I Surprised Even Myself Today. . .

First Step is the Hardest

 

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-30

 

Today began with several firsts for me.  I fell into a rut a little more than a year ago, and my motivation to eat right and stay active kind of went down the drain.  This week I’ve been working on my motivation.  The past two days, though, I did nothing to stay active.  I was so tired that I just came home and did the absolute necessities and then crashed.

My goal was to sleep in today since it’s something I just don’t get to do.  I woke up a little before 8 and felt rested and refreshed even though I didn’t get to sleep until around 1:30 AM.  Yes that is sleeping in for me.

The first thing I did that surprised even me was that I didn’t sit in bed and turn the tv on.  I got up. . . and. . . I ran!  I know some of you enjoy it.  I know some of you are eager to do it and may even get in a bad mood if you miss a day of it.  But for me, I absolutely hate running.  It’s not fun, and I can’t figure out how to breathe, and my head feels like it’s going to explode, and I just don’t like it.  However, I can feel that it works every part of my body, and I’m able to set goals for myself, and it’s actually the one and only type of exercise I do that makes me  feel like I’ve accomplished something every time I do it.

My goal is always 3  miles, and I compete against myself – the shortest time I’ve run it before.  I haven’t run since 1 time in January, and that was the first time I ran since February LAST year!  My goal was just not to go over my longest time.  :)

At a half mile, I almost gave up because for the first time ever in my exercising life, I was about to vomit.  Too hot? I don’t know.  Heart rate too high? I don’t know.  I decided to walk and if it was going to happen it was going to happen, but I was going to keep going anyway.

WHAT?!?!  Let me just say, if you know me at any capacity, you know I’m a complainer when I’m not comfortable.  The fact that I changed my thinking from I’m stopping 5 minutes in because I’m about to be sick to I’m going to be sick right here in the bushes, and then I’m going to keep going is just not normal for me.

Luckily I hadn’t eaten yet, so I was able to control it and didn’t physically get sick.  I picked up my pace and started running again.  I did have a moment around 1.5 miles where I started feeling it again, but I pushed through.  However, I was ready to stop when I hit 2 miles, but I still hadn’t made it back home.  My new goal was 2.5 miles and then jump in the pool fully clothed because it was too darn hot.

I hit 2.5 miles, but I was at 33 minutes. I don’t know if it’s my OCD, and 33 minutes didn’t work for me, or if it was my competitive nature, but something sent an extra burst of determination through me.  I knew when I ran my very first 5K several years ago, I hit 37 minutes.  I told myself it’s just a half a mile more, and surely I could do that in under 40 minutes.  I would not hit 40 minutes.  I ran as fast as my hurting, tired legs would allow me, and then I just knew it.  I knew I was going to finally be sick, but I would not stop before reaching 3 miles, and I would not hit the 40 minute mark.  I’ve never taken 40 minutes, and I wasn’t about to start now.  I was at 2.95 miles and somewhere above 38 minutes.  My eyes watered down my cheeks from controlling my stomach, but I reached 3 miles, and I did it under 40 minutes!

Oh, and I did not get sick!  Yes, this was my slowest time by far, and honestly I’m kicking myself for not going ahead and running the next 10th of a mile to hit the 5K, but I’m so proud of myself for pushing so hard and accomplishing what I originally wanted to accomplish in the first place.  I didn’t do it for anyone.  I didn’t do it for a race.  I did it for me.  I prayed.  I know it sounds crazy, but I prayed at the half mile when I felt sick, and I prayed at that 2.5 mile and again when I was so close to 3 miles but didn’t know if I could do it.

God did not have to allow me to finish what I had set in my head to do, but he did.  God doesn’t want us to just come to him when we need something, and he doesn’t want us to just talk to him about “serious matters.”  God wants to be our friend.  I told him what my goal was.  I talked to him about wanting to stop when I felt sick and again when my lungs hurt and again when my legs were tired.  He didn’t let me quit.  Instead, he told me, “No.  You’re not stopping when you just started.  You can do this.  Keep going.  You can do it!”  And I did.  He told me at 2.5 miles, “It’s just a half mile more.  You have 7 minutes, you can do it!”

