I'm Not Crazy; I'm a Christian

You Were Meant For More

Charles Dickens is arguably most remembered for creating the character of Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge, as we all know if we’ve seen any version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol over the years, is a man of great wealth, power and prestige. He is also a horrible person with little to no redeeming qualities. His heart is bitter and filled with hatred. It is only after one special night where he is visited by three spirits (the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future) that he realizes the error of his ways.

But we’re not here to discuss old bah humbug Scrooge today. Perhaps we’ll save his story for a December post.

Dickens was a prolific writer and one of my all-time favorites. He created another memorable character in Oliver Twist. Oliver’s story, like Scrooge’s, has been told many times throughout the years. The orphan boy’s story is one of tragedy and triumph. (No spoilers here. Encourage you to read it for yourselves sometime. But be prepared: there are some dark, sad moments in it.)

As I was thinking about this week’s post and the concept of more, I was reminded of a scene from the 1968 musical adaptation Oliver! Our hero is living in squalor with many other children. It’s mealtime and they’re about to get another bowl of gruel. (The name says it all. Gruel. Ick. But I digress.) The children are fed just barely enough to stay alive. Oliver is still hungry after eating his meager portion of watery goop. He courageously steps forward and says, “Please sir, I want some more.” This does not go over well. “More?! You want more?!” Poor Oliver is further screamed at and, basically, assaulted. (I warned you there are some dark parts to this story.)

What do Oliver and his watery porridge have to do with anything?

Thanks for asking. I believe sometimes we’re like our intrepid hero. We’ve been swallowing the gruel three times a day for a while. But one day the hunger pangs we’ve been suppressing and ignoring become so loud and painful that we must do something. We can no longer fight the longing. We want more.

I’ve noticed the world is pretty accepting of someone wanting more of certain things: money, power, success, control, pleasure. But it doesn’t necessarily encourage us to seek more: integrity, character, maturity, real love. Sorry, but I believe if you don’t first crave more of those traits, you may live compromised.

Think about it. I’m sure you know someone either in your own life or someone famous who achieved great success and then fell apart. They had all the stuff: money to burn, men or women flocking around them, houses, cars, trips, boats, etc. Yet they were still unsatisfied. So they turn to drugs or alcohol to try and fill that void. Perhaps they didn’t succumb to those vices, but their medicine cabinet is filled with little prescription bottles to keep them level and functioning. Maybe they managed to avoid substance use or abuse, but they’re still not happy. How come? They got their more. What went wrong?

I may ruffle a few feathers with this part, but my nickname isn’t Kat Controversy for nothing. There are some who would say that it was because of the money and then quote scripture, “money is the root of all evil”. But that is not precise.

Money is NOT the root of all evil.

You know I always bring receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated are from the NIV version at biblegateway.com, emphasis added.)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10)

Money can be used for great good or great evil. The same $1,000 can be used to help or to harm. It is the intent behind its use that matters.

Here’s where I will probably push some buttons. I believe the church has really missed it when it comes to money, success, etc. They seem to vacillate between two extremes: the poverty mindset and the prosperity message. Allow me to elaborate:

The Poverty Mindset

I think this belief system may have started out of a misunderstanding of the verse above. Money is evil, so to truly serve God I must do without. Huh? That’s not a balanced approach. Don’t get me wrong. I believe that sometimes doing without – fasting or giving up something – can be very healthy for your spiritual life. If you’re taking a break from an aggressive pursuit of money that’s been creating a wedge or distance between you and God, then I’m the first to encourage you to go for it. What I’ve noticed, however, is that it seems to be promoted as a more permanent lifestyle situation. They see virtue in their self-imposed impoverished state. They look down upon those who have money as somehow being less spiritual or less enlightened. Let me be clear, I am not speaking against those who make a personal vow to live a certain way in service to God (for example: Mother Teresa). I’m speaking more of a mindset that says, “If God wants me to have more, He’ll do it.” Yes, He will. But have you done your part?

God can bless your finances in an instant. I can say that with confidence because my life is filled with such experiences. The check came just in time or someone blessed me just because God put me on their heart to bless. This happens. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do all that we can do ourselves. We should be productive.

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

God doesn’t want us to be in debt!

And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. (Deuteronomy 8:18)

As I stated earlier, it is the love of money that becomes the problem. We are to do the work He calls us to do. He does the rest.

If you’re a parent you know how happy you are to see your children doing well. If your son or daughter gets a job they love and they’re able to provide for themselves and their families, you’re thrilled. Why wouldn’t our heavenly Father want the same for us? If your child needs a little help, a down payment, a loan, and you can give it to them, wouldn’t you? God wants us to do well in this life. You doubt me? Good. Check out this verse:

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. (3 John 1:2)

In contrast, if you’re a parent and your child is squandering their money or spends all their time trying to get more of it, you’ll be rightly concerned. They’re out of balance. If your child is wasting their abilities, not contributing or being productive, that should trouble you too. You’re less likely to give them that help, down payment or loan. You want to see them succeed but they need to do their part first and keep balanced. God feels similarly toward us.

The Prosperity Message

Now we come to the other side of the spectrum. Many churches have been built around this system. They’ll use that verse I quoted from Deuteronomy 8 as a cornerstone for their doctrine. They too are on a bit of dangerous ground. Jesus said it himself:

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Luke 16:13, ESV)

This is definitely one of my top 5 favorite verses. It just makes the point so perfectly. Many churches preach about serving God or the devil. But the Lord made it plain: you can serve Him or money. The devil will use your love of money and devotion to it to get you to compromise and be corrupt. But you’re still serving money. You are a slave to it not the devil. He’s just manipulating you and taking advantage of you with it.

I’m clearly not against achievement and success. More importantly, neither is God. The concern for both me and the Lord is what happens when you get there. When you work hard and get the job or the gig or the whatever, now what?

He who loves money will not be satisfied with money, nor he who loves wealth with his income; this also is vanity. (Ecclesiastes 5:10, ESV)

 

And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” (Luke 12:15)

 

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. (1 Timothy 6:17-19)

There are so many other verses I could have included. These are just a few designed to highlight the matter. I encourage you to do your own research. My point in tackling this potentially touchy subject is two-fold:

God wants you to do well and have a full life.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. (John 10:10)

Like any loving parent, He doesn’t want to see any of His children in need. He is gracious, merciful and kind. He wants to partner with us to live out our best life here while storing up eternal treasures for ourselves in heaven. Doubt me? Good. Go look it up. (I can’t give you every verse. Where’s the fun in that?)

Stay balanced as you reach for and achieve your goals.

 The only way to stay balanced and not become a lover of money is to stay close to God. You cannot change my mind. I’ve seen too many lose their way because they took their eyes off of Him. I mean people that love God and wanted to and did use their resources to help others. I’m not talking about those who lived only for themselves and their own hedonistic desires. God made it clear: in this life you can’t serve Him and money. You’ll reach a point where you have to decide which matters more.

