Drama Free Zone

Quotefancy-4025-3840x2160“You must constantly ask yourself these questions: Who am I around? What are they doing to me? What have they got me reading? What have they got me saying? Where do they have me going? What do they have me thinking? And most important, what do they have me becoming? Then ask yourself the big question: Is that okay?” — Jim Rohn

I read this last year and began to assess. I had some work to do in the drama department. So I resolved to make my life a drama free zone. I decided not to get caught up in the day to day stuff that wasn’t mine to own. I decided that if I had an issue, I would go to a select few women who could tell me the truth and point me in the right direction.

So this year who am I around? I am around people who challenge me to think positively. I recently had a wonderful time with a friend who after I left her presence I realized we talked about absolutely no one but ourselves, fashion, music, God, dreams, skin care products, books we were reading, our favorite travel destinations, our bucket lists. Not one single thing about anyone else. I am mostly around people like this these days. It makes for a very happy well rounded life.

What are they doing to me? They are making me see the life beyond the drama. I have to tell you I love, love, love it.

What have they got me reading? Novels, The Federalist Papers, ministry books, and the bible.

What have they got me saying? Positive things. Life-giving things, things that matter and are thought provoking, oh and politics which I’m not sure is positive but definitely thought  provoking.

Where do they have me going? Church, dinner parties, concerts, plays, book readings, game nights, book clubs.

What do they have me thinking? Life beyond drama. Life beyond chaos. Life worth living.

What do they have me becoming? A person who isn’t caught up in the urgent and by that I mean, a person who isn’t looking at the chaos that comes from the day to day urgency but at a life that is lived with more compassion, more space, and more freedom.

This is a critical point. Did the last year leave you stressed and angry and caught up in nonsense or did it bring you peace? I can’t say 2014 brought me peace but I came back to myself and changed it all in 2015.

There is so much more to the earth than the stuff going on in your world. There are stances to take on issues, there is a desperate need to pray for needs that far supersede the confusion of small-mindedness. There are moments to be still and let the Holy Spirit begin to bring revelation to your soul that breathes life not only into you but to those whose life you touch. There is a banquet served to those who wish to explore possibilities. I used to get discouraged by the naysayers who want the world to swing their way. I have a deeper understanding of life and the bigger picture than the one I see in the mirror.

Is that Okay? It is absolutely beautiful to your soul’s purpose.

 

A Little Respect Please

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For those of you who find some words offensive you may want to move on to another post. I will not use a word frivolously but in the context of this post it will be necessary.

A young, college-aged woman is dating her boyfriend. They are like all college students, studying to move towards a career, finding their way in life, and enjoying the time when there aren’t a lot of pressures. It’s a great stage of life.

Their relationship is progressing forward but there are a couple of seemingly insignificant issues that has popped up for her. She puts the thought away as it seems so small. Her friends all think it’s not a big deal. So she calls her friend, that would be me, to talk it over with someone who is older and maybe can tell her she is overreacting and change her heart towards this topic. Only, maybe she’s an old soul, maybe she feels things more deeply, maybe she is right about her feelings of something being off.

She begins hesitantly with me knowing I’m more than twice her age, “It doesn’t seem like a big deal when I say it out loud but there is just something about it that irritates me. He seems to try to push me into making decisions his way. He pulls towards spending all of his time with me and his friends which should be flattering but it feels a little constricting and the second thing is that he called me a bitch.” She says the second part almost like an afterthought.

“Well”, now it’s my turn to be careful with my words, “I think you are right to be concerned and I think you need cut yourself a break. Dating is a time where we get to know each other. It sounds like this may not be a match. Now listen, I am going to sound way, way old-fashioned here but calling you a bitch speaks to a greater issue. It speaks to a disrespect of women from a weak man. He is saying he thinks of you as less than human. He is also intimidated by you and has a need to control you to make himself feel better. I know it’s not a big deal in today’s culture, but it is still a big deal, and as women we can either ignore it or we can take a stand of respect. You’re not thinking about this now, but we as women raise our sons to be men of honor and men who learn to treat women with respect by how they are taught to respect their mother. So don’t discount this.  Then there’s the spending the time the way he wants to. Is that how you can envision your life? You’re an independent girl with goals and vision. Is that supposed to go away for him? And at what point will you tire of this behavior and want your life back? How about him showing a little respect for you and your life?”