Understand that God cares about the little things and wants you to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.  It doesn’t necessarily have to mean in an exercise but in life.  Push yourself.  Talk to him.  Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).  That doesn’t mean you have to do everything right and perfect in order to “delight” yourself in him.  It means spend time with him, talk to him, love on him, and let him love on you.  Just like when you spend time with your friends, even when you two are doing nothing, that’s what God wants.  You enjoy spending time with friends; that’s delight, and spending time with God brings him delight.

You aren’t going to get everything you ask for, but God will do simple little things for you to show you he loves that you’ve been spending time with him.  Talk to him about the desires of your heart.  See what he does for you.  See if you might surprise yourself today.

 

 

7 Days Outside of My Comfort Zone: Day 7

Comfort zone 7

Day 7
This is NOT the End

It started last Friday when I felt the need to take 7 days to step outside of my comfort zone.  What I thought would be just a little uncomfortable actually became more than uncomfortable.  Some days I found myself trying to reason with God when I didn’t want to talk about certain things, and on those days I usually typed my words with a tremble in my hands and shed a few tears before clicking Publish.  God’s perspective is much greater than mine, though.  I’m thankful I did this.  Believe it or not, it was incredibly freeing. 

Today will be a different way of stepping outside of the comfort zone.  Maybe I will be required to step out even more, but maybe I won’t be required to step out at all.  The reason I don’t know is because I leave it in your hands.  I’m opening today up for specific questions from anyone reading this.  Of course, if you’re reading months after this has been written and posted, feel free to still ask questions.

Maybe no one will ask questions.  Who knows?  I do hope to interact with many of my readers as a result of these 7 days, though.  I know people might have specific questions about something they’ve read this week or something they’ve heard.  Please, don’t hesitate to ask regardless of how small or big the question is. 

This may be day 7 of my 7 Days Outside of My Comfort Zone, but this is definitely not the end of me stepping outside of what is comfortable for me.  One thing I know is true; if I’m walking out my purpose, I’m going to be asked to get outside of the comfort of my little walls.  Look at those who have done anything great, past or present.  I bet it won’t take long to find that they had to step outside of their comfort zones in order to be great. 

What is one way you can step outside of your comfort zone this weekend?

**If you would like to contact me to ask questions about anything regarding anything I’ve talked about this week, or if you just feel the need to talk, you can always comment to this post.  However, if you would prefer it to not be quite so public, you can use the contact form below to send me an email.**

 

7 Days Outside of My Comfort Zone: Day 6

comfort zone 6

Day 6
Laying it Out There

As I’ve said throughout this 7 day journey, I am a private person.  I haven’t openly spoken about things that have gone on in my life – unless they’ve long passed.  I’m a firm believer that God has a plan for everything in our lives.  He even has a plan for us to succeed and be blessed after we’ve made decisions that were out of his design for us.  I’m also a firm believer that everything in our past are tools used to shape us into the person we are today.  I am thankful for the last 17 years of my life, and I have been so blessed.  I feel it’s necessary to say this before continuing on because I don’t want the words that follow to be skewed in any way.

I had a dream.  It’s the same dream many have and strive for.  The thing with me is not that I think I’m different or better than the next person, but when I have a dream or goal in mind, I never even entertain the idea that it could go any other way.  My dream was to get married, have kids, and be the first in my family to stay that way and create memories together that follow us into our last moments of life.  I wanted to be the elderly couple holding hands and laughing at something that happened decades before.  This was my dream. 

Even before we married, we struggled immensely, but we continued moving forward any way.   We were very good at making it appear things were great when, in actuality, we were merely best friends living as roommates from the beginning.  And that worked off and on for a while.  We even involved ourselves in participating and even in leading small groups for married couples in hopes we could find that kind of bond between us.  We desperately tried to force that bond to happen, but for some reason, it just didn’t.

As I mentioned in a previous post, things kept in the dark are given room to grow, and it’s an open invitation for the Enemy to play.  As the years passed, we added more to that dark area, and the Enemy didn’t pass up the opportunity to throw the ball to him every so often and to me every so often.  Before we even realized it, both he and I were playing a friendly game of catch with our rival, who had a plan himself.

