Authenticity: Confessions of a former Stepford-Wife-Church-Lady

“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life?  The world would be split open.” – Muriel Rukeyser

That quote.  It cuts to the heart of something quite elemental, something we all long for.  Truth.  Authenticity.  We all long to know and be known, to be real and transparent with those we work with, those we serve with, those we live with.  But that ability to be real often eludes us.  It’s just scary, all this truth. I know this from my own experience on both sides of this equation, but we will get back to that.   

I got a Marco Polo video message a couple of weeks ago from a dear friend, one with whom I have a VERY transparent relationship.  She was not having a great day.  At all.  She was overwhelmed, exhausted.  Getting over being sick, my friend had one kid in a drama production which required almost nightly rehearsals, and one who needed immediately a prom dress altered, and for mom to purchase prom-worthy shoes, purse, and strapless bra.  My friend was struggling on her healthy eating plan, and was in her minivan on the way to what she called a Stepford Wife Church Ladies meeting.  The house she’d just left was a disaster, and her friend who was supposed to help her with said disaster had just bailed.  It was an especially crazy week, her husband inaccessible in an all-day work meeting. And to add to that, she hadn’t rinsed the shampoo all the way out of her hair, which was now resting like a greasy hot clump on her head (her words, not mine), she hadn’t shaved her left knee and ankle well enough, and was overall teetering on the brink of a meltdown. But, she told me, in this group of Stepford Wife Church Ladies you can’t do that, the whole meltdown thing.  This wasn’t a place for a let’s-get-real gut-honest talk, a place to air the frustrations or share what a rough day you’re having.  In this case, she and her greasy hot clump had to stroll regally into an Olive Garden where all at the table would pretend everything was okay.  When it was SO not.  She confessed, just before leaving her minivan, her overwhelming urge to mess up the Stepford Wives’ hair and make them do a mud run. 

No one wants to sit at that table at Olive Garden.  Especially when you’re fresh from a heaping helping of reality in the form of daily hard life stuff.  Perfection- or the illusion of acting like it’s all great- is inauthentic. And not at all welcoming or relatable.  My heart went out to my friend, her words and feelings resonating to my core.  I’ve been, as I said, on both sides of the equation   

You see, for years I put up a cardboard cutout of myself, and slipped quietly behind it.  Curled up into a ball, hiding behind my thin shiny veneer of normal and ok, I hoped and prayed no one noticed how flawed, how broken the girl behind the mask really was.  Hidden, fearful, turned in, focused on my tiny world that I tried with fervent desperation to control.  This state is the opposite of authentic, a million miles from real.  But it’s where I lived for many years.  Because I was afraid I wasn’t enough.  I was that Stepford Wife Church Lady.  I thought I had everyone fooled as I nearly killed myself striving to talk a good game, to act like I had it all together as a wife a mom, a professional, everything just so.  And nothing could be further from the truth.  Not that I was harboring a dark and ominous secret or I was a double agent with the CIA or anything, but hiding behind my cardboard cutout, my veneered mask, kept me from really being authentically me.  Kept me from showing my true face. So rather than be open with my lack of perfection (which made me an actual real girl not a short red haired Barbie doll), I put up the cardboard.  And I freaked out a bit when the life/work/kids/home/me I saw before me didn’t match up with the image in my head, the image I wanted to portray to those around me. So they would accept me.  So they would like me.  So they would think I was okay, too. 

And one day, many years back, a loving friend (one who had actually seen my true face) called me out on it.  One of the hardest conversations I’ve ever had.  Ever.  But that conversation changed my perspective, and ultimately changed the way I walked through life.  This difficult chat caused me to question some things about WHY I was choosing to live that way, hidden.  After all, who was impressing?  No one.  Who would be handing out my martyr points?  Again no one.  I was ridiculously distracted by my inward focus, sure that I was being judged on every side, when that couldn’t have been further from the truth.   

As I said before, telling the truth about your life is downright scary.  No matter what your life is.  It is a terrifying thing to put yourself out there, opening up to misunderstanding, to judgment, to criticism.  So much easier to hide.  And not everyone is going to be nice about it.  

 I have learned, however, over many years and many madness-inducing experiences, that real is so much better than faking Stepford Wife perfection.  So. Much. Better.  No one can keep up the facade, there is always a point where it starts to crumble.  And it is the most exhausting thing to try to patch the cracks and repaint the faded cardboard, all to no avail.  I’ve tried. And failed.  And disappointed myself a million times. 

 But here is truth.  People will love you for you (or not).  And they will love me for me (or not).  And they will want to know the real rather than the perfect.  Perfection (or the imagined facsimile thereof) is terrifying. 

 Knowing what I know now, I can’t be friends with perfect.  I just can’t.  Because it’s 1) intimidating and because 2) (as we’ve established) it’s not real.   