This should be an easy decision because God is greater than anything and everything, but we struggle. I get it. I’ve done it. When the bills are piling up, you have to hold onto your faith, do your part, and trust that God will take care of you. When you’re doing very well, you have to hold onto your faith, don’t get caught up, forget about God’s blessings and get greedy. “Greed is right. Greed works.” No, Mr. Gordon Gekko (aka Michael Douglas’s character in the 80s film Wall Street) you are wrong, sir.

I’ll leave you with the following verse. It encourages and inspires me to be content and satisfied no matter what my bank account or portfolio is telling me. I pray it’ll help you too. You can have more. Just make sure you seek more of Him and His righteousness first. Trust me, God’s provision and blessings are 100% gruel-free.

Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:11-13)

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

 

 

 

Humor. Heart. Hope.

In the famous 1996 movie Jerry Maguire the lead character played by Tom Cruise drafts a mission statement concerning his high-ranking position as an agent for professional athletes. He challenges the status quo by advocating for a more personal, intimate approach between client and agent. He rocks the boat. It’s not spoiling anything to state that after sharing this revelation to others in his industry, things do not go well for him.  He’s a disruptor to their world, and many do their best to ruin him.

I was reminded of this great film as I was selecting my topic for this week’s blog post. A couple of years ago, as I began feeling it was time for me to pursue writing as a full-time gig rather than the dabbling I’ve done for decades, I thought about what my mission statement would be. I’d worked in marketing for various corporations for over 20 years, so I understood the significance of having one. It’s designed to create the foundation for the business or venture. It encompasses the ideals and principles that are being strived for in the new undertaking. Future strategies and business plans should be developed with the mission statement always in mind.

I spent time in prayer and contemplation. I knew there would be times where my writing would be strictly for enjoyment. But I wanted to have a purpose, a why to the what for the pieces I craft. I’ve said that sometimes when I’m writing it feels as if I’m taking dictation. I say a quick prayer and ask for guidance. The next thing I know I’ve typed several pages of content. It’s really quite exciting. I often do not know what to expect. It’s a way God uses to still surprise and shake up my overthinking-trying-to-figure-it-all-out-by-myself-all-the-time-brain.

Once my website was ready to launch, I decided I wanted to have a tagline underneath the URL whenever I posted. It had to be something catchy, memorable, but also relevant. (The advertiser in me came out in full force.) It came to me:

Humor.  Heart.  Hope.

The 3h’s as I call it. I liked it right away, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it meant. As I prayed about it, God showed me that it’s an abridged version of my mission statement. Allow me to elaborate.

Humor.

I believe you should try and find the funny in life. It isn’t always easy to do, but it is so important for your sanity and well-being. It’s not just me that believes this. You know I brought receipts. (Any and all Bible verses, unless otherwise indicated, are from the NIV version at biblegateway.com, emphasis added.)

Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” (Psalm 126:2)

Laughter is seen as a symbol of God’s faithfulness. I love to laugh. Don’t you? It’s such a simple, healthy, stress-relieving measure. And is there anything more pure and wonderful than the sound of a child’s laugh?

Heart.

I will admit that my humor tends to be sarcastic and self-deprecating by nature. That’s why it’s vital that I never lose sight of the heart in everything I write. I don’t want to laugh at someone. I’d much rather laugh with someone. Wouldn’t you? (Or we could both just laugh at me, I’m fine with that too.) What can happen when we treat someone’s heart with kindness and give them a dose of laughter? Check this out:

A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones. (Proverbs 17:22 NKJV)

Wait a minute. This verse says that a happy or cheerful heart has healing properties like medicine. In contrast, a broken spirit or heart can be quite destructive not only to our emotional and mental health, but to our physical bodies as well. We’ve probably all heard the phrase, “Stress kills.” I encourage you to do your own research on its effects on the body. (This isn’t science class after all.) I do feel confident, however, that we can all agree when our heart is happy, we feel better.

So far we’ve covered 2 of the 3 h’s of my mission statement. I want to lead with humor to make you smile and relax a bit. Once you’re feeling the funny, then it’s time to get to the heart of the matter. This is where I share whatever God has been showing me and speaking to my heart. I’m not foolish or prideful enough to believe that His Words and life lessons are solely for me. They are for anyone who is willing to take the time to listen and, perhaps, learn from them.

Now we come to the final h:

Hope.

My one niece always says I need a happy ending to every story or movie. She’s correct. (Perhaps that’s why I like Jerry Maguire so much.) My philosophy is that the world is filled with disappointments, rejections, and sad or bad endings. If I’m paying good money to watch something, I want to leave happy or at least with a glimmer of hope.

This is my goal with everything I write. After we’ve shared a few laughs, gone deep and gotten to the heart of the matter, I want to finish off with a touch of hope. No, I’m not a peddler of hopium with its warped sense of reality and false promises. Everything may not be OK. Things may not work out the way you want. But God is for you, so even when it seems sideways and twisted, He can turn it right-side up and make it straight again. It may not look like how you pictured it, but it can still be beautiful.

Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)

Now you know my mission statement.

I have a good friend who has known me for over 20 years. She often says that I am a disruptor. I challenge the status quo concerning faith and religion. My goal is never to start trouble. It’s simply to get back to basics:

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

It doesn’t get more basic and to the heart of the matter than that.

I may not be able to show you the money or be your ambassador of quan, but if you enjoy real talk with: humor, heart, and hope, you should keep coming back.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

 

Are You The Real Deal?

When I was growing up, there was a popular commercial for Memorex™ cassette tapes. (Yes, I am that old, but that’s not the point.) The tag line was, “Is it live or it is Memorex?” The campaign’s premise was that the technology was so state-of-the-art you’d feel as if your favorite band was performing live in your very own living room. In one famous scene a singer’s voice shattered a glass. In the next scene, a Memorex tape of his voice did the same thing. What?! Mind. Blown. (I was easily influenced and not particularly savvy back then. Who knew one day I’d grow up and pursue a career in marketing, specializing in advertising and promotion?)

No matter how great the cassette’s sound quality, however, it was always going to be a representation of the original source: the band, the singer, the 10-year-old kid making up silly voices and stories. It wasn’t the real thing. (Sidebar: have you ever heard a recording of your own voice and thought Who is that!? I don’t sound like that. That voice is horrible. Maybe it’s just me, but I digress.)

Take a moment and consider how many beautiful counterfeits there are when it comes to jewelry. When I was little you could tell “costume” pieces just by looking at them. The fake diamonds looked like glass. The faux pearls were cloudy and yellowed with age. For the most part, they were cheap knockoffs. But times certainly have changed. There are some imitation necklaces, rings, and bracelets that could fool just about anyone, with the possible exception of an expert armed with his jeweler’s glass.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the genuine from the fake.

