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Never Good Enough

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Never Good Enough

I dared to dream that I would be chosen. After all, it was not a popularity contest. Everything I knew confirmed that selection was based on merit. Surely my solid 4.0 GPA, my outstanding citizenship (to this day I won’t drop a scrap of paper on the ground) and my involvement in extracurricular activities guaranteed my induction into the National Junior Honor Society. Granted, I was a band geek, but nevertheless, involved. I was sure that I was good enough.

By design. students were surprised when they spotted their parents in the room. My mom anxiously awaited the call that would summon her to the super-secret ceremony which occurred during the school day.

Mother was cheering for me. She had the best intentions but she always wanted each of her children to be “the best” at everything. No pressure, right? God rest her soul. I was certain that I would forever disappoint her. I didn’t realize that in her eyes I was the prettiest, the most talented and the most deserving.

I wasn’t the least bit athletic; in fact, I was skinny and clumsy.

I was terribly near-sighted and wore thick glasses.

I was an insecure introvert.

All of my doubts about my worth were confirmed everywhere I looked. Classmates were fashion and brand conscious, wearing Izod “Gator” skirts and Aigner loafers; my mom sewed my wrap around skirts and my knockoff “Keds” were from the J. M. Fields discount store.

But I believed this one accolade was possible; I was good enough. All of the boxes were ticked.

That Spring afternoon, the timid yet hopeful eighth grade version of me walked into the lunchroom\auditorium at Robinswood Junior High with the rest of her class. She looked around expectantly and her heart fell. There was no sign of her mother.

I don’t remember the ceremony. Disappointment overwhelmed me. I reported the outcome that evening at home. My mother wisely scheduled an appointment for me to speak to the guidance counselor.

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I trembled as I waited for the meeting, but I had to know. Never before had I questioned authority, but there had to be a mistake.

The counselor couldn’t disagree with my GPA and extracurricular involvement, although she inferred I could be doing more. She had no idea that band alone required a huge sacrifice. I had responsibilities at home for younger siblings. More was not an option.

The rest of the conversation was my introduction to the squiggly realm of subjective analysis of worth. “We don’t ‘feel’ you have leadership skills”. I’m sure there was more, but I heard that one loud and clear. As I look back, there was no one to help this awkward, struggling, smart and capable young girl to develop the needed skills.

I knew that to be good enough I would have to work harder. I studied to increase my intelligence and became a decent clarinet player, occupying first chair through junior high and maintaining the first section through high school. I had something to prove, if only to myself.

In January of my senior year I heard the chapters from John for the first time in my life. Every week I thought of how hard I had tried to be good enough. The good news of the Gospel brought me to tears and into a relationship with the one who said I was worthy of his life.

Even as I grew spiritually, I continued to buy the lie that I couldn’t lead. I wasn’t drawn into the inner circle of women at church; I knew the reason. It was the big “L” on my oily forehead…Lacks Leadership! Don’t choose her. There are plenty of prettier, smarter, more engaging women out there who will lead and influence women for Jesus.

I quietly served on the third floor, the place where the carpet was worn and the corners were filled with discarded stuff from below; the lower floors where women who were natural leaders sat around tables decorated with flowers as they learned Precepts of the Bible and dug far deeper into Scripture than I would ever go with those mere girls in my little corner room.

Every year I greeted a new group of girls, gangly and unsure of themselves as they ventured into high school. And every summer I marveled at the mature young women who moved on to the next room for tenth grade. I loved them; I prayed for them and I taught them as well as I knew how about loving Jesus and knowing how fiercely he loved them.

I hadn’t given any of this much thought. My eighth grade disappointment is way back in the rear view mirror.

The days that I taught ninth grade girls, often wondering if they a) thought I was the most boring woman alive or b) the meanest because I wouldn’t take them to McDonalds for breakfast during class every week, are already more than a decade ago.

Two weeks ago I got in my car and drove for twelve hours to a women’s conference. The associate women’s minister at the church had extended an invitation. The conference center was beautiful; the teaching was solid and Biblical and the worship of the 500 women in attendance was glorious. Every detail was carefully planned and executed. It was perfect.

At the end of the conference, as Jennie Allen signed books and posed for pictures with hundreds of women, I hung back. I finally took a spot at the end of line and moments later, she greeted me. I introduced myself and handed her my book. As she signed, an arm encircled me and the associate women’s minister spoke to Jennie.

“Do you know who this is?” Playfully, Jennie responded. “Her name is Lorraine…we’ve just met!’

And the response brought hot tears to my eyes, taking my breath and my voice away. “She was my mentor all through high school.”

Cass and the Ugly Cry

“She was my mentor all through high school.”

As it turns out, leadership was trumped by God’s grace, worked out in my life as love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I could never have stirred up and maintained even one of those over the long haul, but the one who quickened me to life in the Spirit has given them for the building up of the body of Christ.

In that moment, he gave me a sweet glimpse into all that He had been up to on the third floor. His grace had accomplished what my striving could not.

