Archive for December, 2009
Life is full of loss and disappointment. Divorce. Death of a dream. Not being able to get pregnant. Waking up at 50 years old only to realize you did not accomplish what you knew you would when you were 25.
When we feel like what we are meant to be or do in life is ripped out from under us, we have a crisis of confidence and a crisis of identity. Our ideals are dashed, and we lose any sense of purpose or direction. We begin spinning out of control.
I have had enough life experience now to see that there are two paths people take when faced with tremendous loss.
It is very easy to feel profoundly sorry for ourselves – to become angry and bitter. To never let go of the loss. To always be affected by that loss even when life circumstances begin to change. It’s natural for any major loss to take a toll on us for a period of time. Loss in my own life has resulted in dark dark periods. There was a time when my personal loss (a loss of a marriage) required friends to bring me food and make me eat because I found my life completely turned upside down and I had no energy to function in the world. I was a shell of myself.
At some point though, we cannot hang on to the major setbacks in our lives – we cannot be victims. I have watched some people cling to the bitterness, and it has destroyed them. I have seen others accept setbacks with grace, hanging on to the smallest morsel of faith. I have seen emotional resilience that inspires me.
Sometimes we are blessed beyond measure by the pain we experienced in the past. I can’t tell you how many times God has almost literally placed women going through a divorce on my doorstep. Before my own divorce, I was so judgmental of divorce. But my own life circumstances took me on a journey that would make me so much more empathetic and sensitive to the needs around me.
When we are faced with disappointment, we have a choice.
There are certain things in life that are in our control and certain things out of our control. What we often tend to do is spend our energy on the things out of our control. We spin our wheels being frustrated about other people’s actions, past mistakes we have made, dreams that will never be reality. But there are things that are most certainly in our own control – our attitude, our beliefs, our commitments. We can control our choices moving forward; we can choose to not dwell in the past for too long. We can have boundaries with the people in our lives who make it hard to move forward. We can trust God that all things work together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
My best friend committed suicide several years ago. Over the years, I have watched her mother struggle between being consumed by the tremendous loss and clinging to the knowledge that God has a plan for her life. I have watched her get involved in the lives of others in a way that would not be possible if she did not have deep pain and loss herself. Watching this mother’s life be changed forever and seeing the choices over the years is proof to me that there still are things we can control if we trust that God will sustain us and use our pain to bless others.
Is it time for you to let go of some bitterness and pain? How is God going to use your life and your life experiences?
I sucked my thumb until third grade. And no, not just in private like some lucky kids. I was shy as a little girl. And I’ve been relatively shy ever since. But get me up in front of a crowd talking about something that excites me, and you would never imagine that there is a shy little girl inside.
Even as a kid, I would get up in church to read the Christmas story or lead the liturgy, and the little old people would come up to me afterwards and tell me how much they appreciated how nice and clear I had spoken (I’m sure it helps that I inherited grandpa’s loud voice). Even today, anytime I have to do an announcement or give a presentation, people almost always come up and tell me something that makes me think I’m a pretty darn good speaker. This blog post is actually inspired by the encouragement I received after a talk I gave last Sunday to an Entrepreneuring for Christ Sunday school class at Skyline Church. It’s so affirming that our strengths can often be seen early on in life and that God brings people into our lives to help name them.
Unexpected gifts are so cool. God knit us together so creatively in the womb (Psalm 139). When there is an anomaly in how the world would expect us to turn out, I think it’s an extra special reminder that we are God’s creation and that the gifts are from Him alone. I love that my friends who know me well point out how odd it is that a crowd avoider like me loves to be in front of a crowd.
The gifts are from God, and so are the desires to use these gifts for a purpose.
My own life is evidence that the core of who we are and who we are meant to be will keep tugging at us even though we may take a strange path to get to where we are going. Every time I do one of those exercises that asks what I would be if money were no object, I inevitably land on motivational speaker. Years ago, I even went as far as to do an informational interview with a successful motivational speaker; I lost momentum when she told me I really need to write a book. And I lose momentum every time I think about how much energy it would take this introvert to actually be a speaker. And then there’s the fact that I don’t see a logical path to actually becoming a legitimate speaker.
But deep down I feel a sense of responsibility to be the person God created me to be. I want to be faithful with the gifts He has bestowed. God gives us the desires of our hearts – desires to serve the world with the best of who we are. We know from the parable of the talents that we are to do the most with what we have been given.
How on Earth I will end up living out my love for public speaking is a bit of a mystery. It will be interesting to see how God directs my path. I’m sure it will be an adventure. I know that God wants to use me for His glory, and so I will put my faith in His grace and power - and I will do my part to put myself out there and follow my heart.
Oliver Wendall Holmes is often quoted as saying, “The biggest tragedy in America is not the great waste of natural resources, though this is tragic. The greatest tragedy is the waste of human resources. The average person goes to his grave with the music still in him.”
What dream do you have in your heart that just will not go away? What music still needs to be shared with the world?
Side note: I hope no one reading this post ever sees me speak and thinks, “Really, she thinks she’s a good speaker.”
Side note number 2: Since I suspect a handful of parents will find this post googling strategies to get their kids to stop sucking their thumbs, I’ll tell you my secret. It was Mrs. Neeley, my third grade teacher, who made a deal with me that if I would stop sucking my thumb, she would stop biting her nails. I think she finally succumbed to acrylic.