Walking in truth and authenticity holds vast power.  Telling true (but scary) stories of your struggles will ALWAYS speak more loudly than pretense. As I walk through this blogging life, I see more and more that the posts that garner the most response are those in which I share my authentic feelings and situations.  So I will live (and write) my truth out loud.  And love Jesus and other people right here in the mess of my imperfect, non-Stepford Wife Normal Girl Who Loves Jesus life.

Guilty until proven innocent: Accusations in the Lowe’s parking lot

I don’t know what upsets me more, being wrongly accused of doing something I didn’t do or being rightly accused of something I wish I hadn’t done.  Two sides of a slimy and icky-feeling coin.  Allow me to explain.
I was running errands in preparation for an influx of guests which were coming in a matter of days, and the final stop on my agenda was Lowe’s.  We needed mulch to fill in planters and some flowers to spruce things up a bit.  You know, the essentials.  I was driving my husband’s SUV for the occasion rather than my little sedan, so I could fit more mulch in the back.  I was extra careful as I parked in each space I encountered throughout the day, conscious of the way a larger vehicle handles, careful of the cars on either side.  I was at the end of my energy for the day, pain and fatigue starting to bloom around me rather than flowers, when I headed back to the SUV, full cart in tow, leaning on my cane.  Waiting by my vehicle was a gal in full-on Lulu Lemon yoga gear- hands on hips, clearly annoyed and impatient, vitriol flashing in her eyes.  Someone had clearly spilled her latte.   “Ma’am,” she barked, “would you mind telling me how this scrape got on my bumper?”
I paused, furtively glancing around to see who she was mad at.  I tentatively approached the back of our Toyota and pushed the button to swing up the back tailgate.
“Ma’am,” louder and more annoyed, “would you mind telling me how this scrape got on my bumper?”
When the words were repeated, I realized she was talking to me.  Yikes.
I looked over at Yoga Lady (who was clearly not in a Namaste state of mind), looked down at her driver side rear bumper, and saw immediately the aforementioned scrape, the same color paint as my car marking the beige of hers (who buys a beige car???).  Yikes again.
I was so careful when I parked.  I’m sure it wasn’t me.  I stammered a bit, “I’m 99.9% sure it wasn’t me, I would have left a note if I had hit you, ma’am.”
I put my innocent plants into the back of my car, one at a time, under her withering gaze.  She continued, her ire rising with her words, demanding: How I could be sure? Was that scrape there when I left my car? Would I stop what I was doing to look at MY front bumper to make sure I hadn’t just forgotten? I smiled. I obliged.  I walked to the front of our SUV.  Not a mark on it.  No beige (ugh) paint.  Miles between my vehicle and hers.  As I came back around to report my findings, Yoga Lady seemed to get larger and more annoyed.  She didn’t buy it, all my exonerating evidence.
I politely invited her to take a look at the front of my car as I continued to put my plants in the back.  She huffed to the front of my car, steam rising from her ears.  Nothing on my bumper.
Not a word to me, she came back to her own vehicle, her husband now joining her, further examining the wreckage.  It was clear to me that, despite my response, despite the evidince, I was still guilty in her eyes.  Her husband even said the vehicle that hit her would have some significant damage, and mine had none.  She was still mad, and I was the convenient target for her blame.  Accused.  Accused but innocent.  Not a great feeling.
I thought about her as I drove home with my SUV-full of plants (which are now happily at home in their beds and containers.)  And I though of the Accuser who actually has the evidence to back it up.  Icky-feeling.
I know I’ve blown it a million times in my life, a million ways.  And I am daily grateful for God’s forgiveness – daily in need of it – but when He forgives, He forgets.  My sins are remembered no more.  As far as the east is from the west.  In the bottom of the ocean.  He won’t bring it up again.
BUT.  There is one who does.  And he knows just what to remind me of, and just when to do it.
He hisses in my ear “remember who you used to be, no one will take you seriously.  remember that habit.  remember when you talked smack about her behind her back.  remember when you totally lost your temper with your daughter about scissors (sadly a true story).  remember you are broken and no one wants to hear from a broken voice.”  Harder to take because they used to be true.  And I wish I could forget.  Satan, the Accuser, has a bag of tricks, but they’re old tricks.
No one wants to be accused, whether the allegations are true or false.  Both leave me feeling unsettled, the Yoga Lady and the Accuser.  Both remind me of how imperfect I really am, how broken and prone to fail, but one is wrong and the other is defeated.
Revelation 12:10b-11 gives us hope: “For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, he accuses them day and night before our God.  They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony;”
Satan, that old liar, won’t win.  He will be thrown out and defeated through the blood of the Lamb, Jesus’ great sacrifice for us, and the bold word of their witness, the brothers (fellow believers) who speak up for us.
Let that truth seep into your heart today.  The accuser can say whatever he wants.  But he is defeated by our God.  And you are redeemed by our God.  Regardless of what Yoga Lady says.