By his grace alone,

lorraine

Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around
so all get in on it: if words, let it be God’s words; if help, let it be God’s hearty help.
That way, God’s bright presence will be evident in everything through Jesus, and he’ll get  all the credit as the One mighty in everything—encores to the end of time.
Oh, yes!
1 Peter4:10-11 ~ The Message

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I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this beautiful woman’s journey. Cass is leading women at Shades Mountain Baptist Church. The lady in the middle? She’s pretty cool too – meet Jennie Allen!

 

 

I Want What I Want

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I Want What I Want

 

As I stepped into the salon, Kate looked up from her client and smiled, her dark lashes fluttering as she flashed a bright smile. “Hi Lorraine! I’ll be finished up here soon, okay?”

I sat on the lumpy parson’s chair next to the bay window and selected a worn magazine from the stack. Flipping through the pages, I focused on her client. They chatted about styling tools and I silently admired her cute outfit. “Love those thongs”, I thought. I almost asked her about them and then noticed the Tory Burch signature hardware on the strap.

They finished up and I caught sight of the exquisite setting of her diamond ring as she pulled her Louis Vuitton tote from the shelf behind me. Kate excused herself as they walked toward her Lexus, cheerfully chatting.

As we began the process of highlighting my hair to hide some of the evidence of my age, I mentioned the previous client. “She’s beautiful; and she has lovely taste in accessories and cars!” Kate agreed and we went on to catch up on one another’s lives.

A day later I sent my sweet stylist a text with a selfie, thanking her for my new look. She responded with an innocent comment that made me stop and think.

“You look stunning! You look like you drive a Lexus and wear Tory Burch.” She was humoring me based on my comments the previous day. I admired the woman’s sense of style and her impeccable taste, but that was really all that I knew about her. Was it that obvious that I might have wanted her stuff, if only for a moment?

I hesitated and then responded to her text from a place where God is working overtime to transform my heart. “I hope I look like I care about people; that I would drive my Passat to wherever you are when you need something.”

Lest you think this is a rant about designer handbags, it’s not. I own some; but I don’t want to be defined by the clothes I wear, the bag on my shoulder or the car that I drive.

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Image is powerful. I’ve wrestled with wanting a certain look and with not looking my age while not looking like a fool who’s in denial about her age. I want to be a Godly woman with great taste, who loves people. I want what I want.

Last night I sat in the quiet of my living room. It was early evening and the sun was streaming in the window as it crept lower toward the horizon, landing on the pages of a book I am reading. A phrase jumped off the page and I was arrested by it.

The author, Jennie Allen, was sharing a conversation she had with her friend, Jessica. Jessica spoke these words: “Jennie, I think most of us live thinking there is a medium. A place where we can live regular lives and serve God too.”

The truth is that when we finally surrender our lives, there is no medium. There is no contentment in living in the middle. I’ve spent most of my life precisely in the middle. Medium seemed safe and moderate, you know?

Your surrendered life won’t look like mine. For some, a surrendered life is a fifteen passenger van filled with car seats and kids who may or may not bear resemblance to you. For others it’s a hut in Africa or a shanty in Haiti. For some young adults it’s contentment in singleness and for others it’s contentment in a marriage that needs healing. There are moms who are worn out and worn down by a rebellious child they continue to love unconditionally.

Jennie went on to say that the only way to live is to die. It’s backwards and counterintuitive, isn’t it friend? And yet, there it is:

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—
Romans 6:6 NIV

 I want what I want. But in Christ, when my heart is truly his, when I am fully surrendered, I will want what he wants. Every day he’s opening my eyes to the reality that my pilgrimage is short compared to eternity. He’s realigning my priorities.

This is certain. When we approach Mt. Zion in the heavenly Jerusalem, as countless thousands of angels sing and God’s firstborn are assembled in a joyful gathering to welcome us, it won’t matter who we wore or what we drove. Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant will greet us, speaking forgiveness.

On that day, my only adornment will be his grace. I think it looks really good on me. 

Stunning, in fact.

Grace to you,

lorraine

I referenced Jennie Allen’s book,
Anything – the Prayer that Unlocked my God and My Soul.
I highly recommend it and you can get it here.

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Excuse Me, That’s MY Tiara

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Excuse Me, That’s MY Tiara

It was less than a week after my birthday. While not a Hallmark milestone year, it was a benchmark for me. Suddenly I was eligible for even more “senior” discounts. At 62, theater tickets and even hotel rooms are cheaper.

I receive your blessing, Lord. I didn’t come this far to walk away from a good deal!

While I was willing to embrace the discounts I was not willing to accept the tag. Senior.

My parents were senior citizens. Senior citizens grumble about their “fixed” income and eat dinner at 4:00 to avoid crowds and save two dollars.

I was scrolling through Facebook, which always makes me feel better about myself. Right there on my news feed was a post about the Disney Princess Half Marathon – my friend had just signed up. Suddenly (and a bit impulsively) I was in.