At one point, we came to terms with the knowledge that we both had done some irreparable damage to one another, and we were not showing any signs of letting up.  We decided, for our kids’ sake, we couldn’t continue living how we were, so without telling anyone, we separated.  I can’t speak for him, but I can tell you I found myself in some incredibly dark times, and I just stopped.  I stopped reaching out to people; I stopped writing; I stopped going to church; I stopped . . . living.  I look back at my 2012-2013 teaching year, and I was in a fog.  I was deeply depressed, and I honestly can’t tell you much that I lived during that time.  There were a few times I prayed we could make it work, and I would go back with those hopes, but there was so much anger in both of us, and we couldn’t seem to get ourselves on the same page.

The second half of the year, though, God really started working in me showing me what he wants for my life, and I knew where I was at that moment couldn’t possibly lead me there.  I became friends with a group of people who continued to ask me to church with them, but I always declined.  Finally God used my new friends to call me out on not going to church, and I knew they were right, so I went with them.  It was the beginning of me finding light again in my darkness.  However, not too long after I was served with divorce papers in the parking lot on my way to work.  Even through the divorce process, there were times I prayed for my heart to be open and try to reconcile, but I was pushed away with each attempt.

I stopped letting that relationship consume my every thought and began to focus more on my faith and my relationship with God.  Drastically, everything inside of me changed.  Despite the chaos surrounding me, I was at peace inside for the first time in a long time.  God was reminding me of who I am and the plans he has for me, and I found myself craving to be side-by-side with him again.  The most amazing thing about God is that he is always there just waiting for us to walk beside him.  He started speaking to me again and often, and I remembered how wonderful it is to be in his presence constantly. 

In the last weeks of 2013, I decided to open myself up again to possible restoration in my marriage, but this time I was going in with a new heart and new thoughts and with God right beside me.  Unfortunately, it became clear that it wasn’t going to happen, so I decided I would no longer pray for changed hearts for us, and I would no longer allow myself to be stagnant in my situation.  God was moving in me, and I needed to allow myself to be moved.  As hard as it was, it meant I had to move without the person beside me who had been beside me at some capacity since 1996.

This year has already been so incredibly full of God’s love and blessings, and I am looking forward to living out his plan for me.  I’m in a good place.  No, it’s not where I ever thought I’d be, but it’s my Plan B, apparently, and God can and will bless it just as I know he is and will continue to bless and protect our kids. 

My Plan B is in its beginning stages.  I have faith it will be blessed.  From a post written December 2, 2013 , you can read what I mean by that.  What Happens When Plan A Fails?

7 Days Outside of My Comfort Zone: Day 4

Comfort Zone 4

Day 4
Pride Goes Before Destruction

You might have noticed I didn’t post Day 4 yesterday.   I stepped out of my comfort zone in a different way, so I’ve been debating on whether today’s title should be Day 4 or Day 5.  Instead of writing outside of my comfort zone, I actually stepped outside of it and spoke face-to-face with someone about things not within my comfort walls.  I found myself revealing uncomfortable things but with ease, and I believe it’s because God was right beside me the whole time, and I felt he actually led me to speak specifically with this person.

If you’ve kept up with the past 3 days, you may have learned some new things about me and my life over the past several years.  Please understand that I’m not complaining.  Honestly, I don’t feel I have a right to complain.  I know that my life has been wonderful compared to some people’s and horrible compared to others.  For that reason, we are not to compare any part of ourselves with others.  The life you live is your own, and that’s the only one you should be concerned with as far as judging.  It’s not a competition between whose life is the best or worst.  Instead, focus on how God can use you in whatever situation you find yourself in.  And I’m saying that to myself just as much as I’m saying it to you.

I truly have tried to make the best of my life over the years, but honestly it’s difficult sometimes to continue to make the best or be your best when the situation is consistently knocking you down and putting you in a place of nothingness, a place where you feel like you are and you mean nothing.  The fact is, when you feel knocked down the majority of the time but still present yourself with a smile on your face as if everything is perfect, you’re setting yourself up for disaster.  I think women tend to do this more often than men for some reason.  Women are so beautiful and loving and compassionate and nurturing, but the Enemy loves to pit us against one another in a catty comparison game so those precious strengths aren’t being utilized.  Even when it’s unintentional, we find ourselves comparing everything against other women: appearance, parenting, marriage, work, cooking, etc., so we hide anything that people can view as a fault because we don’t want the women who appear to have it all together thinking that we don’t.  He really is good, the Enemy.  He knows what our strengths are and wants to weaken those as much as possible.  But I digress.