 And I don’t just mean when it comes to determining a flawless diamond from a cubic zirconia. If we’re being honest, and I believe we should be, we must admit that at least once in our lives, someone fooled us. Whether it was a friend, lover, boss, coworker, or even a family member, we got taken in by who they appeared to be. We may have let down our guard and permitted them unfettered access into our life, our heart, maybe even our finances. We didn’t spot their zirconiaism (my new word) until it was too late. The damage was done, and we were left beating ourselves up for not seeing it sooner. We trusted them. They betrayed that trust. Now we may have difficulty trusting anyone. We’re more guarded and on high alert.

Because of past situations, I tend to be pretty suspicious. Whereas before I might have taken people at face value or given them the benefit of the doubt, now I often rush to judgment that you’re probably just another liar who lies. You’ll hurt me at some point. You’re not what you seem to be. You’re not real.

That’s a terrible way to approach relationships. Choosing this subject for an article is forcing me to look within again. I hate that. But I’ve reached a stage of life where I want less drama and more joy, more peace.

How about you?

Are you willing to do the tough things to help live an authentic life?

What do I mean by that? Well, as difficult as it is to admit, I’m not always genuine either. I’m not a liar who lies. If you read my post titled Where Did I Leave That Lasso Of Truth? you know I always wanted Wonder Woman’s™ golden rope. Truth is everything to me. Plus, I learned early on that I have no poker face and lying was not my strong suit. Storytelling I can do all day every day. But lying…not so much. I know you’re probably wondering Isn’t lying a kind of storytelling? Perhaps. But no one gets hurt by my made-up story. People can and do get hurt by lies.

Are there times when you’re not being real?

Yes. Probably more than I acknowledge. With me it’s more about concealing true emotions. I put on an act appropriate for the occasion. If there’s a need for some laughs and silliness, I’m stepping up. Doesn’t matter that inside I might be struggling or hurting. The lights come up, if you will, and I’m ready to perform. I may even enjoy myself in the moment, but later on my true feelings reemerge.

Some of the worst lies we tell are the ones we tell ourselves.

I must confess that though I do my best to not lie to others, I do lie to myself. Every time that I deny what’s going on inside and suppress something, I’m living a lie. I don’t think it’s brave to keep pushing your emotions down and pressing on. I do believe sometimes you need to take a break from your own thoughts. Absolutely. But saying you’re OK when you’re not is foolishness.

I understand why many of us choose to put up a façade, to be that beautiful zirconia, shining bright like a diamond. But it’s not real. It’s counterfeit. We only harm ourselves in the long run.

I’m not suggesting that you get deep or vulnerable with just anyone. I started this piece by discussing how we can be deceived and think that someone has our best intentions at heart when in reality they do not. I always believe you should be careful who you let get close to you. They should have to earn VIP access to you. Admittance only comes with time, experience, and prayer.

Yes, I wrote prayer. Only God knows the true heart and motivations of every person. We can be lied to or lie to others. He sees through every lie and deception. He gets to the truth of the matter every single time. He is Truth. Period. Doesn’t it make sense that we should include Him in our screening and selecting process? Shouldn’t we want His input since He’s all-knowing and all that? But we don’t. Why is that?

Could it be that we don’t get real with God because we don’t want Him to get real with us?

I’ve been in relationships where I felt God gently saying, “No” but I kept going ahead. When the inevitable train-wreck of the romance or friendship occurred, I sat in a pile of twisted carnage crying, “Why God? Why?” I knew why. I didn’t listen when I should have and this was the result. Some of this smoldering rubble was due to my decision to stay when He clearly had said, “Go.”

If you’ve read any of my work, you know I always bring receipts. I never want you to just take my word for anything by itself. (All verses are from the NIV version of the Bible at biblegateway.com.)

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. (Titus 1:16)

Ouch! This verse stings a bit, doesn’t it? A simpler way of saying this would be that actions speak louder than words. We can say a lot, but do we follow up with behaviors, activities, etc. that affirm what we stated? If we do not, then we’re not being real.

But just in case you were thinking that God is a bit harsh, check out this verse:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Jesus lived as one of us on this earth on purpose. He was well acquainted with feelings, emotions, lies, betrayals, deceptions, even downright evil. He confronted and dealt with each encounter with humility and authenticity. He gave us the example, as this next verse indicates:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)

How do we pursue an authentic life? A good place to start is with a daily renewal of our minds through reading the Bible and spending time with God to help us flush out the junk and the lies.

In case you were wondering how God feels about lying, may I present this verse:

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices (Colossians 3:9)

I chose the picture at the top of this post because in it I’m wearing Pop’s vintage bowling shirt circa 1963-1964. It has his name embroidered on the pocket. Clearly I’m not Tom. But if you didn’t know me, you might think it’s a nickname or something. You wouldn’t know that my name wasn’t Tom until I told you. You could speculate or suspect, but you wouldn’t know until I showed you who I really am.

The start of an authentic life begins with being real with God first.

The beautiful thing is He already knows exactly who you are, what you’ve done, and what you can and will be and do. You are safe with Him. He won’t lie, deceive, manipulate, control, use or abuse you. He loves you enough to help you see the areas you need to address to live authentically. He desires for you to achieve a life of abundance, joy, peace, and love. You truly are a diamond to Him, so stop selling yourself short by living in zirconiaism. (I’m really hoping that word catches on. Feel free to use it, just be sure to be real and let everyone know where you heard it first.)

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

 

The Power Of “No”

One of the first words most children learn to say is “no.” The reason could be because it’s easier to pronounce than “hydrangea” (which I can barely pronounce correctly now). It could also be because it is a word they hear countless times a day. Think about it. They go to touch something they shouldn’t. No. They start to go somewhere they shouldn’t. No. They go to grab the dog by its tail for the hundredth time. No. No. No.

From my earliest recollections, my world was filled with “no”. I wouldn’t categorize myself as a troublesome child, but I would often ask for things I couldn’t have (ice cream for dinner), or want to go somewhere I shouldn’t (my brother’s room when he wasn’t home), or get into things that weren’t mine (Mom’s jewelry). All these occasions and many more yielded a resounding chorus of “No!” from whichever family member caught me. If it was one of my siblings, I was not as receptive to their “no” as when Mom or Dad said it. The folks were in charge. They had the ultimate power of “no”. And they weren’t afraid to use it. I can testify that they used it well and often.

I would venture to say that most of us grow up with a negative perception of “no”. Why wouldn’t we? It’s typically used to discourage or stop. It’s prohibiting, restricting, confining, limiting.

But can “no” actually empower you or set you free?

I used to think it was wrong for me to say it to someone. If, for example, someone asked me to help them do something, I couldn’t say “no”. I’d feel guilty or that I’d be letting them down. Can’t tell you how many times I regretted my “yes”. It would often leave me depleted: physically, emotionally, sometimes financially, and even spiritually. But I couldn’t say “no” because if I did I was being selfish and a bad friend or relative. I had to have a solid justification before I actually would say it. The mere fact that I didn’t want to or that I needed to use the time to accomplish something for myself wasn’t good enough. In certain instances, I needed to actually have an emergency or other competing event in place before I would feel remotely comfortable saying it. Even in those times I would still feel pangs of guilt wash over me. If I really cared, I could’ve found a way to fit both things in on the same day. I suck.