You should know this about me: when the total of any purchase approaches high double digits my pulse quickens; if it hits triple digits I need a gut check. And yet I navigated over to the web site, whipped out my credit card and shelled out $185 to register. I was giddy – it might have been the tiaras or the hopes of a “dream come true magical experience”, but I had grand visions of crossing the finish line, hand in hand with my dear friend.

I imagined we would spend hours comparing training schedules and cheering each other along as we added distance and shortened times.

I made a meme for my Facebook cover. I wrote it down in my goals. Oh, this was going down, friends.

Perhaps this would be a good time to mention that I hate running. I love the idea of running; but running hurts me. It twists my guts in knots; I get something called a “stitch” in my side. With every foot fall I feel the jolt, first in my feet and then up my legs and into my torso. I literally feel like I’m pounding the pavement.

After I’ve been in motion (I can’t run very far, but at least my body doesn’t revolt against walking) for thirty minutes or so, the nerves behind the third and fourth toes on my right foot begin to burn. It’s somewhere between fire ants and electrical shock. It’s most painful with foot fall, so it’s only hurts every other step.

My breathing is labored and because I’m panting so hard I’m thirsty before I get to the end of my driveway.

I should also mention that this friend lives as far away from me as you can get and still be in the Continental United States. With almost three thousand miles separating us, our joint training was not impossible, but highly improbable for two people who can’t seem to get together for an occasional phone call.

You have a question, don’t you? You are dying to ask. 

Go ahead…I’m waiting.

Okay, I’ll ask it for you.

Why in the world did I think this was going to happen?

Twice I’ve positioned myself along a fence near the finish of the Disney World marathon. I watched every face as I checked the status of my runner on my smartphone. The first time, I was torn between urgency and dread.

26.2 miles. How could her body endure such punishment? And yet, I never took my eyes off the course as I scanned every face for the one that I loved. My child.

And I saw her. She was smiling, she was running well, and I cried. Relief and pride and joy swept over me. My baby girl had done it. 

Again last January I stood near the same place, watching. When I spotted her I made a spectacle because I wanted to make sure she knew I was there. It was a harder run; she hadn’t trained as well and she was hurting. But she did it. I know she had to dig deep to cross the finish, but she did.

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My beautiful daughter and her son at the finish.

Each time, I carefully surveyed the runners. They were all shapes and sizes. Some were running alone, others part of a team. Some ran for a cause emblazoned across their chest; others I was sure ran for reasons much more private but no less noble and meritorious.

I was inspired. I allowed myself to consider the possibility. I decided I would do that. One day.

And so it is not surprising that on that day, as I considered the number of days I hope to have left, I knew it was time to walk right into the dream that was birthed in my heart years earlier.

But August came and with it some significant pain that started in my hip and radiated down my leg and into my shin. I rested.

The pain persisted. It got a lot worse when I walked any distance. I relented; an appointment was scheduled and the diagnosis was harsh. Arthritis.

The short story is that I can’t do 13.1 miles. I’ll never cross that finish line, exuberant yet exhausted.

I’m been bummed. I’ve felt guilty about wasting the money. But most of all I’ve wondered what else is no longer possible. I have regrets over things not attempted. I also am beginning to understand why some of us are less “Snow White” and more “Grumpy” with age.

I’ve given this some time to marinate in my heart. I’ve asked God to cover it with grace and mercy as I consider what He would have me do next.

He is amazing ya’ll. He began to roll a highlight reel of my life. He showed me the races I have run; the ones where I crossed the finish line bloody and bruised and alone.

There were some where I barely could barely walk as I held the hand of one who came alongside and literally walked me across the finish. I saw the times that I crawled, too weary to look up…but he was always there.

I don’t know if I have days, years or decades left in this life. I don’t know how many of my dreams I’ll realize. 

But I know this for sure:

When I cross the the final finish line, he will be there waiting for me.

He is watching, he is checking my status and when I get near, he’s going to make sure that I see him. I believe he will take my hand and help me across.  

It’s true that I won’t be running with a tiara but I am his nonetheless. 

Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;honor him, for he is your lord. Psalm45:11

The hardware of this life’s races will pale in comparison to all that he has for us in heaven.

 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because,
having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life
that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 NIV

He will give you a crown of beauty for ashes. Isaiah 61:3

Can’t stop, won’t stop,

lorraine

Travel Advisory – Narrow Road Ahead

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Travel Advisory – Narrow Road Ahead

I had been out of sorts all weekend and now I was stepping off a flight, still in a funk.

I’d been in this airport before; it was familiar though not the least bit comforting.

It was barely October but the northeastern air was cold as I exited the terminal toward the rental cars. “At least I know my way around” I thought as I trudged in that direction, pulling luggage and balancing a heavy computer bag on my shoulder.

I settled into a sedan and drove away from the airport, remembering the first time I flew into Manchester. That time, the luck of the rental car line-up afforded me a Mustang convertible. I had put the top down in spite of the chilly temperatures.

