think the stickers won't stick. "The stickers only stick if they matter to you. The more you trust my love, the less you care about their stickers."

Oh, I've been so guilty of sticking dots and stars on others. Interestingly, as I've labeled others, I've looked to find myself covered in stickers, some are my own doing.

There was a day, that when being told I was a completely un-cool mini-van driver, I would have plastered myself in gray dots!

This business of sticker-sticking drains the life from all of humanity. As we stick, we wound. As we compare, we cut deep. As we impale, we lose the ability to empower. We can be so unkind.

With all the labels I've given and received, God in His merciful compassion, has reminded me that only when I look at His creatures through His eyes, will I be able to offer hope, and speak words of life. When I see myself as Jesus does, I won't need to measure up, because He is enough.

I'm thinking that I need to get behind the wheel of my mini-van, and go look for someone covered in gray dots or gold stars. She may be the coolest cat on the block, who simply needs to hear words that breathe life into her soul.

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." -Psalm 73:26

*You Are Special by Max Lucado, Copyright 1997, Crossway Books

Friday, June 28, 2013

Slight Inperfection

I meander through the aisles of a favorite thrift shop, just looking at all the once loved or used items that crowd each shelf. I'm watching for a pretty tea cup, or Collector's Edition of a Holly Hobbie plate. I have a rule that the item has to be under $3.00, or I walk away. Not often easy.

I stop at the end of an aisle, when I spot two china cups. One is a sunshiny yellow, and the other, is a heart-fluttering robin egg blue. I turn them over and notice they are in my price-range, and I sigh, happily.

I'll never know if the original owner of these cups, chose the china patterns before her marriage, or maybe they were a wedding gift, from her Mother and Father. Perhaps she saved for years, and bought them to add to her collection of dishes to use when special people came to dine, or when it was a fancy occasion....I'll never know.
Did she wrap and pack them gently, so she could move across the nation from Kansas or Oklahoma, as my Great Grandmother's did?

What I do know is that they have been well used. I can see the wear and tear on these wares, and that is what I am most attracted to-their story. It took me a few years to realize that while I am captivated by the colors; the flowers; the dainty feel and look of a tea cup, I'm most drawn to the awareness that someone once used and enjoyed these gorgeous dishes, and there is a hidden story in each one.
I'm not often very attracted to a brand-new cup. Silly, I know.

I carefully placed these cups in my cart, next to the canning jars I found for a bargain, and make my way to the check-out.

The cashier lifts the saucer to the blue cup and says, "Ma'am, are you aware this one is chipped? Do you really want it?"
I reply with "Yes" to both questions, and he continues to scan items.
He then lifts the yellow cup and saucer and says, "This set is perfect, and beautiful!"

I feel my heart grab, and I hear the lesson....immediately!

We all come in different shapes and sizes. We all come in different colors. We all come from different places, such as these cups; one being from England, the other from Ohio.

We may be asked to come to the big table for fancy occasions, or maybe a small table for a intimate tea party.

Most of us have chips in our pottery, scrapes in our paint, or cracks in our handles.

Some of us are still very useful, and some having been useful for years, are too fragile now to be called upon to serve, and are asked to sit with their loveliness, in a china cupboard.

We are all beautiful.
We are all imperfect.

Perfection isn't an indicator of Beauty. Imperfection does not deem us useless.
It means we have lived and loved well.

We will find beauty, in each other's scrapes, cracks, and chips...our histories of imperfection, if we are willing to show grace, there.

I can look past the worn-out areas in you, and see you for who you really are.
Maybe you are sturdy, dependable, or maybe you shine in your elegance. You may be flowery and colorful, or plain and simple. You might even come with curves around your broken edges.

It's your wear and tear that indicates how loved you are, and how often you have served as you were created to do... that's true beauty.

Where some may look and only see cracks and slight imperfections, God looks through eyes of redemption and says, "I have a purpose for this beautiful one!"

"He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
Ecclesiastes 3:11

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Authentic Mother

As a child I watched her bend her knees and weep into the old chair, time after time, morning upon morning. She usually did it early, before we crawled out of our beds. But I could still hear her. There were always tears, and I worried. I didn't like to hear her cry.
Countless mornings turned into years; her weeping into that chair...pouring out the contents of her heart to The One who stores our tears in bottles. His daily record-keeping of what caused those tears to run down to begin with...those tears from a not-so-perfect woman, who had learned through life, and lessons, and pain, how to daily surrender .

I don't remember how old I was, when I realized how consistently she prayed for me.

I do remember how old I was when I became a mother.

