Saturday, April 26, 2014

Next Time, Speak Up

Often, I'm afraid to speak up about something - all sorts of things really. Usually, it's because I think way too much about what others may think of me (in reality, likely, they aren't thinking about me at all). 

In those moments, my mind drifts back to Conway High School in the late 90s. I was in a Speech and Debate class, and I believe we were giving How To speeches. One of my classmates asked us to bring empty plastic bottles for a bit of audience participation as she gave her speech, so I did. When she asked us to pull out our bottles, no one else had one. Not wanting to look like the overly eager dork who remembered her plastic bottle, I pretended not to have one. 

I remember my classmate's disappointment as that portion of her speech wasn't as effective as she had hoped it would be. I remember feeling awful. Rotten. Like a bad friend. 

Because I feared my classmates poking fun at me, I missed out on an opportunity to support and encourage my friend (to partner with her, for my Ezer-reading friends). 

That moment, seemingly insignificant, lives with me, reminding me that speaking up to encourage someone is far more important than what other people think of me. 

As an adult, I'm in situations regularly when I have to choose if I'm going to speak up or stay silent. I stay silent far more than I care to admit. Fear is usually the reason. 

Fear of saying something that makes me sound unintelligent, inadequately educated on a subject. 

Fear of saying something that will offend someone. 

Fear of saying something that will lead to (probably mild) persecution because of my beliefs. 

Fear of not looking cool (That makes me laugh, because I have never been cool! Do the cool people still say "cool"?!). 

Fear of being shunned by the person I want to be my friend. 

Fear of standing alone when no one else will speak up with me. 

Fear of regretting I opened my mouth in the first place. 

I'm not writing this post because of a particular issue. Something just triggered the old memory from that Speech and Debate class, and I was whisked back to my seat, book bag zipped tight at my feet, concealing the empty plastic bottle within. 

I would like to challenge all of us to speak up this week. You never know whom you might encourage or what change you might effect. 

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others" (Philippians 2:3, 4 NIV).

Friday, April 4, 2014

Potential Blog Post

I was sitting in the, um, restroom. I was giving my discouraged, blah self a pep talk of sorts, completely unrelated to my location, and I realized how often my life feels like a potential blog post. Potential but not actual, because my life tends to feel like the beginning of a blog post, not the pretty, resolved ending of a blog post. 

Today, my pep talk sounded something like this:

"I've been looking forward to baking these pretty cookies all week. I planned and prepared. I set aside the time. Why am I not enjoying the process? I mean, James said, 'Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials ...' I don't even feel joy about baking cookies. COOKIES. PRETTY cookies. 

"OK. This probably has to do with my attitude. I was doing fine until something didn't go as planned. And then Huxtable jumped on the counter and clawed at my cookie dough. And then I was angry and yelled at my husband. 

"I know! I need to list off all the things I'm thankful for in this situation, and then I'll have joy like songbirds in my heart, and I'll love baking these cookies. 

"I'm thankful for Huxtable. I'm thankful I bought an extra package of cookie mix. I'm thankful I'm using cookie mix and not an elaborate, taxing scratch recipe. I'm thankful for my husband. 


"That should do it.

"That didn't work. 

"Oh! I know the REAL lesson. I didn't include the Lord in all of this. I bet I'll feel better once I include Him and stop thinking about myself so much. 

"Something still isn't working."

Now I'm writing this blog post. Why am I writing this? Partly because I'm procrastinating on those cookies. Mostly because I think it's important to be transparent. 

My life is far from a great blog post. My attitude is far from joyful and grateful at many given moments. I don't always turn to the Lord. I don't always feel refreshed when I do. 

But I still have hope. 

I have hope because God promised that He will finish the good work He started in me. I have hope because I know that this season of blahness isn't because God put me on a shelf while He took a sabbatical. He's working through the blah, even using it.

I have hope because my story isn't just a life that needs to look pretty and tidy and put together and perfect so that I have all the right external proof that I am a child of God. My story is a part of HIS story. I know how His story ends, and that's way better than any blog post about my life. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Hidden Love Notes: A Simple Way to Encourage Your Spouse

My husband's love language is Words of Affirmation, so I enjoy finding new ways to speak his language. The other day, he had spoken one of my love languages of Clearance Candy, and I had an empty plastic heart sitting around (because I ate said clearance candy). As I was cleaning the house yesterday, I had a fun idea to put that little plastic heart to use: hidden love notes. 

I pulled out some paper hearts I had stashed from Valentine's Day, and they were the perfect size. Love notes don't always have to be 13 pages front and back. They can be a couple of sentences and still encourage the one you love. 

You may have noticed there are extra hearts under the note. I'll get to those in a moment. 

Once I closed up the heart, I hid it under his pillow so he would find it when he pulled the covers back to go to bed. When he found it, he exclaimed, "Hidden treasure!" Win. :0)

"So why the extra hearts?" I'm glad you asked. Now it's Husby's turn to write and hide a note for me! We'll keep passing it back and forth, surprising each other with love notes. Keeping the extra paper hearts in the plastic heart increases the odds that we'll actually follow through - no I-couldn't-find-the-paper-hearts excuse. Perhaps I should add a tiny pen or a golf pencil. 

We're looking forward to this simple way to encourage one another and deepen the love in our marriage. 

Are there little things you do to encourage your spouse or speak his/her love language? I'm always up for new ideas!