One wrong turn transported me into a fragrant forest of trees. Realizing that I must be off course, I navigated onto a side road to turn around. The sound of the gravel under those tires and the earthy scent of the trees reminded me of places I love. Even now, the memory calmed my heavy heart a bit.

I passed the spot of the errant turn and smiled to myself. Maybe a cup of coffee would perk me up, I thought. I spotted a new Dunkin’ Donuts just before I reached the on ramp for the interstate; in just a few minutes I had a steaming cup and was on my way to the hotel that would once again be home for the week.

After a quick call to let my hubby know I was bound for my destination, I reflected in silence as I drove the mostly deserted highway.

I’m too old for this.

I am too tired for this.

I can’t do this.

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I recited a litany of reasons and excuses – all well-rehearsed over the past few days. Weariness set in as I sipped my coffee and focused on the road.

I had forgotten the natural beauty of the drive south toward Boston. It was overcast, but even under gray skies the glorious colors of fall brightened the landscape. The birch trees stood tall, their white bark like dress whites crowned with colorful leaves.

I noted one of those highway signs that marks a famous landmark. Robert Frost Farm. The client had mentioned it on my last trip and suggested it might be worthwhile to stop and explore on my return to the airport. Ever the worried traveler, I didn’t dare risk missing my outbound flight.

But now I was in no great hurry to reach an empty hotel room. There was no mystery or excitement or even concern about finding it. I’d stayed there before and it was just the standard place to rest after a long day.

Only days before an Amazon box awaited my arrival home after work. I opened it with curiosity, since I didn’t recall ordering anything. To my great delight, my sweet hubby had ordered a stack of books recommended for writers! Among them was Bird by Bird by Ann Lamott. And so I had just read and underlined these words:

“One of the gifts of being a writer is that it gives you an excuse to do things,
to go places and explore.”

“I’m a writer”. I had only recently mustered the courage to make that declaration and in the moment I felt a fresh determination to walk in that. I took the exit and navigated to the tiny, unassuming farm.

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I shivered as I exited the car and approached the barn. A lone man sat just inside. After greeting me, he quietly waited as I explored the artifacts and books displayed.

“Would you like to view the video and tour the home?” I hesitated only a moment. Writing was a great excuse to explore this place that had inspired Frost to write. For the next half hour, I settled under an afghan on a rough wooden bench and watched a poor quality film about the life of one of America’s most beloved poets.

I toured the home; the simple farmhouse was anything but inspiring, but as I peeked out windows and imagined life there in the early 1900’s, I realized that inspiration comes in the ordinary moments of everyday life.

I purchased a small paperback collection of Frost’s poems, said goodbye to my tour guide and walked the grounds, collecting damp leaves as I wandered. The question hung in my heart and mind. “What am I doing here?”

There was small stone wall; I stopped to rest a bit despite the chill. Opening the small book, I found Frost’s famous words:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.[i]

Frost’s reference to a road less traveled reminded me of the words of another who had this to say about choosing a path:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road
that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.

But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life,
and only a few find it. ~ Jesus, Matthew 7:13-14

That chilly afternoon, I realized that I choose a path every day.

The wide road is so appealing. I want easy. I long for wide lanes and smooth terrain. I stand at the fork and want to choose for my comfort, for my peace and for my convenience. Me, me, me.

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I lingered for a bit, considering the week before me. It was not the road I wanted to choose. It was hard; it was unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But it was ordained. It would stretch me and at the end of it, I would be spent. And that is exactly the way I long to live: poured out and used up for the reasons I am alive – to love God and to share his love with others.

I stood and walked back to the car, my steps lighter. I breathed the autumn air deeply and paused again to look back at the homestead.

It was going to be a great week. I was sure of it.

Navigating the road less traveled,

lorraine

[i] The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

 

Are  you looking for a safe place to seek encouragement?

Hopelively is a private community for women desiring to find and keep their Hope. For women seeking encouragement in their wellness pursuits or recovering from loss. Our goal is to promote a spirit of hope in the midst of struggles, both physical and spiritual.

Find us on Facebook.

Administrators: 

Jami Amerine of Sacred Ground Sticky Floors,

Lorraine Reep of Grace and Graffiti,

Rebecca Huff of ThatOrganicMom 

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Lemons and the Presidency

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Lemons and the Presidency

It’s inauguration day. This is not a political post; it’s safe to continue reading. Well, not exactly a political post. Perhaps you should proceed with caution.

Coincidentally, a friend gifted me two big bags of lemons. And what do you do when life (or your dear friend) gives you lemons?

You make lemonade. In my case, I made lemonade for all of my coworkers and I even shared some of the lemons (I hope you don’t mind, Regina!). With all the love one can muster on a Friday at noon, I squeezed those lemons in the break room; I added sugar and cold filtered water. Refreshment for all!

So, what does a bushel of lemons have in common with inauguration day?

Here’s the thing. I know that some of my fellow Americans are not happy today; heck, some are downright mad and others are just worried. Life just gave them a big bag of lemons.