One thing I’ve learned is by bringing things to light, it’s impossible to remain in darkness.  I don’t necessarily feel it’s my place to bring things to light that are out of my control regarding others, but I do think it’s important to own up to my own failures.  Pretending that everything is great means I’m keeping certain things in the dark, and in the dark is where the Enemy likes to play.  Those things kept in the darkness are an open invitation for him to come in and cause chaos.  Unfortunately, I fell into this, and it was when I thought I was strong enough to resist him that I fell flat on my face.  Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction and haughtiness before a fall.”  Pride can be a variety of things.  In this particular situation, my pride was regarding my walk with Christ.  I was living my plan and reaching people like I never knew I could, and I was allowing God to use me in so many different ways.  I felt like I was walking in-sync with him.  I didn’t feel I was above others, but I was proud in that I thought I was so close to God that I would surely not be taken by one of Satan’s traps.  So when I fell, I fell hard.  And when I fell, the ground beneath me shook. 

The link below is something I wrote during that time.  I thought I was bringing things to light when I wrote this, but in all honesty, I think I was just admitting that I had messed up, but I said nothing more.  Things still weren’t brought to light.  When I wrote this, I thought I had overcome the attack and made my way out of the trap, but all decisions are followed by consequences, and those are still being lived out.  When I published this post a couple of years back, it was certainly not the end of the trap in which I found myself.  I had no idea what was ahead of me.

What I thought would never happened, happened to me.  From July 19, 2012:  Everyone Thinks it Won’t Happen to Them — Until it Does

 

7 Days Outside of My Comfort Zone: Day 3

comfort zone 4Day 3
With Both Feet — Terrified — I JUMP! 

Today is a heart pounding day.  Although what I’m posting is straight from something I wrote almost 2 years ago, this is the first time I mention that I’m not only the writer of the post but the subject as well.  I feel like the past 2 days were just sticking my toes in the water to see how it feels, but today, I’m jumping in full force.  I have to admit; I’m terrified.  I’ll say again that I am a very private person.  I keep to myself about almost everything going on with me, but these 7 days outside of my comfort zone are truly forcing me to not just step outside of my comfort zone but move so far away from it that I can’t even see it anymore.

Before continuing on, I want to stress that God created us all unique.  There is no mold we are required to fit into.  We each have different things that make us who we are, and no one should ever require you to be someone he didn’t create you to be.  I say that because I let that happen in my life.  I allowed other voices to speak into my life telling me what I should and shouldn’t look like in order to be God’s daughter.  God asks us to not be conformed to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  He did not say to “conform to the patterns of a building with walls that calls itself church.”

Don’t get me wrong.  God created the church, and he wants us to fellowship with other believers and find a place within the church family to utilize our talents.  However, we are all human, and sometimes the ideals of man are presented to us as the word of God.  This is why I urge those I mentor to not just take my word for whatever it is I’m talking about but to look in the bible and determine for themselves if what I’m saying is truth.

God put much thought into creating each one of us.  We each have our own specific strengths and quirks and unique things that make us who we are.  God does not want us to conform to the patterns of the world, which say “if it feels good do it,” but he also does not want us to conform to one another as believers.  What I mean by that is he didn’t intend for every one of us to look and act and talk alike.  How could we ever reach others if we all are . . . the same?  Are you following me here?

I’m saying you do NOT have to be perfect in order to be loved by God.  He will not turn his back on you if you fail at one point. . . and trust me. . you WILL fail at some point!  God is still there for you and still loves you, and if you allow him to, he can use those failures to help someone else on down the line who finds herself/himself in a similar situation.  If you appear to the outside world as perfect and without a care in the world, then how relatable do you think you are to them?  This is not God’s way.  He has rules for us, but those rules do not say to conform to a group who will turn their backs on you if the way God created you doesn’t match up with the way they want you to be.

Having said that, I have no idea if it makes sense to you, but hopefully reading the following will help it become somewhat clearer.  When I wrote this, I wrote it as if someone else was the author, and the girl was someone I had never even met.  Taking out the background story of the author and girl she knew, here is the story of me:

Posted May 4, 2012

I met this girl once.  She was quiet and very shy but had such a creative and free spirit about her.  She loved to dance, and she loved being able to express herself in different ways—it was her way of speaking when she wasn’t comfortable with her voice.  After trying for years to fit in with any crowd, she realized the problem was that she kept trying to adjust who she was in order to be who they were, and it wasn’t working.  She made a promise to herself that she would never do that again.  She would remain true to herself and be the person God created her to be.