We continued our conversation along with a warning from me that I was going to blog about this topic. Listen, bottom line, if you don’t put boundaries in place no one will do it for you. Ladies, we aren’t pretzels that bend at the whim of a man. Instead we are called to partner with them. The biggest downfall I see in continuing to date a man who we have doubts over is that we give our emotions away and then marry the wrong person.

And while we are here on this topic this goes for men as well. If she wants to control where you go, how you dress, who your friends are, if she is disrespectful with her words she will not value the whole of you. Maybe it’s time to move on.

 

 

A Damsel in Distress

 

 

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I was sitting outside at a friend’s home while their children played in the pool. “Watch this Pastor Susan”, was the cry out and I was enjoying watching them play and interacting with them.

Adam was the first one out of the pool. He quickly got a squirt gun and began to take out the imaginary bad guys that were roaming around in the backyard, infringing on his freedom and his territory. You have to know Adam, he’s very observant and quiet, well mannered, thoughtful, and 5 years old. He came quietly to me and said, “Pastor Susan, pretend you’re the girl that the bad guys want to get. You yell, ‘Help, Help’, and I’ll shoot them for you.” So we played. Did you know a squirt gun can spray icky sticky Spiderman web fluid all the way to the clouds to protect the girl in trouble? Adam’s dad is a police officer, so as Superhero Adam captured the imaginary bad guys he did his due diligence and asked them for their driver’s license and he ran it through his imaginary machine. I suppose even Superheroes have to check for priors, or outstanding warrants.

It made me smile because most men want to rescue a damsel in distress. John Eldredge tells us that  a man needs a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue. Dr. Laura Schlessinger would tell you that when you rescue a damsel in distress then all you get is a distressed damsel. Both are correct but written into the heart of this boy is that he wants to be a hero and he needs my female approval that he is doing his service to mankind.

I wanted to tell Adam that there will be many battles to fight, but not all them will be a hill to die on. I wanted to tell him that life can be an adventure and that he should enjoy as many adventures as he can. I wanted to tell him that rescuing a beauty means a whole different thing to his generation where women aren’t sure they need rescuing and men have been emasculated.  I wanted to tell him all of that but he’s five and we’ll have conversations as he grows. For now, I want to keep his fantasy going for a little while longer. I will pray over him that he finds the right woman, at the right time, and that she is healthy and strong and compliments him well for his entire life moving forward. For now I will pray that she always thinks he’s her superhero.  There will be plenty of time for these talks later. In the moment I am having fun. His younger brother Mark comes and joins in to play  with us and I stayed the damsel in distress as they cleared the backyard of bad guys.

Moments of Desperation

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In 1999 we began attending a little church in a little town. Walking in for the first time it was scene right out of the 80’s. Wallpaper border, pink walls, fake plants, and lots of stuff spray painted gold. Like all churches, some of the people were nice and said hello and others didn’t. The pastor could not remember my name and I think addressed me by many names before he gave up. Can you tell I wasn’t really impressed?

I had come from a big city with a big church and big programs and lots of opportunities to serve. Small towns don’t really have all of that but somehow I expected the church to have it and I can’t even tell you why. We’d walk in Sunday after Sunday and I would look at the negative. The message was solid but I wasn’t happy because it wasn’t fulfilling my needs.

I begged my husband to commute to our old church. He was reassuring but firm.

“Susan, do they open their bibles and preach from it?”

“Yes, they do but they also are really concerned about Y2K and…”

“Yes, that’s beside the point. Is the teaching solid?”

“Yes, but that lady was rude telling us we weren’t allowed to sit in her seat.”

“I know you’re unhappy but you need to focus on God. We’re not leaving and commuting to church. Our family needs to be involved in the city we live in. So unless God speaks to me, we’re staying here.”

“But what if he speaks to me?” This was my approach at manipulation and my husband was wise enough to not argue.