Can I tell you a secret? If I let myself go there, I’m worried, too.

  • I’m worried about the current social climate that allows children to opt out of watching the inauguration. Seriously? Will we also allow future generations to skip chapters of their history books if the era included people whose political and/or social platform is different from theirs?
  • I’m worried about our penchant to pull scripture out of context and quote it to suit our agenda. If you really want to hold others to Levitical law, perhaps you should go review ALL OF IT. Shellfish, anyone? How about isolating the menstruating women? Or stoning a disobedient child.
    Let’s dole out GRACE with abandon. That’s what Jesus was all about. (I didn’t say there aren’t consequences, friends, but go read it all.)
  • I’m worried about feminists who will reject a woman who wants to champion women’s rights if she doesn’t agree fully with their stance on a woman’s right to choose.
  • I’m worried about people who I know who were willing to “unfriend” me over my choice in a recent election. The rhetoric was ugly and hurtful….and shocking. I thought we were friends. Where does that sort of ill will come from? I understand your reason for your vote; I hear you and I respect you. Disagree with me if you will, but disparage me? Where are our manners?
  • I’m worried about prejudice. I hurt for my friends of color. I worry about my little grandson. What will he face as he becomes a young man of color. With his limited sight I keep having visions of him with Sally Fields and that awful scene in Places in the Heart where, in spite of his blindness, Mr. Will knew something was up and the KKK showed up for Moze. I’m in tears again as I think of the hatred and violence.

That’s the short list, friends – it just hits a few of the high points.

But I have wonderful news that will give you sweet hope; it will combine your current big old bag of lemons with some love, sugar and ice and refresh your heart.

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The lemons came to me; I didn’t plant or nurture the tree; I didn’t even pick the lemons or put them in bags. But when I got them, it was in my power to add some love and sugar and allow them to refresh and bless.

God has got all of it, friends. It’s up to us to take each day, whether the circumstances we face were of our own planting or someone else’s, and do our part to spread the love of Christ.

The question I have to answer today, and each day, is this. Where is God calling me to notice a place where I can infuse love and maybe even a little sweetness to make a difference?

Ask him, friends. I don’t think you’ll have to look beyond your home or your workplace or perhaps that neighbor who voted the other way.

Not worried, because He’s got us (I’m actually right under his wing, resting in his shadow…

lorraine

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:1-4

 

Will I Ever Be Enough?

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Will I Ever Be Enough?

The sound woke me suddenly and my heart was beating fast. Adrenalin was coursing as I identified the source of the alarm. Two vibrations and then a few rising tones meant that my hubby’s blood sugar had exceeded the high threshold and his monitor was alerting.

I laid there in the dark, processing the information for a few minutes and it alarmed again. This time he sat up, insulin pump in hand. He took stock of his number and administered the insulin.

Five minutes later, the alarm sounded again. And five minutes later, and five minutes later….

He dozed beside me but I couldn’t sleep. Now awake, I thought of design ideas for an improvement to the continuous monitoring device. A temporary hold on alarms came to mind; a way to communicate that insulin was delivered, now hush and give it time to work its magic already.

Still awake, my thoughts went to the previous day. It was not a good one for me. Work was fine, home was fine, my commute was fine. I was not. Fine. The tension had been building for weeks.

I reviewed my conversations, my mindset, my attitudes. I regretted spoken words. It had been ugly.

I gave much thought to my husband’s earlier wise counsel over a situation that I was struggling with.

I was filled with regret. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I was truly sorry.

The truth is that I’m overwhelmed. Deadlines missed. People disappointed. Criticism hurled. Expectations dashed. I have a litany of reasons to be disappointed with myself that I recite when I turn the attack inward.

I am as hard on myself as I am on others. “Why did you ever think you could complete a half marathon?” I have guilt and embarrassment over yet another thing that I started and couldn’t finish. Mind you, an arthritic hip is the real demon here, but I’m glad to take a beating over it.

I took stock. I asked myself a question.

“What are you afraid of?”

Immediately, I thought of my every day fears. Lizards. Snakes…most any reptile you can name. But really, those aren’t the things that scare me when I lie awake in the night, when I’m driving my car, or when I sit down to write.

The truth is that I’m afraid that I’m not enough.

When I was expecting my second child (we didn’t know she was a girl – it was the 70’s) I was afraid. I had normal expectant mom fears like birth defects and whether something I ate or something the doctor prescribed might harm my baby.

But my biggest fear? I was afraid that I wouldn’t have enough love for another child.

I loved my firstborn daughter with a love that I had never known. She was our life. I couldn’t wait for her to wake up in the morning and I stood over her crib and watched her sleep at night. There was no way that I had the capacity to love another child like that. This new baby? I feared she would get leftovers. If there were any, that is.

Of course, our second daughter was born and I loved her dearly – she was such a gift to our little family.

That fear was ridiculous but it loomed large and in charge for the better part of eight months (again…the 70’s – I had to actually wait a few weeks to get a pregnancy test at the doctor’s office).

