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Dealing with Insecurities

Let’s face it. We all struggle with insecurity. I mean, I don’t think I know a single person  who doesn’t struggle with insecurity in some form at some time.

There is a public figure who’s circle I am peripherally a part of, and frankly I don’t give her much thought other than respecting who she is and the accomplishments that she has achieved. And I have never once had the thought in my head, ‘Wow! I really wish Suzie Q would send me a card’ … until I found out that I didn’t make the cut, but a number of other people received handwritten cards from her.  After that, I found little tiny whispers of thoughts creeping into my head: what do I have to do to make the grade next time? What do I have to do to be in this person‘s inner circle? When I realized what was happening, I was, of course, apalled.

At Christmas time, I put a note out in the public space of the apartment building where my husband and I live. It was a very kind note thanking my neighbors for being people I can trust, for being pleasant, for being the kinds of neighbors to help each other out, etc. I almost didn’t hang it. I mean, what if they thought it was a dork, or a jerk, or some kind of loser?

We all struggle with insecurity from time to time, and that’s alright. The important thing is to learn to recognize it for what it is.  It’s a lie. Don’t beat yourself up for having insecurities, but do try to learn to recognize when they are rearing their ugly heads. When they do, look them in the eye, and remind them that you were created to be perfectly you, and that’s exactly what you are.  Perfectly you. God made only one of you, and He made you exactly the way He wanted you. There is only one of you, and you are a blessing to this world.

Then straighten your crown and march on. 🙂

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Monday Moment for New Year’s Day (a few days late)

It is fitting that this post would be late, given it’s content, unrealistic expectations.  However, the reason for its tardiness is that my laptop crashed (yes, my less than 5-month-old laptop’s hard drive mangled itself with all my info on it, *sigh*), and try as I might, I couldn’t locate this file on January 1.  Anyhoo, I found it today and I think it’s still worth sharing…

If you know me you know that I don’t do new year’s resolutions.  I long ago resolved to be the best version of myself that I’m capable of being every day.  Some days I shine like … something really, really shiny … and some days I suck the light right out of my space.  But every day I try to be the best I can, to give every day all I have to give.  And every day I go to the well (yes, the one for which this blog is named) and I refill.  The well of living water.  I live at that well.  I can’t live apart from that well.  If I stray from that well I quickly sink into the quicksand of despair, become toxic to myself and those around me, and claw my way back to the well as quickly as possible.

I set difficult, sometimes unrealistic goals for myself during the year, and I modify them as needed.  I long ago decided to stop setting unattainable goals for myself on January 1 that would leave me feeling inadequate, inept, unworthy and often fat, ugly and stupid.  People battle this type of thinking all year long – why set ourselves up on the first day of a brand spanking new year to flop horribly in, statistically speaking, approximately three weeks?!

No, you won’t find me declaring at 12:01 on January 1, 2018 that I resolve to lose 10, 20, 30, or 50 pounds in the coming 12 months.  If it was that easy I wouldn’t need to declare such a thing.  I would simply do it.  Nor will you find me vowing to stop drinking, or eating sugar, or swearing on January 1.  Instead, I try daily to learn more self-control with the help of the Lord (because without his help … well … you wouldn’t like me much and neither would I).

I openly decry the notion of new year’s resolutions, without shame or reservation.  Because we beat ourselves up plenty 365 days every year; I think it’s a horrible idea to choose one day each year when we vow to achieve unrealistic goals and then bludgeon ourselves emotionally when we, predictably, cannot or do not achieve them.

I’d rather see us all make a commitment to ourselves and to God every day that we will strive to be present, that we will strive to be kind to ourselves and others, and that we will do our best that day to be more Christlike and to stretch ourselves to live fuller, richer lives that further the kingdom of God every day of every year, and then take positive steps to grow in those areas.  We all have room for improvement and we can all take measurable steps to move into that improvement.  One day at a time.  Realistically.

That said, I have a delightful habit of keeping a monthly journal of major events and accomplishments and then reviewing them on December 31/January 1.  It’s such a joy to see what I’ve accomplished, overcome, and celebrated throughout the year, with God’s good grace!  I encourage everyone to spend their time reviewing the past year in a positive light instead of setting themselves up for disappointment and self-recrimination in the next!

May you have a fulfilling, joyful, blessed and peaceful 2018!

Shalom,

Angela

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Finding Majesty Amid the Chaos

If you know me at all, you probably know that I’m not a snow person.  I grew up in North Florida and lived in the South for more than half my life.  I’ve lived in the Midwest and the North and I’ve never developed an affection for the stuff.  The only kind of white Christmas I’ve ever found appealing was one near white sandy beaches.

But today I was driving in the countryside in Upstate New York after an early morning snowfall, on my way to an appointment.  I rounded a corner and honest to Pete, what I saw had tears rolling down my cheeks in seconds.  I crossed over a creek and it was one of the most perfect scenes I’ve ever witnessed.  All the trees had a coat of light, fluffy snow on them.  The rocks in the creek had a coat of snow on them, and the shoreline and the ground in the woods were covered in that same fluffy white snow.  The contrast of the nearly black creek made it all the more stunning.