Behind the Scenes: Preparation is Everything

A dream, dropped into the middle of a normal night, distinct enough to interrupt my thoughts, odd enough to wake me up, interesting enough to make me lie there in the middle of the night thinking, “That needs to be a blog post.”  

So here it is…

I became aware of being somewhere I didn’t recognize, surrounded by people I didn’t know, with a responsibility in my lap I neither wanted nor remembered consenting to.  

 I was, for reasons that may never be revealed, in an all-female production of Hamlet.  I was cast as Polonius.  And it was two hours before our opening performance.  Odd enough, yes.  But far worse:  I didn’t know my lines.  In this dream I had never attended a single rehearsal.  I hadn’t read Hamlet for more than 27 years (true fact).  This is NOT something you can bluff your way through, Hamlet.  Not even as a side character.  My dream self didn’t even own a copy of the play, and despite searching, couldn’t find one anywhere.  This is some of the meatiest, most challenging writing and acting in the English language.  And I was going to blow it on an epic scale.  Unprepared, uninstructed, and people waiting to see my performance.  I was no less that a colossal disappointment; I had let down my cast-mates and disappointed my director. 

Someone else would have to take my role and people would never see my unique interpretation of Polonius.  In an all-female production of Hamlet.  Honestly, I don’t know how many people in the real world would be disappointed to miss this opportunity, by any stretch of the imagination, but as I lay awake in my dark bedroom, heart pounding, my dream resonated in many ways. 

You see, I can’t stand the idea of being unprepared.  For anything.  Ever.  This is a central characteristic of my nature.  Hard wired into me.  From birth.  If anything, I over-prepare.  

 So being caught on my back foot in this dream situation was way beyond uncomfortable, all the way past disconcerting, disorienting.  I’ve learned to roll with unfamiliar places and new people, even new roles, but the piece of this where I don’t do my part threw me for a loop.  It stuck with me as I went back to sleep, and as I woke up knowing I needed to dig into this wacky night-time drama in my brain.  

As I pondered over coffee, a few things fell into sharper focus for me.  Walking out my faith, parallels to my dream emerge.  Bear with me, maybe there are some nuggets for you in the midst of all my crazy. Here are the lessons I’ve extracted:  

·         Being prepared isn’t just a broad concept, it’s a way of life.  As a Jesus-girl on a journey, I may not be Polonius, but I have my role to fill and I need to be ready to do it.

·         I need to know the play.  I need to dig into the Word every day, understanding not only my role, but what the Bible says about it, how I need to walk out my faith.

·         I need to know my lines. Not just mirroring what I read in the Word, but speaking life into the people around me.  Seeking the Director’s guidance when I need to have a challenging conversation, or when I need to reach out and bless my cast-mates.

·         I need to listen to the  Director.  I have to make sure I’m sitting with the Lord consistently to hear His direction, His next step, what I need to change and how He can help me improve in my performance of my role. 

·         I need to show up to rehearsal.  I need to be an active part of my spiritual family, which takes many forms: my church home, my online community, my small groups, my mentees. 

·         I need to support and be supported by my fellow cast-mates, reminding them of what the director wants, what their lines are, and having them remind me. 

·         I need to do the behind the scenes work (that is absolutely not glamorous) in order to be ready for my moment onstage.  I need to make sure I have my copy of the script close at hand for me to read, to study, to understand not only my lines but the way they fit with the rest of the characters and the overall plot and theme.  

·         I need to understand my role and my character, to do that I need to not only read the script and the stage directions, but also need to consult the Director, getting his vision of not only the play’s interpretation, but my character’s contribution, the timing of the action, the pace of the scenes, and where I need to walk, stand, sit, pause, or rush offstage. 

My role in God’s play is of eternal importance, much more so than any production of Hamlet (I played Ophelia once in a college production), and the lines are far more important to get right.  I don’t have to be perfect, but I do need to listen to the correction and direction of the Director.  His instructions will keep me in sync with the tone and feel of the play. Imagine how weird it would be if Polonius busted in during Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be speech with a jaunty show tune. 

 I need the Director to keep me in my role and the rest of the cast fill their roles.  Trust the casting, people.  My role won’t look like yours, yours won’t look like mine.  We bring different skills to the table, but the play isn’t complete and doesn’t work without all the roles filled with the right actors.  the whole production suffers without the right cast.  

If I don’t show up, prepared by my knowledge of my lines from the script, prepared by the instruction and correction of my Director, ready to support and learn from the rest of the cast, then the world misses out on my unique piece and the whole production suffers.  Not because I’m awesome, but because the Director has set it up to be that way. 