The girl met this boy, and they started dating.  He was wonderful and seemed to have everything going for him.  Everybody loved him, and she adored him for that.  They very quickly fell in love with one another.  With harmless little comments he made, she began making some changes.  Several years went by before she realized what had happened.  She looked in the mirror and saw a stranger staring back at her.

She spent her days reflecting on her life.  She had become someone else—someone completely different.  Where her reflection used to glow with her creatively thrown together mismatched clothes, messy hair, and a couple of tiny piercings, she saw a perfectly groomed woman who blended in with her surroundings.  She had become a female version of this wonderful guy.  She should be happy, right?  After all, even her family thanked the boy for the changes he made in her.

She wasn’t happy, though, and it took her several more years before she realized why she went to bed most nights feeling like a failure and as though something was missing.  It was because the person she was created to be had disappeared.  It had been repressed as she morphed into something man-made.  But everyone loved who she was, so she questioned if it would be worth it to revive her true self.

She spent hours talking to God asking him what she should do.  Hours turned into days.  Days turned into weeks.  Weeks turned into months and months into years.  From the outside she had everything going for her.  She was loved and respected by those she encountered.  She wondered if she would lose that love and respect if they knew she didn’t really look like this perfectly put-together girl straight out of Stepford, Connecticut.  She had become a true Stepford Wife.  For those who haven’t heard this term, “Stepford Wife” is used to describe a woman who lives a blindly conforming life, remaining subservient to her husband and other authority figures while attempting to offend no one.[i]

She gradually tried to allow her real self to resurface but was harshly shut down by the guy.  “What would people think?” he would ask her.   “You’re too immature,” he would say.  “I didn’t change you.  I just saw that you had potential when we first started dating, so I helped you grow into it.”

It didn’t take her long to realize what he was saying was God didn’t create her perfectly.  Instead, he needed the guy to mold and shape her into what could be presented to others as perfect.  She couldn’t believe she had allowed this to happen again.  When she was younger, she was aware of what she was doing and studied other people so she could be more like them in hopes they would accept her.  She had changed that, though, and she loved herself for how she was created.  She didn’t understand how it happened again and without her even realizing it had.

God had given the guy a big, beautiful, brightly colored Gerber Daisy to take care of and help blossom into something fragrant and tall.  She knew if she continued on this path, the guy would not be able to return this thriving colorful Gerber Daisy to God when the time comes.  Instead he would be presenting God with an equally beautiful Lily that had been well maintained but wasn’t the flower God had allowed him to take care of over the years.

Again, she prayed asking God what’s more important to him.  Should she be who he created, or should she be the remodeled version—the version who made a difference in the lives of others and was respected by many?  Would she still be able to make a difference as herself?  She asked him if her real identity should remain silent while the robot everyone knew her as continued on as it had for years.  People responded well to the robot, and no one was getting hurt by it.  Well, she thought to herself.  No one was getting hurt but her.

She tried speaking up to her Stepford-like friends, but they immediately shot her down.  She would be wrong if she allowed petty things like emotions and feelings to be a part of who she is.  Her job was to allow the guy to speak hateful, hurtful words to her while forcing her to do things she didn’t want to.  That’s life, she overheard a few times.  Just do what you’re supposed to do or everything else in your life will fall apart.  What you’re supposed to do is continue being this person created by the guy who can do no wrong.

Her mind was filled with voices shouting at her.  She couldn’t think.  She couldn’t breathe.  She felt trapped and wanted desperately to hear God’s sweet, gentle voice, but the other voices were just too loud.

In desperation she made decisions she would have never made regardless of whether she was the real her or the man-made version.  She continued making those types of decisions until everything she loved was ripped away from her.  She compared her life to a bad episode of the Twilight Zone.  She couldn’t win regardless of who she allowed herself to be.  She questioned her mental health.  Was she wrong in thinking God wanted better for her?  Was she wrong in thinking the guy was supposed to be pleasant toward her?  She didn’t need around the clock pleasant, but she wanted to feel like she mattered at least once every so often.  Was that really wrong of her?  Because of her desperate decisions, she very quickly lost the things most important to her with the exception of something that meant everything in the world—second under her relationship with God, and even that was something the guy told her she couldn’t possibly really have.