Fear unfounded. God created our hearts with the capacity to love beyond our wildest imaginations.

Back to that alarm in the night…the problem with it was lack of data. The device knew only the number that it was reading. It was not aware of the on-board insulin and therefore didn’t take it into consideration. It continued to act like there was not enough.

Through tears I confess that I am just like that. The fear is real, just like that number. There are plenty of triggers that cause me to be alarmed. There always will be. And I feel despicable. I’m ashamed. I’m afraid that no matter how much I do, how hard I try, I will never be enough. And data is proving it. The world, even good people, even some of the people who love me, will never be fully satisfied with me.

But unlike that device, I know the remedy has already been supplied. There is no need to walk about with anxiety and weariness over feeling I am not enough.

“Others were given in exchange for you. I traded their lives for yours
because you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you.”
Isaiah 43:4

I recently read these words from Kelly Balarie: “If it wants to beat you, tie you down, and throw you out back for always being despicable, I assure you, it is not God.”[1]

And further, if I constantly find fault with myself, I will not have the confidence to recognize the good in those around me. I will never honestly admire others more than I admire who God designed me to be.

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I wish I had a nice little bow to tie on this post. All figured out. Got it.

The truth is that I’m taking baby steps. I’m reading the words of a trusted mentor and I’m making a choice to walk in faith rather than fear.

He is enough, therefore I am enough…

lorraine

 

What fear are you struggling with today? I pray that you too, can begin to walk in faith and I highly recommend you join me on my fear-fighting expedition.

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About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

 

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.

 

[1] Quote from: Fear Fighting – awakening courage to OVERCOME your fears, by Kelly  Balarie

Learning to Love My Scars

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Learning to Love My Scars

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.”
Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

It was in the early 1960’s that my aunt and uncle and their daughter, my beautiful cousin, came to visit our big family in Florida. At the time, there were probably five of us. Two rambunctious older brothers inspired my younger sister and I to run and jump and test our limits.

There was a three by five foot step at the front door of our home with a cement patio surround. Our house was situated on a corner lot – there were no neighbors directly behind the house. A right of way for power lines towered high above the wide strip of land that my parents referred to as “the field”. Even with all of that space to roam and play, we spent hours in the front yard.

That step was a perfect place to hone (and test) our jumping skills. We set goals to leap higher and longer and never once thought about the consequences of falling on our faces and losing a tooth or worse.

I don’t remember the details, but I remember the reaction. Cousin Jan fell and skinned her knee. She was appropriately upset by the sight of her own blood and her mom and dad (as all moms and dads do with their first child) rushed to scoop up their one and only. I was nervous and anxious because I’d never seen that sort of reaction to a skinned knee. Most of ours were not reported and typically discovered during bath time when the washrag lathered with dial soap found the spot and the victim yelped.

I had never heard about scars, but quickly realized they were a big concern. It was her first skin injury; her parents were worried that she would have a scar. I didn’t know much about scars, but it seemed like a really bad outcome.

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The phone just rang. I knew by the caller id that it was my dermatologist’s office; the call was expected. Several days ago they scooped flesh from six spots on various parts of my body for biopsies. I surrendered to the procedure with routine dread, knowing too well that delaying the process only makes matters worse.

Three of the six were nothing – benign something or others and whatever. Get to the others, I thought to myself as I rifled through my bag, looking for a pen and paper. One is a basal cell carcinoma. Surgery required, she said. Frozen section, so plan to stay with us all morning, she said.

The other two, squamous cell, but thin so we can “just” treat them with Efudex. The mean cream is the pet name they’ve given it. It’s a topical chemo that slowly kills the cancer cells until the area is angry; red, oozing and painful. Awesome. I scheduled the surgery and turned back to my work.

I couldn’t really focus though. I kept thinking about having yet another surgery scar on my chest. A tear threatened to escape and I scolded myself. “You just heard about a friend’s loved one with a terminal cancer diagnosis – this is nothing! Get some perspective!” (I’m so much kinder to others than to myself at times.)

post-op-patchesIn late October I had the most invasive surgery yet. MOHS surgery removed the skin cancer and left a hole in my face the size of a quarter. Following the excision, another surgeon grafted skin from my shoulder to make a patch to cover the hole. The process was traumatic, but it’s over. I need only glance in the mirror for a reminder to wear my sunscreen. That one has been hard to love.

Scars. They mark our bodies with the evidence of a wound.

But what if I look at that with a new perspective? Every scar is also evidence of healing. The hurt place is again whole.

Scars are evidence that we have lived. They are beautiful because they give hope of healing. Scars don’t form on the dead.

When Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection he willingly showed his scars. He was recognized by them because they were evidence of his humanity.

Do you have a scar that is bothering you? He is wild about you, dear one. Settle into him and let him whisper to you the beauty that he wants to place in your heart.