I want to be prepared, ready for the moment I walk onstage.  I want my Director to be proud, I want my fellow actors to feel supported, and I want the audience to receive what they need from me and my small part of the drama.  All that preparation needs to take place beforehand, some of it so very solitary, reading memorizing, running lines, digging into deeper subtext.  some one-on-one with the Director, listening, asking questions, course correcting as needed, fixing what’s wrong with what I’m doing, sometimes taking this in a direction I would never expect my role would take me.  

I want to do this, to prepare, to listen, to support, not to disappoint.  I must make it a priority, scheduling this preparation into my time and my life, even before I know what the specific role will look like.  I have the script.  I know the director.  I will excitedly wait to meet my castmates. 


Receipts: Spending your resources, spending yourself

After a full morning of errand-running and busyness, the resulting bags and boxes hauled inside from the trunk of my car, I plop my purse down on the kitchen table, push aside this morning’s cold half-cup of coffee, and ease myself down into a chair.  Taking a deep breath, I relish a much-needed reprieve from the rush. I retrieve my cell phone from my open purse, meaning to text my daughter.  Said purse, tips over, resulting in a cascade of receipts that falls to the table: artifacts of where I’ve been for the morning, what I’ve spent my resources on.  

What a lineup, these papers.  My receipts that show the path I’ve traveled, the places I’ve stopped, the usefulness of my outing. One of my receipts shows I’ve bought food for my family, one shows a trip to Target.  Maybe a few not-totally necessary purchases there.  I browse through the pile.  Hmmm.  Practical stops are more prevalent that Starbucks breaks, so that’s good. This crumpled collection of paper outlines my spending: what’s of value and what isn’t, what will benefit my home, myself, my family, vs. the frivolous things I could be spending money on.  It’s a paper trail, quite literally. 

What if life was like that?  What if each activity I did during the course of my morning, my day, my week, my life came with a receipt?  Something concrete I could look at to gauge how productive I’d been, what impact I had on my family and loved ones, how I used my words, how I reached out to people around me in Kroger.  For me, I must admit that some day’s receipts would show the life-equivalent of hours spent buying and consuming cotton candy.  Ugh.  Scrolling through social media as my default time filler, bingeing on Netflix on a day I am perfectly capable of working in the house, writing, or having coffee with a friend: fluff.  Spinning my wheels on a project, procrastinating when I should just get it done: empty.  I cringe to think of the pile of receipts that I could be amassing, and what they would show about my life. 

 Here’s the thing.  I get one shot at this life.  So do you.  And we get to choose how we spend ourselves, how we spend our time, our energy, our resources.  Yes, many of us work full time, many have young families at home, many have both.  I realize (as a gal who was in that boat not so long ago) that not all of our time is your own, but think about the time you DO have.   God has made you steward of many things in this world.  Time is a big one.  God calls us to enact wisdom as we choose how to use our time.  

 Think about the receipts that would be generated by how you spend yourself.  A tangible reminder like that would definitely make me pause and think about the more God-honoring use of my most precious resource.  

Take inventory of your hours.  Where are your spending yourself?  Your time?  Your resources?  What will be on the pile of receipts that cascade out of your purse at the end of the day?  Make sure it’s worthwhile. 

 What would my receipts show?  What would yours show?  Are we redeeming our time?  Are we using it the best way?   

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to you a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

Conduct yourself with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Colossians 4:5

“Dost thou love life?  Then to not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.” -Benjamin Franklin


Adopted: Part 2

In last week’s blog, I opened the topic of our adoption into God’s family by sharing a bit of my own adoption story.  Please take a moment to read the post if you haven’t already.

As I continue a study of Ephesians with some friends, the Word continues to speak to me, resonating in new ways.  How I love this passage:

God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.  -Ephesians 2:8-9, NLT

As these words sink in I am reminded of my role, my participation, in becoming part of my family.

When I was adopted, I didn’t choose my family. They chose me.

I didn’t pay for the adoption, my parents did.

I didn’t hire the lawyer, sign the paperwork, schedule the court date, and take my three older brothers out of school for the day to be part of this milestone event in their family.  My parents did.

I couldn’t do any of these things, being a helpless newborn.  My parents chose me and wanted me, went to great lengths to make sure I was part of their family forever, always carrying the name they gave me.

I couldn’t take credit for any part of my adoption.  I didn’t earn my way into their family by being awesome, by doing everything I should do, by impressing them, but I became part of the family only because I was the daughter they chose, the daughter they took home, the daughter to whom they gave their name and shared their lives.