Can God speak to us as wives? Of course he can. Does he lead us out of our covering? I don’t see it in scripture. Looking back to that unhappy beginning I could not have seen the things that I would face over these last 17 years.  I would lose my husband to an untimely death. I would raise my children in that little church. I would marry its pastor. I would answer a call to ministry and I would be sitting here today reflecting on how submission works for our good.

I could have fought hard for my way. I could have led my family out because I wasn’t getting what I needed but I knew my husband was a good leader if I would allow him to be and I knew that he would guide me well. Trust is the issue that causes us to do what we want despite our spouses protests. We don’t believe they are spiritual enough. We don’t believe they hear from the Lord as well as we do. We don’t ultimately trust them to lead.

Often in women’s ministry I am asked to pray for that backslidden husband or to pray for that husband to become more mature in the things of the Lord but what I see often is when that man does stand up for what he’d like he stands in the opposition of his wife.

Let’s be wise women, praying in unity with our spouse without manipulation. Allowing our speech to be pleasing and not divisive, and knowing that moments of desperation are not moments of flight but moments of submission to a greater cause that we know nothing about in the moment.

 

 

 

What’s The Image You Are Projecting?

My husband I were walking hand in hand talking when he said, “Goodness those poor girls need a mother.” The scene was two girls walking with low cut tops and shorts that were too short to cover their bottoms. From his perspective he thinks they don’t have fashion sense because no one has taught them. From my perspective, as a mother, this may be partially true and it could be a number of  other things like free will choices.

What is the message that you’re sending? In the workplace are you trying to be taken seriously or trying to be taken sexually? In your free time are you comfortable with people who see your body or your personality?

I saw a young unmarried woman who had way too much cleavage showing and hickeys on her breast for added effect. All I could think of was she had way too much self esteem by the mere fact that she felt comfortable letting us all know how immoral she was. Judgment? Yes. Will I be judged by the same measure? Absolutely. So the next time you see me with my cleavage out and hickeys you can call me a hypocrite and I’ll hang my head in shame and own the title.

Unfortunately society gives a mixed message. On one hand they say cover up to avoid being devalued, and on the other hand they say if you want to have value you must be sexy.  It feels like you can’t win. Top that off with a fatherless generation where girls really don’t have a true compass of what is right and we end up with this dilemma.

What these young women didn’t understand is that yes, men are visual but humans are creative and imaginative creations. Meaning the more you show the less there is to pursue. The more body you show the more you project how little power you have. Society tells us sexuality is power but when someone falls for the outside visual personification of you often they fail to see the inside characteristics of you.

The fact that he finds you sexy seems great at first, but when he can’t see past the exterior of you to who you are will that be enough? What about when you’re gunning for that promotion and you aren’t taken seriously? There is freedom in the dress code of a Christian woman. By no means am I suggesting she has to wear turtlenecks in the summer but there is a happy medium.

Here is a video I found on Huffington Post that I think is really great at showing us a before and after, please listen carefully to their comments it will give you great insight as to how women are perceived. Click Here.

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You’re Not Allowed

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It bothers me when a spouse says in public what their spouse is allowed to do and what they aren’t allowed to do. I can only imagine what that nightmare of a marriage looks like in private.

“My husband is not allowed to drink his coffee in the living room.”

“My wife is not allowed to work.”

“My husband knows better than to think he’s bringing home a recliner.”

I stay quiet as I hear these statements but in my mind I think, “Bully”. I believe when we try to usurp authority over a person we are in essence saying we are higher than God. The bible reads that God is not one who overrides your free will instead he offers choices. Those choices usher in his presence or not.

Revelation 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

Mark 8:34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

Revelation 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

My husband and I are very strong people in very different ways. I am verbal and will say what I think. He is non-verbal and votes with his action. So when we disagree we tend to stop until a compromise is reached. He has never said to me that I wasn’t allowed to do something and I have never forbid him anything. We both take into account the free will of the other.

Are there forbidden things in a marriage? Of course! Adultery, Abuse, Addiction, Manipulation, Lying are things that are forbidden in a marriage but I would think if I have to demand a ceasing of these actions then I married the wrong person who lacks love and character.