She knew in order to hold on to that one thing she had to forget her true identity.  She had to push away the real self and those very few people who knew her true identity and who amidst the flaws and imperfections found it to be beautiful and perfect, and she had to return to her robotic state.  She knew her happiness was worth far less than the gift she had been blessed with – the one she held so dear to her.  She decided she would do whatever it took to keep it close to her.   It was all she had left.

She flipped the switch back to robot mode and shuffled through the days making sure not to offend and to keep quiet.  She still spoke to God regularly.  He was her best friend.  He was the only one who knew her for who she really was, and he adored that girl.  His heart broke for the poor decisions she had made in her moment of desperation, but it broke just as much for the life she was forced to lead—a fictional character in a fictional world all in his name.

I don’t know whatever happened to that girl.  I think about her from time-to-time wondering if she ever let God’s version of her come alive or if she killed it off altogether.  I pray for her often.  I pray that whoever she decided to be is making a difference in the lives of others.  After all, that was her true calling—her life’s passion, and she was great at it regardless of who she presented herself as.  I ought to know.  She changed my life.  I knew her when she was her fun self who loved to sing and dance, and I knew her when she was the made-up version.  Both were beautiful with big hearts, but I couldn’t bring myself to look into the eyes of the fictional version.  The one time I did, I know I heard screams coming from deep inside.  It made the hair on my arms stand.  The pain in those eyes was enough to give me nightmares for days.

Wherever she is—whoever she is—I pray her eyes are now filled with joy and laughter.  Her soul is too beautiful to harbor so much hurt.


[i] http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-a-stepford-wife.htm

Today, I can tell you I’ve messed up so much and created chaos in my life.  Other people very close to me have also messed up and created chaos in my life.  I am only responsible for the chaos I created personally, but I have turned to God to help me get past the chaos and walk in the direction he wants me to walk.  I am not a robot.  I am not man-made.  I am God breathed, and he designed me in such a way I could reach people who are outside of the walls of a church building just as easily as those inside.  I believe he created us all in a way we can do that.  He desires for us to do that.  His vision for us is not to look like the person sitting next to us.  Don’t conform.  Be true to the creator whose hands so carefully designed every intricate detail of who you are.  That’s how you fulfill your destiny.

Original Post The Girl – Wow Posted May 4, 2012

I Was Made by God, and I’m Beautiful!

cake50

There are no real words to explain what it’s like driving my kids to school in the mornings.  Of course, sometimes it’s a blur of rushing, blonde hair flying as we quickly get to the car, and words of frustration coming from the oldest. . . well, to be honest, those words are coming from all of us during those days.  It’s not until I stop focusing on the time once we’re in the car that moments like this morning are able to happen.  I need to make a mental note of this realization because, after all, regardless of what the clock says once we’re in the car, there’s nothing that will get them to school or me to work any quicker.

Most people want to live right beside their kids’ schools because it’s more convenient.  We don’t live even in the same town as the school our kids attend, so we have a fairly decent drive.  Car rides with my kids, though, are so precious to me.  There’s no tv, no dinner to be cooked, no laundry to be folded, no dishes to be loaded.  There’s nothing but driving.  I have found that the best, most relevant conversations with my kids come during these times.  Today was no exception.

From nowhere my daughter said, “Psalm 139:14 – I will praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” 

We have said this scripture to her from birth.  It’s actually the very first memory verse both she and her brother learned during the first week of school.  It’s what I call my “theme verse.”  It’s the name of my ministry.  This scripture is a part of our lives.

For the first time I realized we have never really talked about that verse.  I’ve made sure the kids know it by heart, but I started thinking and had to ask her, “That’s wonderful.  Now, do you know what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made?”

She responded, “Yes.  It means God made me, and I’m beautiful.”

Her brother’s response was, “I was made from Jesus, and I’m cool and compassionate.”

After I told them they were both right, I asked if they wanted to know more about what that means, and my daughter immediately said, “Yes.”

God completely picked it up from there giving me words that were perfect for the two of them because it was something they were able to relate to and understand.

