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Posts Tagged ‘#incourageme’

Just last night it happened again.

A person paid me a compliment, and I rejected it.

Ever done that? Responded to a compliment with a rejection, an objection, a denial of the possibility that the words of compliment, directed to you, could be true? that you could be deserving of the compliment paid to you?

Why don’t we just say, “thank-you”?

Is it a desire to appear humble?

A fear that the person complimenting us might be about to say, “just joking”?

A belief that whatever we have done or produced is simply not good?

Jennifer Dukes Lee gave me some thoughts to think on this subject, in her post What To Do When Compliments Scare You.  Although she is specifically speaking to women, I expect that there is many a man who could use her message.

“It can take a long time for a woman to figure out how to take a compliment.

You might go a whole lifetime thinking it’s plain wrong to say “thank you” when someone says you make the best pie crust, smile the sweetest smile, pen the loveliest little poems.

Your mama taught you to say thank you, clear back when you were shyly hiding behind her knees. But then you grew up and learned about God’s glory, and you got to worrying that you were stealing some of His praise with your wee little thank you.

So you stop saying thank you, and you start telling them they’re wrong.

Funny thing is, I enjoy giving compliments. A God-made encourager, I love to find the best in people, and then tell them what I see.

But I’ve done a poor job of receiving kind words in return. I’ve been allergic to compliments – partly because I didn’t think I deserved them, and partly because I didn’t know how to respond.

Then, I met a woman –

She click-clacked down a hallway at a retreat a few years ago, waving me down, like her hand was a flag up in the air. She said something really sweet about my writing. Or maybe it was my hair or my incredibly cute shoes. I don’t remember anymore.

I do remember this: My eyes darted. My tongue felt heavy. I started to deflect her words with a self-deprecating remark.

She interrupted me, putting her hands on my shoulders. Her eyes were soft, but her voice was stern.

“Jennifer,” she said, “just say thank you. It’s okay. Did you know that? You’re not robbing praise from God by saying thank you. In fact, you’re honoring God by allowing me the blessing of encouraging you.”

I hadn’t always been dismissive of compliments. I grew up with a mom who taught me good manners.

But something happened after I pursued a deeper relationship with Christ. I got the impression that if I received any praise, I was stealing God’s spotlight.

I remember when a visiting speaker came to town to share the gospel. I was fresh in my faith, and his words deeply moved me. Afterward, I weaved my way through the crowd, like a fish swimming upstream, to find the speaker near the podium.

Voice wobbly, I thanked him for his message. He shook his head vigorously. “You shouldn’t be thanking me,” he said, jabbing his index finger heavenward. “You should be thanking God.”

It felt like a rebuke. It felt strangely unkind. It felt like I’d been doing it all wrong. 

For years, I stumbled through ways of responding to affirmation, always worried that whatever I said would come across as sounding super-spiritual or falsely humble.

After my encounter with Clickety-Clack Woman at the retreat, though, I felt braver. But it took years of “trying on thanks” for it to feel right on me.

I am learning that there are ways to accept praise without offending God or mankind.

I am learning that true humility doesn’t mean we wave off kind words. It doesn’t mean we apologize for who we are. Gospel humility doesn’t mean that we unleash a litany of our shortcomings in response to a praise.

True humility is genuine “thanks,” delivered with grace.

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Truth is, many of us have no trouble claiming our weaknesses, but we shudder at the thought of claiming our strengths.

We don’t have to do that anymore. We are free to shine for Jesus. Because of Jesus.

We can stop ducking from the kind words of people who see God’s work in us. We can stop minimizing our strengths with words like,  “Oh, it was nothing.”

What God put inside your spirit isn’t nothing. It’s a special something, intended to change the world. It’s the life of God, in you.

When we deflect kind words, we diminish the beauty set aflame by God in us.

Look, we don’t want to live our lives for man’s applause. But we don’t need to live our lives in fear of it either.