When we  continually call the shots, continually admonish our spouse as if they are our child, continually manipulate the finances, I wonder where Christ is in all of that? When it’s our way or the highway whole people sometimes cower for a season but they eventually fall away. Maybe they don’t leave the situation. Maybe they just go away emotionally. Maybe they begin to spend time alone not meeting our needs. Maybe they find someone who respects their opinion.

We can argue that the person who is experiencing the violence of the violation of free will, chose to give it up and I would say that is true. In counseling I often hear that they feel stuck because of a circumstance such as children who will be devastated by divorce, so they bide their time. Then there is the lack of work or experience where they can’t support themselves which often keeps them in this situation as well.

It can happen in the work place. There are those who feel threatened by their boss or their employee. The employee who continually threatens to quit, who calls in sick as a pattern on critical days. The boss who lords that there are plenty of people out of work over their employees. It isn’t right.

As Christians we are supposed to have no unwholesome talk come out of our mouth. When we think of unwholesome talk we think about cussing, gossip, but what about bullying? What about dragging about someone by a leash demanding our way? Isn’t that the tearing apart of a person of free will? Un-whole-some?

 

 

Lesson to Carry Me Through

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Here are the lessons I learned in this season of quiet. I pray they help you.

  • Love is spelled TIME not w-o-r-k. God enjoys time with you. He is able to do the work and your burden will be light when God determines the timing.  However time is the hottest commodity we all have and the one that is dearest to part with. So sometimes it’s easy to get buried in work instead of taking the time to seek what is truly important.
  • You are not called to every aspect of ministry. No one is. That’s why there is a five-fold ministry. People come along beside you who are better than you are in certain areas. You are called to fulfill your passion and calling.  For me that equates to teaching. I enjoy teaching TLC4Women. So I continued to walk in what I know I am called to do. I took my finger out of every other pie and focused on what I am called to do. It was fulfilling and beautiful. It made me happy. It was not a chore. I was never called to stop doing what I do for the Kingdom, I was only called to stop doing what others could do.
  • Prepare those whom you mentor. I said to one, in this next season teach and worship. To another I gathered a team. To another I gave a big portion of my ministry duties that she was better at than I was. Then I prayed for them that they would walk further than I could take them in this season. Which leads me to the next point.
  • When you don’t know where you are going, and you are feeling discouraged, don’t take an entourage. Jesus went off alone sometimes. So often we want to disgruntle a group and take them on our journey but in the end we leave them lost and lonely. This is a huge temptation and test at the same time.
  • Take a day off. I had not truly enjoyed my home because I wasn’t there much. I decorated it but I never sat and just enjoyed it. I set boundaries which allowed me to spend time at home. TD Jakes said it best, “Your crisis doesn’t constitute my emergency.” In other words, not everything is critical in solving today. Emergency visits to the hospital yes. The couple  splitting up for the fifth time no.
  • Get plenty of sleep. You’ll die one day with a to-do list. It can wait.
  • Don’t be so concerned with doing. Be more concerned with being.
  • The shortest distance between two points is a straight line but that only works in math. In life there is no such thing as a straight line no matter how much planning is involved.
  • When you are discouraged it’s best to take it to the Lord or a leader.  My best girl friend in the church knows nothing about the struggle of this year. It was weight I could not put on her without making her walk unsteady.
  • Don’t strike the rock in anger. When criticism came, my first instinct was to lash out, tell my husband, to tell all of my friends, instead for the most part, I let it come.  I say for the most part because I did tell my husband about my pain a few times. Luckily he was smart enough to tell me to suck it up because it comes with the territory.

When the dust settled and Jesus was being crucified there were a few with him. The rest were perplexed that it didn’t happen the way they thought it would. They had their own pain to deal with. The important part was I am happily married, I am enjoying a ministry for God that I LOVE, I have good, healthy, children, family whom I love, friends who are near and above all of that I have faith in One who sustained me. Who believes I am beautiful and who will never leave me nor forsake me. It counts for everything!

Bring on 2016! I am ready to run this race because I have learned it’s a marathon not a sprint. Blessings to you all!