Saying “no” was something to be avoided at all costs.

I desired to be a person of integrity whose word was a bond. I thought that saying “no” or standing up for what I may have wanted in a situation would be a betrayal. It would almost be dishonorable. I cultivated a knee-jerk “yes” reaction to almost anything. Can you help me move? Yes. Can you watch the kids? Yes. Can you help at the fundraiser Sunday? Yes. Yes. Yes.

The problem was the more I said “yes” to other people, the worse I felt. Because with each “yes” I gave to another, I was giving a “no” to me. No, you can’t do that fun thing today. No, you can’t sleep in today even though you had a terrible night and feel drained. No, you can’t stay home and do your laundry that’s piling up rapidly and will soon need its own room. No. No. No.

I think it’s safe to say that the last few years have been some of the most fascinating and challenging of our lifetimes. There are many things I’ve learned, some I wish I could unlearn as certain dark corners of humanity and human nature were exposed. We live in a fallen world. But this season has also given us the opportunity for self-reflection.

The loss of my parents during this time forces me to look back to move forward. As I remember childhood experiences, I’m starting to see patterns emerge that I never took note of before. It’s like the rush you feel when doing a puzzle and you find a bunch of end pieces. The framework can be established.

I never thought I was, but I am a people pleaser.

Even as I typed that sentence, my mind raced trying to figure out a way to rephrase it. Change “I am” to “I can be” or “I am sometimes”. It’s as if my mind refuses to accept this fact. Deal with it, brain! It doesn’t make you a bad person. It just makes you human.

The problem is that I consider myself to be strong and independent. I’m not one to run from confrontation or controversy. I’ve been known to enjoy stirring the pot, if you will. How can I be a people pleaser? To me, a people pleaser meant: insecure, weak-willed, pushover. I am not any of those things; therefore, I cannot be a people pleaser.

Except that I am.

It’s not that I need to be liked, but who actually wants to not be liked? My nature is to give. This, in and of itself, is not a bad quality. God loves a cheerful giver. Go look it up. But givers tend to attract takers. If too many relationships are in this lopsided state, the giver will eventually stop as they begin to feel taken advantage of or used. When the giver finally has the courage to admit they have a need, help doesn’t always come swooping in to save the day. The giver stands there with an unmet need and a sense of guilt. Why guilt? As a giver you get used to always being ready to help others. Your needs are put on the back burner. You may or may not get them met, but that’s not what matters. It’s the need that’s in front of you (which is never your own) that is the primary focus. Suppress. Suppress. Suppress until that pile of your needs, much like the laundry you haven’t done in two weeks, takes over. You feel guilty because this mountain-o-needs demands your attention and you can’t give it elsewhere. You’re forced to attend to your own situation.

But I can’t be a people pleaser because I have strong opinions and vocalize them.

Spoiler alert: just because you may pick the movie or the restaurant, doesn’t mean you’re not a people pleaser. In my life, it’s more about my fear of what I might lose if I set up healthy boundaries and use my power of “no” for my own good. If I let someone speak to me in a way that hurts me or makes me uncomfortable and I don’t address it, that’s a form of people-pleasing. I’m permitting something that I don’t like because the thought of having the difficult conversation, or worse that the person will not agree to respect my boundary, is too much for me. So, I let them continue. And I get a little smaller.

A good friend made me realize everyone isn’t a mind reader. In most cases, I don’t believe you should hold people accountable for things they may not know. Clearly, I’m not talking about violent acts. Those are wrong. Period. But if, for example, someone has a tendency to cut you off when you’re telling a story, you might feel like they’re being dismissive. That may or may not be true. The person may not realize you’re feeling that way. At this point, it would seem you have two choices: talk with the person and let them know how you feel, or don’t tell a story. As hard as it may be, I suggest letting them know how you feel. Take the risk. It may improve the relationship. It might kill it. But you don’t know if you don’t try. Once the person is made aware, then they are accountable. The goal isn’t to make them feel as if they have to walk on egg shells around you. It’s also not to let this person dominate every conversation. As this same good friend always says, it’s all about balance.

I must caution you that if you’ve engaged in people-pleasing behavior, as you begin to assert yourself and set healthy boundaries, there will be resistance. People are used to you saying “yes” and now you’re saying “no”. There’s likely to be push-back. How you handle that is up to you. I will encourage you by saying that you and your peace are worth the effort. I can’t guarantee that you won’t lose people. But if it’s a choice between losing them or continuing to lose yourself, you have to choose you. After all, you are with you for the duration.

That’s not a selfish or self-absorbed statement. I’m not advocating living the life of a self-serving narcissist. I’m not suggesting you use other people to get what you want out of them. Absolutely not. Continue to be a generous giver, just be wary of who gets your time and energy. Make sure there’s room in your day for you too. If helping others brings you joy, do it. But don’t feel guilty or ashamed when a day comes that you can’t.

As is my custom, I brought some receipts because I never want you to take my word for anything. (All verses are from the NIV version of the Bible at biblegateway.com.)

All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matthew 5:37)

Another way of saying this verse is to let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no. Be a person of integrity. I would add that integrity starts from within first. Don’t dishonor yourself.

But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgement for every empty word they have spoken. (Matthew 12:36)

I’ve used this verse before because it’s powerful. One day we’ll have to give account for every empty word. I believe this speaks to establishing healthy boundaries as well. If we go along to get along, our words are empty. If we don’t at least attempt to make another understand, then it’s all in vain. If they choose not to listen or respect you afterward, that’s not your responsibility. But never telling them and giving them the opportunity to change most certainly is.

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. (Proverbs 15:1)

I often misinterpreted this verse to mean that we should just be accepting and don’t challenge the status quo. Don’t make waves and all that. I’ve realized I wasn’t reading it correctly. I see it now as being our approach to having the difficult conversations. As much as someone’s behavior can hurt our feelings, if we want things to get better we can’t attack them. No one likes to be put on the defensive. Again, I’m not talking about violent, clearly out-of-bound situations. But if it’s the example I gave earlier of someone cutting us off as we speak, or never asking how our day was, or whatever it may be, communication is key. If we come in hot and start blasting them for what “you did to me”, it’s not likely to achieve any positive goal.

This is difficult for me. I’m learning how to rephrase or reframe a conversation. I’ve often been the lit match that starts a verbal bonfire. Now I want to be the cool water that puts out the roaring flames, because my goal is to make the relationship healthier and more balanced. It doesn’t always work, but at least I tried. This brings me to my final verse:

Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin. (Proverbs 13:3)

They say timing is everything. Hopefully, after you read this article you’ll think about the areas where you have said “no” to yourself when you should have said “yes”. This verse encourages us to not just have outbursts and blurt things out in the heat of the moment. (I could win awards for doing that. But I’m learning.) The tough conversations are necessary. Making yourself a priority in your own life is essential. Being prayerful and finding peace, even in a storm, is possible. God is with you. I am praying for you. Use your power of “no” for good.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

 

Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happiness

Those famous words are enshrined in America’s Declaration of Independence. Here’s the full context (emphasis added):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,…

 If you’ve never read the Declaration in its entirety, you should. But what may prove of even greater value would be for you to hear it read aloud. A while back, I took the liberty (no pun intended) of creating a video that provides a brief history of the events that led up to that balmy day of July 4, 1776 when a small group of individuals came together and birthed a new nation.