I was overwhelmed.  I mean, truly humbled, awed and overcome by the beauty of that scene.  Only God can create such splendor.  And that’s what had me crying.  God’s majesty, God’s power, God’s glory, God’s complete rule and love are all around us, every minute of every day.  And He created something for everyone, didn’t He?  Some of us love summer, some of us dream of fall foliage, some love rain, some love snow, some are mountain people, some prefer flat desert lands, some thrive in tropical climes…  and isn’t it just like our great God to gift us with all of it?

I don’t love snow.  I’m a tropics-loving Southern gal.  But there is no denying that I had a momentary love for snow this morning.  I couldn’t safely stop for a photo, but I will try to hold onto that scene in my memory for a long time to come.  I’m glad I was paying attention, that I allowed myself to break out of my thoughts and my planning to really absorb what was before me.

It’s a busy time of year, when it’s easy to become overwhelmed with “to do” lists and stressed out over our schedules, finances, relationships, and all the “shoulds” in our heads.  But I urge you to take a moment and notice the beauty all around you.  Soak it in.  It may help you to remember that you are small, your problems are small, today is short (as is your life here on Earth).  Savor the scenes in the snow as you drive, the atmosphere of Christmas while you shop – the hustle and bustle, the music, the whole scene – and remember the reason for it all.  Jesus.

Now for a cup of hot chocolate…

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Monday’s Moment: When God is Silent

We show up.  We carve out the time (time which, incidentally, He saw fit to give us), turn off the phone, computer and television, make arrangements not to be disturbed, settle in with a clear mind and an open heart and a passion to hear from Him, and … silence.

We wonder where He is.  I mean, we’re here.  We’re seeking Him.  Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?  So, we wait.

And wait.

And still, nothing.

So eventually we get up and get on with the business of living, without having experienced fireworks in our prayer time; without even hearing that whisper we know to be His voice.

Please realize, dear believer, that this is not a spiritual crisis.  It’s a day, an hour, or a moment – one of many come and gone.  No more, no less.  (It’s important to clarify that the silence I am referring to is different from hearing nothing but “noise” in your head (clutter from daily life, etc.) and it’s not the same as having a spiritual block due to sin.  It’s simply silence.)

Here’s the truth of it: we cannot control God

Having a hissy fit won’t do it.  Fighting that silence, begging for God to “show up,” struggling against the reality that He is not meeting us in our chosen moment … all these are useless.  Worse, such activity makes it nearly impossible to hear Him when He tries to start a conversation with us.

When this happens in my prayer time, as it did on a prayer and meditation day I recently took, I know in every cell of my being that my God is still with me.  And I know that He loves me unconditionally, no matter how often I disappoint Him.  No, God has not forsaken me.  He is simply choosing not to speak, not to show Himself in that special, powerful way He sometimes chooses to.

I wrote the following in my journal that day, and I want to share it with you with the hope that it will encourage you (and be a reminder to me as well):

“Today, He is demonstrating His power, His sovereignty, His authority.  And because I love God, I also love what He is (not) doing today.  I love this display of Who He is, this reminder that I’m not God – He is.

As a woman who tries to follow Christ and who tries to surrender to God daily, I must be willing to walk the path He put me on with trust and faith, with confidence in who He is and in my relationship with Him, even when He is quiet.  So, I am at peace, even in the silence.

I will continue to show up, continue to call on Him, continue to make space for this precious time.  And I will do so knowing that He will show up again and fill my spirit in that way only He can and does…and He will do it in His time, as He chooses.  When He does, I will, as I always do, bask in His glory, dance with Him, sing with Him, walk with Him and talk with Him, knowing that every moment fades away, going sometimes with joyous praise and sometimes with peaceful silence.

Then I will wait for the next moment – wait and be watchful, wait and listen for that whisper that says, ‘Come, My child … I want to make Myself more fully known to you.’  For I know that moment will come.  I will choose not to be disappointed or frustrated; only to be accepting of what God chooses to do or not to do. For He is great and good and just and will not be controlled.  I am His child.  And because He is the best Father ever – the perfect Father, He will shine His brilliant, warm, loving smile on me again and it will ever be a balm to my spirit.”

And so, I will cherish even His silence.

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Just Say “No.” Really.

Let’s talk about a short little sentence: “No.”  You really can say it, really can mean it, and really can deny responsibility for how others receive it.  Understand this:  it is absolutely imperative that we learn to say “no” if we want to be emotionally healthy and have healthy relationships.  Let’s take these one at a time…

An Emotionally Healthy You

If I don’t say “no” to something I don’t want to do, someplace I don’t want to go, something I don’t want to eat, etc., I pay the price in regret, bitterness and resentment.  When it comes to doing something, or going somewhere I don’t want to, I also experience S-T-R-E-S-S.  For me it tends to start about two weeks before the Big Event, and it escalates daily until about 3 days beforehand, when it escalates hourly.  Let’s add guilt to the list, because at the end of the day, saying “yes” when I mean to say “no” is dishonest.  And being dishonest is damaging to my peace and happiness, as well as my relationship with God.  Are you beginning to see how important this is?