God went to far greater lengths to make us part of His family forever.  He chose us.  He paid for us with His precious blood, before we could grasp any part of it, before we even knew Him.  He arranged all the details when we couldn’t because we were helpless in our sin.  We don’t earn our way into His family by impressing Him, by getting it all right.

He loves us, His children, wayward, wandering, willful hearts and all, because we are His.

Let that sink in.

We are, in so many ways, addicted to achievement, thinking, perhaps subconsciously, that we can do enough, be enough, to earn our way into God’s good graces.  But it’s a gift.  He’s the Achiever, not us.  He’s made the way, scheduled the court date, signed the paperwork, and gave us His name.

Accept the gift.

Please feel free to comment below!  I am so grateful for your feedback.

Adopted: Part 1


God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ.  This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. -Ephesians 1:5 NLT

I’m walking through the book of Ephesians in a Bible study with some friends, and I came across this passage a few days ago.  Paul’s sweet words washed over me like a waterfall.  

What a life-altering thought.  My God chose me, decided in advance.  And He adopted me, brought me fully into his family.  Incredible.

I was not just invited in as a dinner guest, not just an acquaintance to say hi to, not even just a good friend to have coffee with, but enfolded as his daughter.  Closely and authentically connected to a generous and ready-to-help Father, who wants nothing but love for me, wants only the best for me. In accordance with His pleasure. What a beautiful picture.

As one who was adopted into my earthly family, this resonates to my core. Maybe my story will shed some new light on this topic.

I am the youngest of four in my family: the only daughter, the only one adopted. The judge had some wise words for my family at the final hearing for my adoption: “She’s all yours and you’re all hers. Now and when she’s about 13.”  Gazing hopefully into my 7-month-old face, these optimistic people had no way of knowing what lay ahead for them (both good and bad), but they knew they wanted me enough to give me their family name.

When I was a toddler, launching into truly monumental tantrums, my parents didn’t revoke my name.  They lovingly disciplined me, taught me, let me know I wasn’t the center of the universe, and helped me grow. 

When I was an all-out rebellious teenager, my folks didn’t take my name and tell me I was no longer theirs. They loved me, prayed for me, didn’t freak out when I shaved half my head, reminded me again that I wasn’t the center of the universe, and trusted I would come out the other side as they had, a bit older and wiser and (slightly) more fit to live with. 

When I was in my early 20’s, struggling to figure out my path, making choices mom and dad might not have made for me, they didn’t disinherit me, cut me off, and decide they didn’t love me anymore.  I was still their girl, still carrying the name they had given me.  And they loved me through it. 

Never once, no matter how hard things were or how rebellious I was, did my parents un-adopt me.  Let that sink in for a minute. 

I have now walked the path of the parent, loving my own two incredible and very normal kids through their challenging times. Even in the times that crushed my heart and wrung tears from my eyes, I never imagined, not for a second, that I would walk away and love them no more.  It’s not in a parent’s heart.  

 And if we- imperfect parent that I am, that you are, that my imperfect-but-wonderful parents who adopted me into their family are- could still love, still hope for our children, and still call our kids by the names we have given them, how is it possible that a perfect and perfectly-loving father would turn away from his wayward child?  Simple answer.  It’s not.  He doesn’t un-adopt us.

He still calls me by the name He gave me, calls me His daughter, even when I mess up. Because I am His.  Not because I’m doing everything right, not because I have it all together (because I SO don’t), but I’m His child.  What amazing love. 

Hold fast to this today, my friends.  We will stumble, but He is there to love us through it.  We will choose rebellion, but He will choose grace.  He will not un-adopt us.  We carry His name.

Next week I want to unpack another related passage in Ephesians, so please check out next week’s post!  \

Please comment below; I do read them and respond as soon as I can.  How does this resonate with you?  Do you ever feel insecure in your adoption into God’s family?

Sloppy Painting: Seeing the Big Picture in the Midst of the Mess

My sweet friend and neighbor, Donna, is a wonderful decorative painter.  She’s passionate about her craft and eager to share it with others; she even got me to (try to) paint!  Donna shared a recent experience and I couldn’t wait to commit it to words and share with you. 

She was admiring an art exhibit that hung in a local gallery, and one piece stood out from the rest, beckoning her in for a better look.  Up close the painting looked like a total mess.  She, a very accomplished painter, was baffled with creating this way.  Donna’s work reflects her love of clean lines, direction, and order.  But the painting that so intrigued her was chaotic, very free-form in its style; it looked like a sloppy, disorganized disaster at close range.  From a distance, however, it was a beautiful piece- a stately lion rather than a tangle of splotches and smears of paint placed with no apparent rhyme or reason. 

She was mystified how an artist could do that: stand a few inches away from a canvas, creating a beautiful mess, somehow knowing the beauty that will emerge when the painting is complete.  How does this messy, chaotic creativity work?  It clearly makes sense to the artist and the final product works out to be what they intended all along: beautiful. 