“Now listen, daughter, don’t miss a word:
    forget your country, put your home behind you.
Be here—the king is wild for you.”
Psalm 45: 11

christy

Just one day after MOHS surgery, I met Christy for the first time. A great blogger friend and beautiful woman, she reassured me of my only unfading beauty – the work that He is doing in me.

 

May you always know you are beautiful,

lorraine

 Please visit and “like” the Grace and Graffiti Facebook page here.

And remember, it’s nice to share with your Facebook friends!  

I’m reading this amazing book and I think you would love it as well. Use the link below to preorder it today!

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About the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

 

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.

 

 

Fear fighting: Are You a People Pleaser?

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Fear fighting: Are You a People Pleaser?

I’m thrilled to welcome my sweet friend Kelly Balarie to Grace and Graffiti. Kelly chose the post that would appear on this page, and as I opened the files and began to post them, I was overwhelmed by God’s goodness. 

The sting is fresh. Last week I was criticized and it felt so personal. God knows I want to be brave, but deep in my heart, he also knows that I struggle with a desire to please people. Oh, thank you Father! You see the hearts of your children and you call us to be your servants; your burden is easy and your yoke is light.

Let Kelly’s words wash over you, friends. I am deep into her book and recommend that you gift yourself and a friend with a copy this beautiful Christmas season. Joy!

 

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God told me to pray with all my heart. So, I did. I don’t think they liked it very much.

 

I think they had thoughts about it. Opinions. Perspectives. Perceptions.

 

Ouch!

 

What do you do when God prompts your heart, but man judges it? They may not say it. They may not whisper it. They may not even admit it, but somehow you know, under the cover of their Christian guise it brews. What do you do with that?

 

This is what I’ve been considering. Do I take care of man or do I take care to follow God’s lead?

 

There’s risk, big risk, in following God. Moving outside norms, beyond bounds or having an air of “different” can feel like a punishment waiting to happen.  It can feel like you’re letting people down. It can feel like their charge over you marks you condemned.

 

Even more, the fear of being judged, ostracized or talked about behind your back – is real. It is really real. Even worse, in some cases, it is likely to happen. Add that to the enemy, who spits out ugly words, like: “Bad child, you are messing things up and stirring up problems,” and, at this point, you can be thrown into the sea of doubt, in a split-second.

 

Still, I want to do what is right by God, don’t you? I want to live for Him – first. I want to answer to Him – above all. I want to be like Christ – in every way.

 

God knows, I want to be brave. I think he sees my heart. So, like a gracious father, He leads me, his child, to truth; He brings me to these words:

 

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1:10

 

I can either with the approval of man. It’s fleeting and tiring.

Or, I can win the approval of God. It’s enduring and up building.

 

I can either please people. It’s short-lived and peace-depleting.

Or, I can serve Christ. It’s long-lasting and peace-giving.

 

What man gives today, is gone tomorrow. What you put in to satiating him, is eaten up by his desires for more – the next day. However, the will of God, does not waver. It does not grow old. It does not change course. It has a destination. There, lives joy, His glory and grand purpose.

 

Will we push into it? We can’t do it if we are sitting on man’s lap and eating up the delight of his face of approval. Jesus didn’t get a face of approval on the cross. His on-fire pursuit of doing God’s appeared nuts to man. It appeared worthy of their highest condemnation.

 

Still, Jesus didn’t change course. He stood fast to his belief in what his Father had called him to. He walked the road assigned to him, anyway.

 

What road do you need to walk anyway? What person’s demands do you need to release? What calling of love do you need to pursue?

 

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. Jo. 12:26

 

Paperback3DTemplates_5.5x8.5.inddAbout the book, Fear Fighting, Awakening the Courage to Overcome Your Fears:

Author and Speaker, Kelly Balarie didn’t always fight fear – for a large part of her life, she was controlled by it. Yet, in her book, Fear Fighting: Awakening Courage to Overcome Your Fears, with God, Kelly charts a new course. Join Kelly, on the journey to go and grow with Christ’s bravery, the Spirit’s counsel and God’s unending love that squelches fear. This book reads like a love letter from God, while offering practical heart-calming prayers, anxiety-reducing tips, and courage-building decrees that will transform your day.

 

kellypic

About Kelly Balarie:

Kelly is both a Cheerleader of Faith and a Fighter of Fear. She leans on the power of God, rests on the shoulder of Christ, and discovers how to glow in the dark places of life. Get all Kelly’s blog posts by email or visit her on her blog, Purposeful Faith. You can also find a variety of resources for your fight against fear at http://www.fearfightingbook.com/.

 

 

 

 

 

Heaven Wouldn’t Wait for Her

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Heaven Wouldn’t Wait for Her

Every day, without fail, I talked to her. One or the other of us made the call, and never once did I consider that she might be bothered or too busy to talk to me. Our conversations were as natural as breathing. We looked forward to them.

If one of us needed to run to Wal-Mart after the kids were in bed, we called, already knowing that the other would watch for headlights and run out the side door and into the waiting car. It didn’t matter that our homes were not on the way to the ultimate destination.