Together, we can do life differently, without fear of stealing God’s glory. We can:

1 – Release our gifts boldly into the world, knowing that whether praise or criticism comes, both ultimately belong to the Father, if we’re offering our work in obedience.

2 – Never discount our gifts by saying, “Oh, it’s nothing, really.” Our lives exist inside Christ, and Christ exists inside us. What comes out in His name is a product of what He designed us to do. We will come more alive to our Creator and our callings when we recognize that we bring value to our world.

3 – Remember that our spiritual gifts are given “so we can help each other” (1 Cor 12:7). And we are called to do them well. “In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well” (Romans 12:6)

4 – Model courage to others by using our gifts to their fullest. Our boldness gives others permission to be fully themselves.

5 – If someone praises our work, let’s stop deflecting. Let’s offer thanks to the person, and to God. It’s this easy. Repeat after me: “Thank you.”

What are you most inclined to do when someone tells you they like your hair, that touching blog post you wrote, those brownies from a box that you baked for the church potluck, or the morning devotions that you delivered even though it scared you out of your ever-lovin’ mind? Is accepting a compliment hard for you?”

 

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Summer is officially here!

The schedules of the school year, of sports and other recreational activities, of work and all that is part of the rest of the year have been put on hold for rest, relaxation and recreation.

One of the best parts of summer is looking at the calendar of July and August in comparison to the rest of the months … there are so many clean blocks, with no writing on many of the days of the week. The calendar in FULL of whitespace!

Whitespace is the part of paper that is not written on.

According to Bonnie Gray, who writes at incourage.me, and faith Barista,

“just as beautiful art needs whitespace,

our souls need spiritual whitespace.”

Enjoy this guest post from Bonnie Gray.

I didn’t want to get out.

But Daddy swung the car door open.

My parents had just divorced and Daddy took me and little sister to the toy store one Saturday morning.

He wanted to buy us something to “Remember Daddy loves you,” as he placed the plastic bag in my hand at checkout. But, all I could think about was Momma. What she told me that morning. That I better not take anything from him.

I didn’t know it at the time, but that visit was going to be the last time I ever saw him again. I was a little girl, seven years tall.

Daddy kept telling me, “It’s okay. It’s okay.” But I didn’t want to walk up to the porch. My legs drilled down into the ground like roots to a thicket of thorns at the bottom of concrete steps.

My Daddy put one hand on my back, pressing me forward, as he grabbed my little sister’s hand in the other. He rapped on the screen door while I blinked and sucked my breath in.

As I held myself there for a million years, the door flew open.

There she stood. Over me.

Even behind the screen, I could see Momma clearly. Her ragged jawline, her teeth clenched and face flushed. Her chest heaving. She took one look at me, at the plastic bag I was holding. I could see it in her eyes.

Anger.

And I broke apart in a thousand pieces right then and there. I knew I shouldn’t do what I did next, because it would make everything worse. But, I couldn’t help it.

I started shaking. Tears began to erupt and my mouth pulled down into a trembling sob. I couldn’t swallow them down. So I began to cry.

Things didn’t go well for me that day, as I stood there at the screen door out on the porch.

There was no space for me.

I was split between who to please and what to do.

I could not find rest.

Longing

Even though I’m all grown up now – mom to two adorable boys, married to a loving husband — deep inside, I’m still that little girl looking for rest.

Longing for space to breathe.

To feed my soul.

To feel and dream dreams.

To just be me.

I need rest.

But, stress seems to always be one step ahead of me.

I’ve wondered if I could ever really stop.

Then, God allowed my life to come to a big stop.

A Beautiful Discovery

Two years ago, at the cusp of a childhood dream coming true – writing my first book – I was launched into a debilitating season of panic attacks, insomnia and anxiety.

Writing triggered memories to come alive. I began reliving them.

I’ve done much harder things in my life, free of panic attacks. I grew up as the oldest child in a single parent family, put myself through college, and launched first-to-market technologies in the high-tech world. I’ve even traveled halfway around the world as an overseas missionary.