In life, we like to think we are the artists creating our own paintings, when we aren’t in control.  We can’t choose the canvas, colors, or the direction of the strokes. We have the urge to suggest a color, give helpful advice, perhaps weigh in on the size and shape of the canvas.  But we are NOT the artist.  We are beautiful messes, works in progress, every one of us.  I see my own chaos, my own mistakes, my own missteps, my own glaring faults, a sloppy, disorganized disaster close-up.  But they’re part of the texture and melange of brush strokes that God is using to create something unlike any other piece he’s painted in the past.  His masterpiece of me. 

So often we fret, worry, and shed oceans of tears about those in our lives who are wandering.  We pray, we struggle with their path, wondering at the splotches and smears in their life, things seemingly without rhyme or reason.  But in the midst of that, God whispers, “Listen.  Back up.   It’s an unfinished mess of a painting when you look close up, but I’m not done.  They’re mine and I’m still working on them.  You’ve been trying to direct the Artist, choose the color, hold the paint brush.  Step back so you can see more than the mess in this person’s life.  Can’t you see the beauty I’m creating? This life, my masterpiece, isn’t finished yet.” 

Trust the Master Artist as He paints your canvas and the canvases of those you love.  He sees the big picture. He has the plan.  He knows the end result.  He gives perspective.  Seek His will for your life, His design, His pattern.  Trust that His process is creating beauty in the midst of the mess.

For we are God’s masterpiece.  He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.  Ephesians 2:10, NLT



7 Basic Ways to Focus on What’s Right in Front of You

We often gaze far into the distance when wondering about God’s direction for us, seeking what the big-picture future will hold.  I do this.  So much.  But if you read last week’s post, you know God has been redirecting my gaze and refocusing my path.  If you haven’t read it yet, take a few minutes to settle in there before you continue here.

When living a life of “what’s right in front of you,” focus rather than near-sightedness is the key.  It’s not that I ignore the bigger picture, but I am learning to trust what that big picture looks like to God and focus on making the next brush stroke, then the next.  Let’s spend a few minutes unpacking the “what’s right in front of you” message by looking at some practical applications you can set in motion TODAY.

  • Do what’s in front of you
    •      As God places opportunities in your path, look at them with a heart of “yes.”  Have an open heart and build some open space in your schedule that allows for divine appointments and assignments.  Please hear me: not every opportunity is from God and not every request is your assignment.  This takes some discernment, but YOUR opportunities will be clear to you as you listen more to what God wants and less to the expectations of the world.  Listen to those promptings and whispers that bless another, not just say yes to every person who asks you to do something.  This really isn’t easy.  I’ve struggled with this for years, but as I walk further down the path God has for me, it becomes clearer to me which are His assignments for me and which are just another thing to do. In all practicality, I’m learning to use the direction of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”  Ask God if an opportunity is for you.  Seek His direction and timing.  Knock on that door and see if it opens.  But don’t try to bust through a locked door.  Never works out well.


  • Use what’s right in front of you
    •      Look around your home.  I’m guessing, like mine, it’s full of stuff.  Full of books, clothes, home decorations, food.  Things I still go to the store to purchase more of.  Use what you have.  Figure out creative ways to restyle an outfit with things you already have or a room with decorative accessories from another place in your home.  Use the food in the freezer and pantry- again get creative!   Read all those books already on the shelf (or on your Kindle) before you buy more.  We are blessed beyond belief in this country.  We don’t necessarily need more stuff, we just need to use and enjoy what we have more.
    •      Use the resources, the connections, the gifts and talents that are right in front of you.  Not just the stuff.  You were uniquely gifted and you have a sphere of influence that NO ONE ELSE has in this world.  Make good use of it.


  • Write what’s in front of you
    •      For me that means I need to listen to what God is impressing on my heart, what He is teaching me through my studies, my prayer time, my small groups, messages at church on Sundays, and my life experiences.  Then I need to write what He’s showing me rather than worrying about writing what will sell.  Life is full of rich material.  It just takes time to put it all down in words.  Take the time.  Even if you’re not a writer.  Share your stories and live out loud.  You never know what God will use to make all the difference for someone else.