Cake Boss

I have made and decorated cakes for several years now.  I’m by no means exceptional at it – or experienced and educated enough to be called a professional, for that matter.  The majority of my knowledge actually came from watching The Cake Boss, but I’ve ended up with some pretty cool cakes if I do say so myself.  The kids have seen each phase of the cake process, so they understood this explanation.  We were all fearfully and wonderfully made by the Creator of the Universe.  It’s very similar to when a cake is made and decorated by its creator. 

I can’t just start on a cake without knowing where I’m going.  Who is the cake for?  What is the occasion?  How Many people will be eating the cake?  What is the theme of the event?  These questions all have to be answered before I can even think about the design of the cake.   I have to know the exact purpose of the cake.

Once all of these questions are answered, I can start designing on paper.  Once I perfect the design, it’s time to bake the cake.  The ingredients are important.  In order to get the amount necessary to feed everyone at the event, and in order for it to taste great, I have to measure and place specific ingredients in.  If the purpose of the cake is to be chocolate, then I will need to put the ingredients in it to make it a chocolate cake.  Sounds pretty common sense, right? 

My favorite part comes after the cake is made.  This is when I get to work with the fondant and make my 2-dimensional design come to 3-dimensional life!  If you’re unsure what fondant is, it’s a sugary icing that’s pliable and moldable like play dough, and it can harden like clay.  When I start, the fondant is just in containers separated by colors.  It’s like big “globs” of play dough.  I have to gather up the right amount of each color I need and start working.  I can’t just sit back and expect the fondant to come together; I have to get in there and work.  It’s a carefully thought out process, too.  Some things need to be started before other things because maybe they need time to harden.  Certain pieces need to be placed on the cake before other pieces in order for it to become the work of art it was intended to be.

I sometimes use tools when working with fondant, but I always use my hands.  I spend a great amount of time and care on this part.  Whether I’m making letters to spell out someone’s name or sculpting a Hulk hand out of Rice Krispy Treats before covering with fondant and painting it to give extra depth, I place a lot of focus on every intricate detail.  Most importantly, the entire time I’m working, I have the end product in mind.

Ready to Be Served

God paid even more attention when making you.  He had the end product in mind.  He designed you to serve a purpose, and he made sure you were equipped with all the right ingredients you would need in order to become that final product he intended you to be.  Every intricate detail inside of you was well thought out, and God took special care in giving you the qualities and talents he gave you because he knew they would be necessary in the future. 

Then, he focused on the outer design: your hair, your nose, your ears, your eyes, etc.  Every part of your being was planned by him.  You were not just thrown together.  You were fearfully and wonderfully made, and every party of your design is absolutely perfect. 

Remember that before putting yourself down when you somehow feel like you don’t compare to the person next to you.  Don’t compare.  You are two different people.  The person next to you was fearfully and wonderfully made in a way that helps them serve their purpose.  Your purpose is different, and you were made in a way that helps you fulfill your specific purpose.  God didn’t create us to compare.  He created us to use our design to work alongside the design of someone else to make something powerful.

cake38

Another cake post: Beautiful in its Time

Want to see some of my cakes?  Check out these links:  Cakes   ~    Party Themes

Important Lessons Learned from Strawberry Wine

 Noise Layers

It always amazes me how God shows up at the perfect time and in the perfect way.  The thing about it, though, is a lot of times it’s so subtle that you can miss it if you aren’t paying attention. 

Noisy

The other day I was having dinner with someone at Texas Roadhouse.   For those who aren’t familiar with this restaurant, trust me when I say it’s so loud that having a conversation with someone across the table is a feat in itself.  Every time I go there, it’s so crowded that even the large waiting area is overflowing to the outside of the restaurant.  Country music is blaring, and there are big TVs in the bar area usually showing sports.  Each table is full of people who are trying to talk over the mixture of music and the other people chatting at surrounding tables.  Servers are talking over all of the noise as they try to get each person’s order, and every so often you hear someone yell, “Attention Texas Roadhouse.  This is Sally and it’s her birthday, so everyone give her a loud YEE HAW!”  Then the majority of the restaurant yells YEE HAW while Sally sits on a horse’s saddle, twirling her napkin above her head like a lasso (yes I’ve done this so many times I have it memorized). 

Needless to say, it makes for an interesting and very noisy dining experience.