But, now overwhelmed by anxiety and stress, I was no longer able to cope the way I always have:

by problem solving,

taking care of others,

planning and doing.

God was allowing my exhausted, weary self to surface, so that I could go on a new beautiful discovery: the journey of rest.

A New Journey

When we come into contact with stress, our natural response is to push through.

We don’t want to be in need or fail to meet others’ expectations, especially our own. We beat ourselves up for not trusting God.

But, God offers us a different response.

Rest. Kindness. Comfort.

Instead of being harder on us, Jesus whispers –

“Come to me, all those who are weary and heavy-laden
and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

When Jesus was surrounded by pressing needs, Scripture tell us –

“Jesus would often slip away
to the wilderness for prayer.” Luke 5:16

Jesus took time to rest because nurturing his soul with his Father was more important than what He could do.

Putting our hearts firstletting Jesus love us—is a new journey of resting with Him.

As people of faith, our response to stress is not to avoid it.

What we need is rest.

What we need is spiritual whitespace.

Spiritual Whitespace

Whitespace. It’s the space left on a page left unmarked.

Whitespace is not blank. It breathes beauty.

Just as beautiful art needs whitespace, our souls need spiritual whitespace. We need rest.

We are not project plans for God. We are not God’s stock investments, where our value rises and falls with performance.

God after all is an artist. And we are His works of art.

“For we are God’s poeima (the Greek word for workmanship, from which we derive the word “poem”)…
which God prepared beforehand…”
Ephesians 2:10

I ended writing a different book than I started.  I wrote a memoir-driven guide about my search to find rest and the answers as I found them.

To find the things I somehow lost along the way –

Quiet.

Stillness.

Beauty.

Intimacy with God.

Rest is a journey we don’t have to take alone. We need each other.

Let’s live a better story. Move beyond surviving.

Take the journey to rest. Find your spiritual whitespace.  

Listen to Jesus’ gentle whispers –

You’re loved.

You’re cherished.

Just rest.”

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My family knows, much to hubby’s chagrin (since he discovered online movies that can be watched at home) that I LOVE to go to the theater to watch movies. I love the popcorn, I love the dark, I love the laughter of strangers all around me, I love that the seats are low enough that my vertically-challenged feet reach the floor, and I LOVE that they tell you to turn your phones off!

So, for Mother’s Day they took me to a movie I had heard of, but written off as one about mom’s of little ones.

Mom’s Night Out is a movie about a trio of weary moms, all dealing with stresses of their own. Allyson is the main character, and she is struggling with the blessing of having what she always dreamed of (motherhood) but not being happy, feeling like a failure and trying to find purpose.

Who couldn’t relate to those struggles (with or without children)?

I strongly encourage (or is it ‘incourage’) any lady (not just moms) to see this movie (plus it has my favorite ‘tweeter’, Patricia Heaton, and the comedian whose voice I hear whenever I get a pedicure, Anjelah Johnson … see her video at the bottom of this page).

I had no idea just how applicable this movie would be for this momma who fails at her dream every day.

And, speaking of ‘incourage’ I discovered that another blogger has already told the tale of this movie, so, rather than re-create the wheel … check out this post from incourage.me.

“In the new movie MOMS’ NIGHT OUT, a group of moms dealing with everyday stresses realize they need a night out. The main character, Allyson (who is played by Sarah Drew), is a blogging wannabe when we first meet her. Enjoy this post written in the voice of Allyson.

“Beck’s playing in the toilet again!”

Not the words you want to hear when you are already late for church, your husband is out of town, and you’re trying to move your little army out the door in the general direction of the minivan. You are of single mind and laser focus: we will not be late, we will not be late, we will not be late!

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Your children, on the other hand, are meandering through the house without a care in the world. Why brush your teeth when you can play one more game? Why wear church clothes when you look so much more fabulous in your sparkly shoes and a tutu? And why not have a regatta in the toilet while Mom is looking for the only clean pair of khaki pants that don’t have a rip in the knee?