I hope you will enjoy this video and find it informative. My recitation cannot possibly do justice to the solemnness and profoundness of that sacred moment. My hope, my prayer is that I captured at least a small measure of the essence and spirit of that time.

My goal is to remind us all that though this country is far from perfect, our founding principles and ideals were and still are noble, and they should continue to be honored and upheld. Had to split the video into two parts to fit here. Feel free to use the link below to see it in its original full length.

https://rumble.com/vm0doj-you-may-want-to-rethink-july-4th.html

Happy Independence Day! May God continue to bless America.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

Reading The Signs. Staying In Your Lane.

With Summer officially here, many of us may be hitting the road to enjoy a much needed trip or vacation. Most of us will rely on an app or some form of GPS to get us to our destination. That got me thinking.

How reliable is your GPS?

I am the first to admit that I have a terrible sense of direction. My father, Mr. Geography Incarnate, couldn’t understand how I never mastered North, South, East, or West. I simply worked with left, right, up or down. Not his proudest moment, I’m sure. To his credit, he did teach me how to read maps and write down directions. Of course, my directions always included a million landmarks to help give me confidence that I was going the right way. This system usually worked out all right until I was detoured. I only had directions for this specific way, and now I’m being taken somewhere else! Panic inevitably ensued.

With advancements in technology, we really don’t have to think too much about how to get anywhere. We simply type in the address and our app displays the best route. It lets us know what’s up ahead, if there are any delays, and suggests alternates to shorten our travel time. It’s very convenient, until it stops working. I recently had a couple of experiences where my app took me to the wrong place. I had typed in the correct address, but for whatever reason, it took me somewhere else. I’ve also had situations where I’ve hit a dead spot and my navigation either stalled or disconnected completely. That’s a little frightening, isn’t it? You think all is well and then you hear, “You’re back online”. I’m back online? When was I offline?! “Rerouting.” Rerouting?! I’m a half-mile from a bridge with no off-ramp. Where am I going?!!

Let’s say that your navigation is behaving and you’re cruising along the highway. Life is good. Suddenly you see a dreaded sign letting you know that in one mile your beautiful three-lane road will be squeezing into a single lane of chaos due to road work. Do you merge now or stay in your lane until the last possible moment?

I usually merge once I see the first sign or shortly thereafter. But I am always fascinated by my fellow travelers who see the same sign I did, but absolutely refuse to acknowledge and adjust. In fact, some of these folks will even go so far as to wait until there is literally nowhere for them to go. Their lane is coned off or blocked, and they’re still in it! I don’t get it.

When I’m in the lane that is being merged into and I see that horrific line of vehicles clogging up to my right, I usually leave some room for one car to enter. It seems like the right thing to do. But I am always surprised at how many drivers won’t accept my invitation. They’d rather stay in the soon-to-be-non-lane because they might get a few car lengths ahead of me. Eventually, I encounter these same individuals again. Now they’ve come to the end of their road and they’re forced to sheepishly signal and meekly merge. Perhaps they’ve learned their lesson, but probably not. Of course, following quickly on their heels is some fool who believes that my gracious invitation is for them too. It is not. You can get behind me and rethink your life choices.

Do you switch or stay in your lane?

If I’m driving any distance on a three-lane highway, I tend to merge into the middle lane. I’m not entirely sure why I do it. I guess it’s because the right lane is constantly going through stop-and-start cycles from on- and off-ramps, and the left lane is for those who are secretly living out their dream of driving on the Autobahn or competing in Nascar™. I will change lanes if someone is driving particularly slow or has decided that there’s room in my trunk for their vehicle too. But, I can’t wait to get back to my middle lane. It’s not that I feel especially safe there. After all, I’m surrounded by other vehicles on all sides. I don’t really have a great escape plan if things break bad, but yet it’s where I tend to land. I stay in my lane.

How good are you at reading and interpreting signs?

As I mentioned earlier, my Pops taught me to read maps and write directions. He also taught me to be aware of all the road signs. This can be a bit overwhelming when you’re on a busy highway with left- and right-side exits and entrances, or where a main road splits into two or more. Have you ever ridden down a stretch of highway where there seems to be more signs than actual road? Even Pops found himself challenged on our vacations to California when confronted by their freeways. He’d proudly merge with a smile and announce, “I’m back.” This was his Mount Everest, and he was going to conquer it. He left his mark, if only in our collective memories.

Does having a good GPS, staying in your lane, or reading and interpreting signs apply anywhere else besides driving?

If you’ve read any of my work, you know that I often tie human experiences to spiritual concepts and ideas. As I was preparing this piece, I couldn’t help but think of the subject matter’s impact beyond its obvious realm: driving. Think about it. How often have we heard the expression, “Stay in your lane”? It’s often used to encourage someone to stick with what they know or do what they know how to do. It can also be used to politely tell someone to mind their business. Stay over there.

I’m sure you’ve heard or even said at one time or another, “It’s a sign” when something supported a belief. I recently had such an experience when I had been telling my niece that we need to get back to Hawaii and then found myself stopped at a light behind a car with the label “Kona”. To me that was a sign that we will get back to Kona. Someone else may not see it as a sign; they may see it as just another car in front of me at a light. It all depends on your interpretation. I’m sure that same car stopped at many more lights and no one took any notice of it. Same sign, different interpretations.

And what about your GPS? In Christian circles we sometimes use the term your “knower”. It can often be confused with your gut reaction to something or someone, but it is deeper than a visceral response. We believe that the Holy Spirit was given to us to help guide us through life. He will often set off an internal alarm when we’re headed in the wrong direction. We can choose to listen to or ignore it. Whenever I’ve chosen to dismiss it, I’ve usually ended up in a dead-end situation. I’m now the car that ran out of road and is sheepishly, meekly signaling and hoping to merge. Have I learned my lesson? Time will tell.

I never expect you to take my word alone as truth or facts. That’s why I always bring receipts.

All verses are from the NIV version on biblegateway.com, emphasis added.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. (Psalm 119:105)

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; (Psalm 37:23)

 

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

When you’re feeling unsure of where to go and what to do in your life, please know that there is One way that guarantees a healthy outcome:

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. (Matthew 7:13-14)

The Lord gave us His Holy Spirit as the perfect navigation tool for life. He never quits or drops out. You may get rerouted, but you will always get to your destination. Stay in your lane and keep reading and interpreting His signs. You’ll leave your mark.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

The Love Of A Father

This coming Sunday is Father’s Day. In honor of the occasion, I am dedicating this week’s blog post to the fathers, both natural and spiritual. What do I mean by that? Well, there are the fathers we have through birth or adoption or family blending. But there are other father figures we can be blessed to know. These men may or may not be related to us. They act as mentors, examples, and role models for us as we’re growing up and even in our adult years. They look out for us. They care for us. They try to keep us on the right path in life.