Being a mom has been amazing and facinating, and absolutely the most grueling experience of my life. I like to believe that I've always grasped the enormity of this relationship with the three who are mine, but I've also devoted many years to trying to become THE PERFECT MOTHER, falling flat on my face...yet into His grace.

For too long I played the games of comparison, trying to measure up to that perfect Proverb's Woman, and to the other moms on the block, or in the pews. I gathered what I saw, made judgement about what I didn't see....and swore to be better...much better!

I dressed the children in matching things; curled hair around my finger every Sunday, and prompted them to smile...always those looking on, would remark at the finery. Scolding them if their actions didn't match the perfect little life I had to have, but failing miserably to manufacture.

Then came the revelation of my futile attempts. The fall was painful, the wounds deep. My heart broken at who I had become. Then the friend who gently said, "Just be authentic...that's what they need."


I began to examine that word and found out it's meaning:

"Not false or copied; genuine: having the origin supported by unquestionable evidence."
I wept at those words.

Had I died at that moment, what would my children believe my origin to be? What would the unquestionable evidence say about who I was, but more importantly Who I was not living for?

I had been worshipping at the feet of perfectionism...and not at the foot of the cross!

With heart-pounding repentance, I asked for a second chance, and I found redemption.

I do remember how old I was, when I realized that all of those early morning prayers that had been prayed for me, where coming from a flawed woman, who had also become a woman, redeemed.

Her unquestionable evidence had supported her Origin. In her brokeness, at the foot of the Cross, she was living out authentic...real.

The 1000 Moms Project

Thursday, October 13, 2011

It's In the Living

The music of life is wafting through my mind and heart, as I enjoy a rare few hours this morning...not needing to be here or there; or dashing out the door to again to meet the demands that seem to constantly pull.
Just this day, as I drove away from the bus stop, blowing kisses to the sweet eleven year old nose pressed against the bus window, I had such a deep it is: "!"
The strains of my life often sound like a chaotic mess, until I remember as Patsy Clairmont said last weekend, "Life is messy!"
The dawning of that deep truth, rings loud and resounding on my heart today. Yes, life is messy, but I've been called to live this day, chosen for this generation...yet never alone. My dependence is on the One leading me as I go in, and through, and
Not all is messy. Sometimes I do have a really organized hour or two....Ha! I have learned to keep things simple, and forgive much, mostly myself.
Walking, I see the signs of life all around. Some of them are in the messy, some are organized...yet all are the tellings of life fully lived in The Taylor Home.
When I think about what is true, it's not in the perfectly wrapped life that I find joy. I find joy in watching my first girl struggle with the big things in life, and then decide she will fully commit to serving her Father God in a bold way! I don't find trust in never having to face hard things. I discover He Who is trustworthy when life gets too hard to stand! I find love and forgiveness in the embrace of my man, when I've been anything but lovely. I find hope in His Word, that He who began a good work in me, will see me all the way to completion!
If you would like, you can follow along with me, as I take a little walk around. I'm looking closely for everything. In no particular order, here is what I discovered:

 Life always involves changes...and yes, death. But come Spring, hope blooms new!

The growth of life, showing up in the planting, the tending...the harvest.

Life can be found in the mundane tasks and chores...that when put into perspective, might be viewed differently, by simply changing my attitude.
Because we have more than enough, we give thanks!

I found life on my son's dresser! His life is about football, school-work, hunting, music, and cash. He's so busy living his life to the full!

This is one of life's biggest choices. Will she choose Olivet Nazarene University in the Midwest, or will she stay home and go local? God knows, and we trust!

When you are eleven, life is full of dreams!! (I don't know where I dropped all of mine.) I just know that He Who has grand plans for her, will never leave her, or forsake her.

 Life is in the messes. This proves that we have lived this week....we just haven't gotten everything in their rightful places. Notice all the shoes are Nikki's and mine...yep, this is our life!

Life can be found in the written word. Suggestions and directions for walking closer to our Creator; ideas for a holiday table; recipes for making the best!

Life abundant in His Word. I am lost without it!

We might have to look more closely to find life in the seemingly deadest of places. A spider web among the hard rocks...there's life!

Life and love flows from the Leader of our home, as he seeks God on a daily basis.

We live, therefore we must do laundry!

We are at our best, when what we are doing is not for us, or others, but as an act of worship to God. can find life through worship at a sink full of suds!

Life happens....Garage doors have to be repaired, cavities have to be filled, and it takes gas to drive our cars. It's life! Thank you, God!

"I have come that they may have life; life abundant!"
John 10:10