Having Healthy Relationships

If I say “yes” to someone when they ask me to attend or participate in an event, project, assignment, etc., and it’s something I really want to decline, guess what?  Those same feelings of regret, bitterness, anxiety, resentment and guilt come into play – but now they’re not just in my pretty little head. They build and feed on themselves and by the time the event arrives I’m in a particularly crappy mood, and everyone knows it.  Now I’m dealing with all those same nasty effects as before and, if I haven’t inconvenienced and disappointed everyone by bailing out at the last minute, I’m messing up other people’s good time!  Wow!  And you know what happens then? Later on, they may be reluctant to ask me to do something, and it might be something I really want to do!  More importantly, this scenario all too often taints the relationship for a period of time at best and causes serious damage at worst.

The Price Tag

There is a price to pay for saying “no,” so be prepared.  When you say “no” to people, even spouses and friends, they aren’t always going to like it.  (Do you always like it when someone tells you “no”?)  In fact, sometimes they’ll dislike it a LOT.  But stand your ground and exercise those healthy boundaries.  They’ll get used to it over time (and you will, too), and eventually the ones who really matter will begin to appreciate it when you respectfully decline their requests and invitations.

People Appreciate Being Told “No”

Now, you may be thinking, ‘What?!  They’ll begin to appreciate it when I say ‘no’?! No way!’  Way.  Really.  Here’s why:  they don’t like it when you’re cranky, and they don’t like it when you back out.  And in time, they will begin to appreciate it even more when you say “yes,” because they can depend on you, and they know you’ll bring your best to whatever it is.  They will likely even start to see a pattern for the things you’re likely to invest yourself in versus the things you habitually say “no” to, and tailor their invitations accordingly.

I have learned to respect, value, and even encourage people to say “no” to me.  I would much rather know that they are all in when they say “yes,” that they’ll be happy about their choice, and that they’ll help spread positivity about the idea/event/whatever.  Also, when I give someone space to say “no,” and I receive their “no” with respect, I build trust with that person.

Say “No,” and Say It Fast

When you need to say “no,” say it.  And say it fast.  I have waited and waffled and hedged until I have caused rifts in important relationships because I really cared about the person and didn’t want to say “no.”  I have thought maybe I’d feel more like saying “yes” down the road a bit, and I’ve thought that delaying wasn’t as hurtful as saying “no.”  The fallacies here are many, but here are two: 1) I’m still going to say “no,” but now they’ve hoped I’d say “yes” for too long and thus their disappointment is greater; and 2) I’ve stressed myself out unnecessarily, trying to talk myself into wanting to do “the thing.”  Another serious problem here is that I’m deceiving myself.  If you’re reasonably certain it’s not something you’re interested in, say “no.”  If you think it’s going to stress you out, say “no.”  If you get that sinking feeling in your stomach, say “no” BEFORE you justify it in your head.  You know what I’m talking about: ‘Oh, it’s my best friend and she’s always there for me – I really have to do this.’  No. You don’t.  Or, ‘Wow, he’s so hot!  If I say ‘no,’ he’ll never ask again.’  Good riddance.  Say “no” immediately and resolutely.

Don’t Make Excuses

“No” is a sentence.  (Don’t pick this apart, just roll with it.)  You don’t have to offer an explanation.  But if you do, make sure it’s rock solid and true…lies have a funny way of biting us in the behind!  This is the toughest part for me.  I don’t actually owe anyone an explanation.  I’m Southern and Christian, so I really feel like I must explain myself in the interest of being polite.  That’s a bunch of hooey.  It’s my business, and I have no obligation to soften my “no” by giving the other person a reason that validates my response.  It’s valid all by itself, and I don’t have to have a “good enough” reason for it!  And brace yourself, because the Bible has something to say here: “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37, NKJV).

Don’t Be a Jerk

Just don’t.  Be firm and don’t leave room for doubts or to be wheedled into changing your mind.  But say “no” in a way you’d prefer to receive it yourself.

A Caveat

Sometimes – but only rarely – it is a good idea to say “yes” when you don’t want to.  Have I lost my mind, and all the precious time I’ve spent on this blog??  No.  There are rare occasions when we simply must do “the thing.”  A close friend or family member’s milestone celebration.  A retirement, special birthday, speaking engagement of special significance, and even – gasp! – the occasional wedding.  You have to go.  Suck it up, buttercup, and go.  Do some meditation, take your Xanax, whatever.

But I want to reiterate: this only happens rarely, and only on monumental occasions.  Baking 12 dozen chocolate lava cupcakes for the church fundraiser is NOT a monumental occasion.  Someone else would love to show off their mad baking skills, so step back and give them the chance to shine!

Go Forth and Say “No”

Saying “no” is very difficult; I think even more so for women, and for Christian women.  By and large, we want to do for people, and please people, and help people.  All are fine within healthy limits, for the right reasons.

So, go on out there and start practicing your respectfully delivered “no!”  I won’t take “no” for an answer!  😉  (Y’all saw that coming, right?)