A little while into eating our salads, a song came on, and it was a song that was one of my favorites back in high school.  It is a song filled with memories for both of us.

I stopped as soon as I heard the first few notes but wasn’t completely sure it was the song I first thought it was.  I had to listen more and hear the words when they began.  I smiled and made a comment about it playing at that moment.

The more I listened, though, I wasn’t certain it was Deana Carter’s voice singing Strawberry Wine.  I asked my friend if it was someone else singing, so we both put our forks down and strained our ears to hear it better over the din. 

We had to pull out the sound of the singer’s voice while somehow muting the surrounding noise.  When we did that, we could quickly tell that it was, in fact, Deana Carter singing that old favorite of ours.

I made the comment, “It’s weird that it sounded like someone else just because it was mixed in with all the noise.” 

That A-ha Moment

You know that moment where it truly does feel like a light bulb goes off in your head?  That moment where things are just perfectly pieced together—Kind of like when you place that final puzzle piece down and see the full picture?  Well, the comment I made was exactly that for me.  Everything just fell into place, but I could have easily missed what God was doing with that entire situation.

You see, before we even went into the restaurant, my friend and I were having an important conversation about life and struggles that we both have been going through and how different we’ve responded to them. 

My friend talks about the struggle to lots of people.  What began as talking to others in order to possibly have guidance has turned into gossip and destruction.  After talking often to so many different people, the struggle expanded into something bigger than it was to begin with.  So many different voices have been speaking to this friend. 

I, on the other hand, tend to keep to myself any time I struggle.  There’s a mixture of reasons why:  pride, fear of judgment, not wanting to dwell on a situation, and as I was telling my friend, it brings in too much noise.  Throughout this entire struggle, I’ve told very little details to very few friends.  Again, there are several different reasons behind me keeping private, but just before walking into the restaurant, we talked about this.  Before even getting out of the car, I said that I felt from the beginning of my struggle that adding so many different people to the mix also would mean adding a lot of “advice” or “wise counsel.”  Specifically, I said, “It causes too much noise, and I am afraid I’ll hear all those other voices and not know which one is God’s.”

Hmmmmm . . .  Isn’t that pretty much what happened once we got into the restaurant?  Isn’t that very similar to what I said when I was trying to hear that song?  I had no intention of the two correlating, but as soon as I made that statement about the noise making it difficult to tell if it was Deana Carter’s voice or someone else’s it hit me like a lightning bolt in front of my face.

That wasn’t coincidence.  That was God.  Just like me at the restaurant, you may hear God’s voice in your struggles and during tough decisions, however, the more people you talk to for “advice” on what to do, the more noise will be surrounding you.  You’ll start to hear their voices not only as they’re talking to you, but you’ll start to hear those voices in your thoughts.  That’s when you begin to feel confused and overwhelmed with making the right or wrong decisions.  It makes it more difficult to distinguish between people’s voices and God’s.  The sounds start blending together, and you have to strain to recognize God’s voice.  With each new person, God’s voice becomes quieter because the other voices are all talking over one another – some saying the same thing and some different.

Peel the Layers

Maybe you already have a lot of noise in your difficult situation.  Peel back the noise layers.  You can focus on God’s voice by tuning out any background noise; stop talking about it to others.  If someone you’ve already talked to asks, don’t fall into the trap of talking about it.  Politely tell them you don’t want to talk about it.  If I could have silenced the happy birthday yelling, the other customers, the servers, and turned the TVs off, it would almost feel as if I turned the volume up on the music.  It would have been the only thing my ears could hear, and I would have never questioned which song I was hearing or who was singing it. 

Hear me when I say God has given you people to go to for advice and help.  However, use those outlets wisely.  It’s not necessary to take everything requiring a decision to those people.  You need to rely on God.  You need to learn to trust his voice, and you need to continue growing in him so you can easily recognize his voice.  Seek wise counsel as needed, but too often I think we go to others primarily to get the response we want to hear.  After a while we begin to depend on their words more than God’s.  But what happens when all the noise layers are eliminated?

Take a look again at the picture above.  Can you mentally peel back the layers of noise?  With each layer taken away, it should get easier to see what is underneath all the noise.  If you still have trouble, click HERE and see what’s been there all along.  I bet you didn’t notice it at first glance.