Maybe if everyone just slept in their church clothes.

Sunday mornings would go so much better. Wrinkly, yes, but better. And why stop there?  Why not load up the swagger wagon on Saturday night and just bed down in the minivan so that you would actually be in the parking lot before Sunday school? This idea has real potential and you vow to give it a whirl soon.

Once the kids are finally maneuvered into their clothes and parked on the couch staring at a video, you throw on a dress and reassure yourself that a messy bun is a fabulous fashion statement. And hey, if you hit enough red lights, you can do your makeup on the way. A girl can dream can’t she?

Reality sets in as you roar into the church parking lot.

All the perfect moms are chatting with each other, the sun gleaming off their perfectly highlighted tresses as they compliment each other on their perfectly coordinated dresses and shoes. You know perfectly well they must have nannies. You’ve never actually seen any of these nannies but you know there must be an underground legion of them who hold down the fort while these women take actual showers and blow out their hair and try on outfits. Otherwise, how could they look like THAT?

Then comes the cherry on your Sunday sundae: your four-year-old daughter asks to help with your eye makeup. It’s her charming LET ME! LET ME! LET ME! at the top of her lungs that inspires you to hand her that mascara wand. Hiding her handiwork behind a pair of dark glasses, you marshal your last bit of strength and head into church.

Deposit the kids in the nursery, try to fix your raccoon eye in the ladies room, and crawl over four people into a pew. But finally, it’s time. Time for a few moments of peace. Just you, God, and the reassurance that it’s all going to be okay. Your spirit will be renewed and you will be ready to head back into battle. Thank you, God, for these children. For the privilege of being their mama. For the love You show me every day. Please give me strength.

And as you collect them all up again and head back into the parking lot, you smile at the pictures they made and know that it will all be better . . . in five or maybe seven years.”

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“We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” — Jehoshaphat, King of God’s People

This (above) is how the post by Holley Gerth started. But I am not a lover of battle scenes, armies and power struggles, so I was about to push delete on this post …

until …

until I read the following :

“Has your heart ever echoed what’s expressed above? You’re weary. You’re overwhelmed. You feel under attack. And you don’t have a single strategy or plan or idea about what to do. You just know something has to give–somehow this battle must be won.”

insert instant interest.

If you, too, are feeling more compelled to hear what Holly has to say in her post called, When You Need Help Fighting a Battle in Your Life, keep reading :

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Has your heart ever echoed what’s expressed above? You’re weary. You’re overwhelmed. You feel under attack. And you don’t have a single strategy or plan or idea about what to do. You just know something has to give–somehow this battle must be won. 

God answered Jehoshaphat with courage-giving words and His response can encourage us, too. He tells the King to go and fight his enemies. And as the people prepare to go, Jehoshaphat does something interesting. He doesn’t put the warriors at the front. He puts the singers.

Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for His love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
{2 Chronicles 20:21-22

When the people arrived at what should have been a battleground, all they saw were bodies. The enemy had already been defeated. The threat eliminated. The victory won. The only thing to do was take the plunder and go home.

Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies.
{2 Chronicles 20:27}
.

When you go out with praise, you come home with praise.

In this story the victory is instant and obvious. In our day-to-day battles the same might not be true. But here’s what is always true: Worship is an act of war. When we feel under attack, praise isn’t what we tend to think of first. We’re more likely to reach for our swords or run away in fear. But what if we paused and worshiped instead?

Then we’re not going into battle alone. We’re going with the God who spoke the universe into being fighting on our behalf. That changes everything. Because He never loses. Even when it looks like He’s been defeated, like when Jesus died on the cross, it was only a matter of time until His ultimate victory became clear.

What’s overwhelming you today? What’s coming against you? What situation is causing you to feel fear? Take a moment right now to say to God what Jehoshaphat did: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

Then worship.

And watch God work.

This battle will not be won not by your power but by God’s might. Nothing can defeat Him and He lives in you…that means nothing can defeat you either.

Now that’s a reason for praise today.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

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