  • Love what’s in front of you
    •      This calls me first and foremost to love my family well, those who live with me and those who don’t.  I alone can fill the spot in their lives God has blessed me with.  I need to be diligent in that role before I spend myself anywhere else. I need to love the people God has put in my life in my new Texas hometown, listening for how to know them better and serve them better.  I continue to love the dear ones we love in California by reaching out to them and letting them know I am still here, still praying, still cheering them on from afar. I am called to love the people on social media with whom I regularly interact by praying for them and encouraging them.  I am called to love the person in line with me at Starbucks, or the person sitting by the roadside asking for help, or the person packing my groceries at Kroger.  Love the ones right in front of you.  God put them there for a reason, and He put you there for a reason.
    •      Love the circumstances, home, and blessing that are right in front of you.  Be grateful.  Appreciate the good.  Be aware of blessings and look for ways to share them.  This can be challenging if you’re in the middle of circumstances or places that are hard, painful, and possibly in no way of your own making or choosing.  But you can find blessings in all of these hard things.  I’ve struggled oh-so-much here as I’ve learned to walk with chronic illness, move far from all those I knew, and lose a career.  You find what you look for; seek with eyes that long to find the good.


  • Serve what’s in front of you
    •      Keep your eyes open for opportunities to serve, even in a small way, the people who surround you.  This lines up closely with loving what’s in front of you, but takes it to the next level.  You may not be able to serve someone in poverty or illness on the other side of the world, but you aren’t accountable for them.  You’re accountable for the person God has placed right in front of you.


  • Walk the path that’s right in front of you
    •      Okay, this one is hard.  For years I thought my career in education was the path for me.  And it was for a season.  Then I thought my career path in a major finance corporation was the path for me.  And it was for a season.  It’s been a challenge for me to accept this very different, very hard path of chronic illness, but there are a million blessings on this path, just as there were on the others.  I trust the One constructing the road.  Find contentment in your path even if you seem to be off-roading for a while.


  • Take the next step that’s right in front of you
    •      Just take the next step.  Then the next one.  And the next one.  I spend a lot of time worrying about where the path is taking me, but I need to spend a lot MORE time trusting God’s path and being obedient to His timing His purpose, and His plan.  No need to rush ahead of Him.  One step at a time is enough.

Choose to be present.  Choose to keep focus on the God-given sphere of influence and life you have at your elbow every day.  Choose to trust God and focus on what’s right in front of you.  Choose to live alert and see what’s there, what you can do, how you can make a difference.  And then choose to act.

last week’s blog post

FOMO and God’s direction


I have a tendency to live in a state of FOMO:  fear of missing out.  Missing whatever everyone else is enjoying so very much and I’m not part of it.  Fear of missing the call, missing the opportunity, longing for something other than what I have in this time, this moment, this season of life.
This fear has collided with my generally optimistic view of life again and again.  And I suspect I’m not alone in this.  Social media doesn’t help.  Here’s a typical scenario, maybe it will sound familiar:  Scrolling through your feed (Facebook, Instagram, whatever), you stumble across a post of your friends out having a lovely time. Without you.  You WERE perfectly happy reading in your back yard and enjoying an iced tea, or curled up by the fireplace with coffee and Netflix. In that moment, what you’re missing rips the focus off the blessing you already have, snatching away your contentment.  You question why you aren’t part of something else.  Why you are in the place and time where you find yourself.  And you wilt away from your happy place that was so lovely moments before.   *sigh*
But.  In the midst of that scenario, I miss the blessing.  I miss my assignment.  I miss the joy of here and now because I’m longing for there and then.   This is true not just in social situations, missing out on a fun time with friends, but when you see others making an impact for God that you aren’t part of, or achieving things you can’t do, or seeing success you haven’t yet seen.
I have struggled over the past months with God’s path and timing for what He is calling me to do.  Since chronic illness pulled me from my job almost 2 years ago, I’ve wrestled with my identity, my purpose, and what I need to be spending myself on.  At times the path God calls me to has been very clear to me: as I served my family, as I ministered to my elderly mom, as I prepared to move from California to Texas.  Despite those places of clarity,  I’ve still been pulled all over the place in the fun-house inside my head with the question of whether I’m reaching enough people with my writing, with not currently speaking anywhere, with my Facebook author page, etc.  Ugh.
I’ve prayed about this and tried to listen to God since the beginning of the year, and here’s what He has told me unequivocally:
Do what’s right in front of you.
Be grateful and joyous in the who, what, and where that God has placed right in front of you.  Be present.
Instead of worrying about having the farthest reach possible in this world, instead of worrying that everyone else has a more meaningful (or more fun) life than you have, know that God has placed you where you are, surrounded by certain people and certain circumstances, because He wants you to look at what’s right in front of you to make a a difference RIGHT THERE.
As I begin to wrap my head around this, a weight seems to lift from me.  I don’t have to take it ALL on (as we women tend to attempt and then fail gloriously on a routine basis), I just need to do what’s right in front of me.
Does “right in front of me” mean there isn’t a larger mission?  Bigger opportunities?  More places to stretch?  No, but it does mean I need to focus on the next step even as I dream big about the seed God has planted in my heart.
This absolutely doesn’t mean running blindly ahead, blundering hard without a plan in place and just seeing where the day takes you in every aspect of life.   Having a general plan and structure in how you work life is pretty vital to me, she who loves to make lists.  And she who adds things she’s already done to said lists that weren’t originally ON the list, just so she can cross them off.  Ahem.  Focusing on what’s right in front of me means walking through life with eyes wide open and intentionally looking for what God places before you, your assignments for the minute, hour, day, week.
A couple of examples:  If you have a heart to feed people across the world, start feeding the person that is right in front of you (in your home, in your community, on the street corner by Target).  God put them there for a reason.  If you have a heart to write a book or speak, start writing about what God is putting right in front of you.  God put it there for a reason, and the people who are in your sphere of influence need to hear it or read it.
What’s right in front of you is the BEGINNING of the path.  NOT the end.  Small seeds grow in to huge trees.  But they don’t grow at all if they’re not planted.
This whole concept may sound way too simple, but I am working through this and unpacking it a bit as I listen and pray.  In next week’s blog, I will outline a few areas of “what’s in front of you” that God is shining a light on in this season.
I would love to hear how this resonates with you!  Please comment below!  God’s blessing until next week!