Father’s Day can be difficult for some. There are those of us whose father is no longer with us. There are others who may never have known their father. Others may not have a healthy or good relationship with their father.

This will be the third year celebrating Father’s Day with Dad in heaven. I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. I still find myself thinking, “What should I get Pops?” whenever there’s a commercial on TV. Pops was a tough customer. Buying presents for him was always challenging. He had simple tastes and didn’t really get into the latest and greatest tech devices or anything like that. How many shirts and ties can you buy one man? Recently, we were cleaning out his and Mom’s closet. I believe we found 252 ties (only a slight exaggeration). We came across many boxes of sweaters, shirts and such that he never even wore once. No one was surprised.

I have some of his clothes now. I tried to pick items that he had worn because that made them more special to keep. But I won’t lie; I believe I have some items that still have tags on them. That was my Dad: a simple yet complex man.

In case it hasn’t become abundantly clear, I am and always will be a Daddy’s little girl. I would venture to say that all three of his daughters would proudly claim that title. Our Dad was very special and way ahead of his time. He was extremely intelligent without being arrogant. He was funny, sweet, kind. He raised his girls to be capable and independent, yet we frequently desired his wisdom and advice. I rarely made any major life decisions without seeking his counsel first. I didn’t always heed his wise words, but I always ran things by him. I miss having him here as a sounding board, ready to give sober assessment of my latest crazy life adventure.

Dad was our hero. Some called him Superman. I thought of him more as Sherlock Holmes (minus the violin and opium addiction). Like Holmes, Pops was usually the smartest person in any room. He could decipher any mystery, fix any problem, and remember every detail from history to the present. He had such a sly wit and truly embraced his dry sense of humor. He enjoyed teasing us, bluffing during family game time, and telling a tall tale. Eventually, I learned to check his blue eyes to see if he was fibbing. He had a great poker face, but the twinkle in those beautiful baby blues would give him away.

I remember when I was about 11 or 12 years old: the age of awkwardness. My hormones are everywhere, I look weird, and I’m getting too grown to sit on Dad’s lap. I desperately wanted to build a stronger connection with him. It wasn’t that he was distant, but I saw how he and my brother would sit and watch sports together and laugh and joke. I wanted to laugh more with my Dad too.

And one day it happened. I don’t remember the specific incident, whether I was telling a silly story or joke or just acting goofy. But I remember that Pops smiled and laughed. That was it for me. I think I spent the rest of my days with him doing whatever I could to make him laugh. I would give anything to have one more opportunity to make him smile.

I was fortunate to never struggle with understanding how God is our Father and how much He loves us. My Dad set a beautiful example. I do understand, however, that many people will never know the love of a good father here on earth. That is a sad truth. Father’s Day can be a painful reminder of that reality for some.

I’ve known people whose fathers were absent or abusive or died way too young. I’ve known some people whose fathers were around but not present. Their dads would work all day, come home, gulp down a meal with their family, and then they were off to their workshop or garage or office.

Since my Dad passed I find myself leaning even more on my Father in heaven. My prayers often resemble the chats I once had with Dad. And, yes, I want God’s counsel before I make a move, but I don’t always listen to Him either. Consistency!

How can I feel close to a Father I can’t see or touch?

You may not believe me, but there have been times where I close my eyes and I can feel Him all around me. I get a sense of peace and warmth that words cannot describe. The closest example I can give of how it feels is like when I was little and would snuggle up on my Dad. I feel safe and secure. I feel loved. As I think about how much I love Him and, more importantly, how much He loves me (and you), I can be overcome by such a feeling of hope and love. Whatever was stressing me out and making me anxious or upset starts to fade away. I just feel His love.

How do I start to build a relationship with God?

We human beings are so good at making things complicated. Yes, the whole concept of God is kind of mind-blowing and existential. I’ll give you that. But God simplified it by giving us the Bible. (You knew I was going to bring the Book into the conversation. I always do.) That is the best way to start to know your heavenly Father.

If you doubt that God is your Father and loves you, good. I always come with receipts. I challenge you to read and reread these verses and see if they inspire or encourage you. Spoiler alert: He won’t neglect or reject you.

All verses are from the NIV version at biblegateway.com, emphasis added.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

 

And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:18)

 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. (1 John 3:1)

 

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. (Psalm 68:5)

This Father’s Day I ask you to take a moment and consider that, regardless of your relationship with your natural father, you always have a Father who loves you unconditionally. He will be with you through everything. You are His child no matter what. Nothing can separate you from His love. He sent His Son Jesus to come and pay the price for all the sins that humanity ever has or will do. All that is required of you is to accept that precious Gift of redemption, restoration, and pure love. If you ask me, that’s something you can’t put a price tag on, and it’s way better than any shirt and tie.

Happy Father’s Day.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,
-Kat

 

Are You Bruised Or Broken?

I have spent the past few weeks packing up and hauling out a lifetime of memories, memorabilia, and furniture. As a result, my body is covered in bruises. It’s always an interesting experience stepping into the shower and discovering all the new editions to my black-and-blue family. I’m often surprised at just how colorful they can be. I’m also a little unsettled by the randomness of their placement. How did I get a bruise next to my belly button? Who gets that?

As I collapsed on my sofa one evening and began examining the new connect-the-dots pattern on my left bicep, I started thinking about bruises and broken bones. I was in the healthcare field for six years working in physical therapy. I treated patients with everything from: strokes to heart issues to fractures to surgical procedures. No matter what their reason for being in the facility, my department’s job was to help them achieve their highest possible functional level. The goal was to, hopefully, get them back to their prior level. But that wasn’t always possible. The patient could be very motivated and give their all in therapy. We would meet their effort and keep pushing them forward. But sometimes the injury couldn’t be undone. For example, someone who suffered a stroke may have permanent damage. They may not get back the full use of that arm or that leg due to the effects of the stroke.

Nothing hurt our hearts more than to see someone fighting so hard for their recovery, only to find themselves hitting an insurmountable wall. It took a lot of prayer and care to encourage them and their loved ones to not be disappointed. I was disappointed. I always wanted every patient to be able to go home and live as they did before. In fact, I wanted them to go home better than they were prior to whatever had brought them to our doorstep. That didn’t always happen. I used to joke that we’re in physical therapy but the therapy isn’t just physical. Many sessions required me to be a cheerleader (figuratively and literally). Other times I had to put on my counseling cap. Doing that job gave me some of the greatest and worst moments of my working life. I am so grateful for the years I spent helping others. It was humbling, frustrating, joyful, draining, and amazing often at the same time.