Our children were best friends. Our husbands loved being together. When someone saw one of us without the other, the immediate question was “Where’s your twin?” We double-dated every Saturday night and took turns hosting Sunday night suppers after church.

I was crafty and creative; she was creative and practical. I was quick to panic and she always had a calm and confident response. I was raised by a mid-western farmer’s daughter; her parents were from the South. She taught me to cook fresh fried okra and for that alone my family is forever indebted to her. Together we learned to make something out of nothing – we could decorate the fellowship hall with a box of random scraps of fake greenery and ribbons (it was the 80’s – pre-Pinterest, okay?).

We shared our love of diet Pepsi and Almond Joy bars, Hardee’s biscuits and gravy and Chinese food. We both shopped right up until Christmas eve and wrapped gifts until just before dawn on Christmas morning.

But something happened at church. My family left and it wasn’t nice and neat; it certainly wasn’t pretty. In fact, it was the most difficult event of my life to that date. As with most fractured relationships, there was a ripple that went out from the epicenter of separation.

The fallout changed the amount of time we spent together. Too many fingers of relationships in that place couldn’t be untangled. And the thing that we had most in common – church – was no longer ours.

Our lives were more separate, but always along parallel lines. She had time to develop deeper relationships with some amazing women in her circle and I had a lot of healing to do from the brutality of the breakup with the church we had attended our entire married life.

When she told me her diagnosis I was sure it couldn’t be true. Cancer couldn’t happen to someone as pure as her. I prayed, certain that God was going to show himself mighty in her healing. I claimed a verse. I laminated it on a bookmark with a beautiful autumn leaf I found along a path on the way up to Chimney Rock and I gave it to her. It was a bold step of faith, but one I had to take for my dear friend.

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And then I watched cancer and the harsh treatments ravage her body. I sat by the bed where she lay dying in her parent’s home, silently praying as Judge Judy meted out justice on the television. I prayed and asked Jesus to make this right, to mete out some justice for my dear friend.

The call came early one evening; I remember sitting in the living room of a house we were renting; being strangely surprised and not at all surprised at the same time. I was not a stranger to grief, but I was overwhelmed by it; I was glad when they said I could come see her once more.

Her face was no longer distorted by pain. She looked peaceful and serene, the Sandy that I had known and loved. I told her that I loved her. I said the things that I had been afraid to say before, afraid she would think I had given up. I knew as sure as I was standing there she was in the presence of Jesus. She was finally healed and she was walking among the truly living, in a place where there is no more dying.

It’s been sixteen years since my dear friend left her body behind and joined the saints in Glory. There are so many days that I miss her, but I’ve learned to listen for her. When I get still, when I stop overloading my senses with information and noise, I consider what she would say.

“It’s going to be okay. We don’t need stress over this; we just need to do what we can with what we have and it will be good. And we are going to have fun doing it! Now, I’m thirsty – let’s grab a drink!”

I love you, Sandy. Happy birthday! I hope that you are enjoying heavens equivalent of candy corn, Pepsi (because who diets in heaven?) and Southern cooking. One of these days, I’m coming, so watch for the headlights and meet me at the side door okay? You can show me around.

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This is one of my favorites of us!

 

By his grace we carry on,

lorraine

 

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I Had an Out of Body Experience Last Sunday

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I Had an Out of Body Experience Last Sunday

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We were exhausted from three full days of moving and packing, but it was Sunday morning. We might have been tempted to skip church, but we had to check out of the hotel and the house was hardly relaxing, filled with moving boxes begging to be unpacked. There was also the minor detail of this being our son-in-law’s first official Sunday on staff. There was never a doubt that we would go to church.

We joined others as they came from classes and streamed from the humidity of the parking lot to the cool sanctuary. The bright room was filled with people greeting one another and settling into their seats.

We chose a spot about a third of the way from the front and our twelve-year-old grandson joined us. I finally exhaled, thankful for this pause in the midst of a very busy few days. I pulled him closer; I had to quietly admit to my Father that this grandma’s heart was anxious over all of this change and its impact, especially on my precious grandchildren.

The room was full of people who were mostly strangers to us. While the worship style was familiar and comforting, it was not what we are accustomed to.

And yet, as we sang hymns of the faith, my heart was full. I was able to set aside my mental list of tasks and goals and enter into genuine worship.

I was out of my normal “body” but it was good. It was as if God underscored his promise to prepare the way for his children.

“It is the LORD who goes before you. He will be with you;
he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 ESV

 

Are you dealing with change today? Are there circumstances that have brought you to physical and/or mental exhaustion? Perhaps a pause, the one thing you have no time for, is the very thing you most need. Get still, and listen. Then share with me what He speaks to your heart, will you?

In need of more grace every day,

lorraine

 

 notdesigner.blogspot.com_logo_facebookPlease visit and “like” the Grace and Graffiti Facebook page here.

And remember, it’s nice to share with your Facebook friends!  Thanks!