A Wife’s Secret to Happiness: don’t miss this!

     A wife’s secret to happiness.  What is this elusive thing, happiness, that we all seek after, we all hang our worth upon?
     We want so much to be happy, to feel that deep down satisfaction and peace in life, and possibly more than any other area, in our marriages, the most foundational of all relationships.  The adage “Happy wife, happy life” comes to mind, seeming to urge husbands to keep that girl of theirs in a good place so they can reap the benefits in their lifetimes together.  While that’s all well and good, and rather smart advice, our husband’s efforts aren’t our true source of happiness as wives.  We  want this most intimate relationship to be a happy one, but it is a grave and most basic error to think your husband can truly be our source of happiness.
     I have an amazing husband.  Ah-mazing.  We have been very happily married for almost 27 years. (Yes, we were infants when we got married, thank you for noticing how very youthful we are).  But as exceptional as my husband is, he cannot be my sole source of happiness.  He’s human.  A very good-looking and hilarious human who knows me better than anyone and treats we incredibly well, but human nonetheless.  And, like me, he makes mistakes. And has bad days. And doesn’t always say the exact right thing.  And what’s a girl to do when confronted with imperfect?  When human bumps into her happiness?  Well, that depends on the foundation holding up that girl’s happiness.
     I recently read A Wife’s Secret to Happiness by Jen Weaver.  This book articulates so much of what I’ve learned through my marriage, and so much I wish I’d understood as a younger wife, earlier in my walk with my husband.  Jen cuts to the bedrock here, the foundation in God that holds our happiness.  This book is filled with gut-honest and authentic struggles and joy, hands-on practical ways to apply God’s word to your marriage right now, and great downloadable bonus content to encourage and help you on your way. This is a great read, perfect for today’s young wives.  And some of us who are, um, less young.
     The secret of a wife’s happiness is truly seeing herself, her marriage, and her husband through the lens of her loving Savior.  To see how this team fits together, whose role is what, and looking to God for joy and fulfillment.  When I, a human and flawed wife, am in harmony with God, soaked in His grace, I am far more able to give grace to my awesome but also human husband, look to his best interest, and seek God’s plan for what our home and family should look like.
     When I was a younger wife, earlier in the journey of our marriage, less experienced and less in tune with what God was calling me to in my family, I thought this wife’s secret to happiness would be having this hot husband and getting my way about how things ran. Having a certain house, having a certain lifestyle, having our kids at a certain time, having my husband read my mind and do things because he wanted to.  I thought the secret to my happiness was, essentially, all about me.  Not about we.  But I, and I suspect many other wives who may see these words, had it so backwards.  We is the operative.  In A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, Jen emphasizes the importance of fighting alongside your husband in this great battle of life instead of against him.
     A wife’s secret to happiness, as Jen Weaver outlines it in her book, is the same in so many ways as a human’s secret to happiness.  Love God first, seek other’s best interests. When we let God provide and let our husbands love us rather than us seeking our own self promotion or demanding our own way, life is better. So. Much. Better.
     Will frustrations come?  Of course they will.  Again, human people involved in this situation.  But if you need to vent, to complain, give it to God.  Don’t be that contentious woman that drives your man to live on the corner of your rooftop instead of sharing your bed (Proverbs 25:24).  Fight for the we over the me.  This WILL make you a happy wife with a happy life.
     If you’d like to win a free copy of Jen Weaver’s excellent book, A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, please comment on this blog post AND be sure you’ve liked my author Facebook page, Kathleen Tysinger, before April 5.  I will draw a winning name and announce it in a live video on my Facebook page on April 6