We dealt with a senior population, so a decent amount of patients were in the facility because they had fallen. I always felt so awful for these sweet souls who would come in covered in bruises from head-to-toe. I’m not exaggerating. Some of these lovely people would have a bruise that started from the top of their head and seemed to end at the bottom of their feet. Many of the women would be embarrassed because of how they looked. They didn’t want anyone to see them like that. The bruises didn’t necessarily hurt, but their presence caused these ladies a great deal of pain. They couldn’t wait until the colors started to fade and could be covered up with makeup.

Are you covering up any bruises?

I certainly have, and I don’t mean physical ones. I’m talking about the ones that you can’t see but you definitely feel. Whether it was an unkindness done to you, or a betrayal or a disappointment from a loved one, or whatever your specific example may be, you got bruised. There’s a saying about how you can bruise someone’s ego. It’s usually meant in a somewhat derogatory manner directed at someone who was rightly deserving of the takedown. And I’m willing to admit that I’ve gotten more than my fair share of those bruises. They hurt too, but if we learn our lesson, we tend not to get so many of them in the future.

There is, however, a different kind of bruising not of the ego, but of the heart. This is what I want us to focus on for a little bit. If I’m being honest, I’ve had my heart bruised and I’ve also had it broken more than once.

Is it better to be bruised than broken?

I don’t know if there is a better option. They both hurt. You might say that a broken heart is the worst thing to get over. I’d be inclined to agree with you, but then I think of my own experiences. As awful as the heart break was, that place was a place of finality. The breaking typically meant a breaking away from whatever or whoever had hurt me. Yes, it was very hard to recover. I’m not discounting that. But in the end, there was a strange kind of release and freedom. Has that ever happened with you?

In contrast, when my heart’s been bruised I’ve tended to stay in the situation. I may or may not even verbalize that I’ve been hurt. I just try to cover it up until the colors fade and disappear. Have you ever noticed how some physical bruises take a really long time to heal? They can even seem to get larger and uglier before they’re gone. They seem to stick around forever! They manage to go through all the colors of the rainbow. For some unknown reason, I always keep hitting that bruised spot over and over again.

Come to think of it, I see some parallels between my physical and emotional bruising. When my heart is hurting, it doesn’t heal in a quiet or small way. The pain may increase and get “larger” with time as I relive and overthink the injury again and again. The “colors” change as my thoughts or feelings about the injury evolve. I may go from angry to upset back to angry, take a quick detour to depressed then back to angry again. So many pretty colors. And I just can’t help but hit that sore spot over and over again while I’m supposed to be healing. Can you relate?

Time heals all wounds, or is it time wounds all heels? I’m good with either one. But seriously, time is a beautiful gift when it comes to healing whether it is from physical or emotional injuries. Initially it may seem that time almost stops. We can feel stuck and wonder if we’ll ever feel better again. We can. We will. I think deep down a small part of us may even know that. We just hurt too much to concentrate on anything else.

Healing is a process. It’s not one you have to do alone.

If you’re reading this and you’re dealing with bruised emotions or a broken heart, let me encourage you. You. Will. Get. Better. But don’t take my word for it; you know I brought receipts.

All verses were from the NIV version at biblegateway.com, emphasis added.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)

 

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

 

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)

We are fortunate to have a loving Father in heaven who is close to us and helps us heal. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy or that it will happen in an instant. If you need to speak with a professional, please do so. Just as some physical injuries require medical interventions, so may our emotional ones. Your specific path is your business. I’m just here to encourage you to take that first step. I want you to know that I pray for you and believe with you that your broken heart can mend. I agree with you that those emotional bruises are painful. But they won’t last forever. You know what does last forever? God’s love for you. We don’t call Him the “Great Physician” for no reason. Make an appointment with Him today. He’s always got time in His schedule for you. No waiting. Unlike those times when our patients would plateau or hit a wall and their progress would stop, if you let Him, He can bring you back to wholeness. Let Him do His work to help you mend and come back stronger than you were before you got hurt.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.

Look forward to hearing from you,

-Kat

 

Finish What You Start

I don’t know how things worked in your household, but my parents were huge proponents of finishing what you started. This was especially true when it came to food on your plate. Mom often liked to say something like, “Take all you want, but eat all you take.” She claimed it was a famous Army expression. Having never served in the military, I can neither confirm nor deny its validity. But we do have audio tape evidence of yours truly as a sweet little tyke announcing that, “I guess I don’t want any Spam®.” Without missing a beat, Dad responded in his firm, calm, loving manner, “You finish that Spam, Miss. All of it.” (I would try to describe to you what Spam is but mere words cannot do it justice. Suffice it to say it is a canned pork meat product that was quite popular in our home.)

The point is that my parents did not believe in wasting anything. I’m sure living through the Great Depression helped solidify their viewpoint. “Waste not want not” was another phrase frequently bandied about our home.

Their belief in finishing what you start extended beyond mealtime. Both my parents understood that your word was your bond. If you committed yourself to a team, activity, event, etc. you were obligated to follow through to the end. Knowing this I tried my best not to join everything all the time. I knew if I got involved in something on a whim and then later regretted it, I was stuck. I had to finish what I started. This wasn’t an absolute rule, of course. I was able to quit certain situations, but they were few and far between. I had to truly justify why I couldn’t continue. My answer couldn’t be that I simply didn’t like it or it wasn’t fun anymore.

I would like to say that with this solid upbringing I am adept at completing what I start. But I’d be lying. And you deserve better than that.

In my book I’m Not Crazy; I’m A Christian I wrote about how I have a nasty habit of self-sabotage. I actually started writing the book in 2008 but it wasn’t finished and published until 2021! To quote from Chapter 1:

…I moved back home and began a deep, intimate relationship with self-sabotage bonded in the unholy state of procrastination.

Why is it so hard to finish what we start?

I’ve given this a great deal of thought. For some of us, I think it stems from a combination of insecurity and self-sabotage. What do I mean? Well, when I start a writing project, there’s nothing but potential. There’s really only upside. I haven’t experienced any rejection yet. But once I’ve finished writing, editing, and publishing, then it’s real. It’s tangible. I’ll soon learn whether it was a hit or a miss. There will be undeniable proof one way or the other.

Sometimes we don’t want to finish what we start because we may have underestimated the enormity of the task, and we just don’t feel we can do it. Other times we’re just so overcome with emotions and stress that we feel overwhelmed and can’t go on.

Lest we forget there’s always my constant companion self-sabotage. I don’t know how many opportunities I may have missed along the way because I avoided tackling something in a timely manner. All too often my motto is: Why do something now that I can put off until tomorrow? The struggle is real.

When I was in my junior year of college my roommate would sit in awe as I crafted all kinds of papers at the last minute. Sure I’d been given the assignments days or weeks ahead of time. But my brain just didn’t fire on all cylinders until it was crunch time.

I will admit that as a writer sometimes it’s not a problem of procrastination, but rather a lack of inspiration. It’s hard to write something when you have no idea what to write. I would imagine the same is true for anyone in any creative or artistic endeavor. But that doesn’t let me off the hook for the countless times I just didn’t do it because I didn’t want to do it.

Why do we self-sabotage?

I’m not sure if it’s a conscious decision. I often think it’s a kind of bizarre defense mechanism shielding us from potential failure once again. Think about it. If I don’t submit something by its deadline, that’s why I didn’t get chosen or I didn’t get the reward or opportunity. It isn’t because I didn’t meet their qualifications or I wasn’t what they were looking for or they didn’t like or want me. I haven’t actually been rejected. I disqualified myself. I took myself out of the running. I didn’t have to process a loss. It’s this weird, safe place where we beat ourselves up a little for self-sabotaging but at the same time we feel a relief that it’s over. We don’t have to find out if we would’ve succeeded or failed. It’s this false sense of freedom, because we’re not free. We’re trapped in a cycle of starting but not finishing.

I have so many writing projects clogging up my hard drive. For me, finishing my first book was a way of breaking the cycle. One day I just started rereading all of my half and three-quarter finished plays, books, essays, etc. I said to myself, “Just finish one thing.” So I did. It wasn’t easy. I was so nervous. I still can’t believe I did it.

There is value and blessing in finishing what you start.

Don’t take my word for it. I always bring the receipts. All bible verses are the NIV version from biblegateway.com, emphasis added.

The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)

 

Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. (2 Corinthians 8:11)

 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9)

I am so grateful to the Lord for giving me the courage to finally stop the self-sabotage and procrastinate cycle in my writing life. I’ve even committed to a weekly blog post. This means I have to generate new content every single week! It’s not as easy as it looks. But I refuse to slack off.

Notice I put that I’ve stopped the cycle in my writing life. I won’t lie and say that I still don’t wrestle with self-sabotage and procrastination in other areas. I do. But I’m not as inclined to give in to those tendencies as I once did. Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can finish what I start, I feel more conviction when I start back pedaling. My episodes of procrastination are shorter and spread further apart.

I believe the key is to not be so hard on yourself. If you struggle with these issues, I think it’s normal. My best advice: pick something small. If there’s something you started that you can finish relatively easily and quickly, do that first. These small wins will begin to add up. Over time you may grow in faith and confidence that you can finish a bigger project.

I’ll leave you with this thought. It’s a verse that inspires me to keep pressing on:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

I believe you can finish what you start. You know how I know? You just finished reading this article.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,
-Kat

Welcome To The Land Of Contradiction

Many years ago I proposed an idea for a skit. It was based on this concept of the Land of Contradiction. In the skit, a woman (probably played by me) would be sitting behind a computer with a headset on while loudly chewing gum. People would come in, state their name and the promise that God gave them or the dream they had. It might go a little something like this:

Service rep: (with a nasal tone) Good afternoon and welcome to the Land of Contradiction. Please state your name. (blows a bubble and pops it)

Man 1: (nervous and excited) Yes. Hi. My name is Frank Maloney and God told me that I’m going to own my own business.

Service rep: (continues blowing gum while clicking away at the keyboard) (looks up at the monitor) Uh huh. Malon. Malone. Maloney. Here you are. (continues reading what’s on the screen) Ok, so Mr. Maloney, it says here that you’re about to get fired and you’ll need to go on the unemployment. May I also recommend you consider downsizing your current living situation for the next um year or two or five? And um do you really need your car?

Man 1: (in shock) What?!!! But I don’t understand. God said that my business would be successful. How can this be happening? I…

Service rep: (cutting him off) Excuse me, sir. There is no need to get loud, OK? I’m just trying to do my job. (hands him a slip of paper) Now if you’ll please take this ticket to the window over there, we can get you checked out, OK? Thank you so much.

Man 1: (stunned, takes the ticket) But God said…

Service rep: I’m sure He did, sir. And we know He’s not a liar. But let me remind you once again that you are currently in the Land of Contradiction where our motto is if you can dream it, we’ll do our best to try to squash it. Have a nice day. Next!

(Man 1 walks off dejected as the next customer sits down with the service rep.)

Clearly this is a work of fiction, but the overall theme is relatable. You have a dream or deep desire in your heart. You know it’s not just a passing whim. Every time you think about it you get excited. You started doing your research. You’re willing to do the work to achieve the objective: the degree, the career goal, the new business, the new home, etc. You’ve learned not to share your dream or plan with just anyone. But you have a few close, vetted friends, family or colleagues that you trust. They’ve thrown their support into your venture as well. Surely all signs are pointing to “Yes” as the old Magic 8 Ball used to say if you shook it just right. (In my case, I typically got “Try again later” or “Outlook not so good”. I hated that thing. But I digress.)

You get fired up and bold and step out in faith into what you believe is your destiny or maybe even a calling. What happens next? You know. All hell breaks loose (figuratively speaking, or maybe literally in some cases).

You go to the bank for the small business loan that given your credentials should have been a cake walk and you’re turned down. (By the way, what exactly is a cake walk? I don’t know about you, but anytime I’m walking while holding a cake, it is anything but easy. I’m completely paranoid that I’m going to trip, or the cake is going to slide all around in the box and I’ll lose half the frosting on one side. It’s kind of a nightmare. But I digress.) Let’s take a different scenario: you’re up for a promotion. Your boss has hinted that it’s only a matter of time. You’ve got it locked down. Two days later you find out they promoted someone else. One last scenario (because these examples are really bumming me out): you’re about to close on a house, but the deal falls through. You may look up to the heavens and cry:

What is going on?! I’m so confused.

At this point the Welcome Wagon should arrive to announce that you are the newest visitor to the Land of Contradiction. That wagon should come equipped with lots of chocolate, ice cream or whatever comfort food works for you. You’re gonna need it.

What is this strange land where dreams are trampled on and hopes are tossed about in the whirlwind? It’s what I like to call the in-between. It’s the place between promise and fulfillment.

As a person of faith, I believe the Bible is the Word of God. The promises mentioned in it are for me. Take this one, for example:

(All quoted verses are from the NIV version on biblegateway.com.)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

That verse brings me comfort because I’m persuaded that it applies to us as much today as it did in Biblical times. It is for anyone who chooses to receive it as truth.

This is another verse that I hold dear:

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. (John 8:36)

Since we’re on the subject of having dreams and deep desires of our hearts, check this one out:

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 emphasis added)

With all this encouragement and hope, how do we end up in the Land of Contradiction?

The best way to answer that question is with the story of Joseph. His saga begins in Genesis 37. If you’re not familiar, Genesis is the first book of the Bible. I find it significant that Joseph’s story is told so early on within the text. Perhaps God knew that we might one day have moments of doubt and confusion whilst traversing the barren wasteland of the Land of Contradiction. Maybe He gave us this story to help us to endure the in-between.

I apologize up front because I can assure you I will butcher my retelling of Joseph’s life. To fully appreciate its worth, I strongly recommend you read it in its entirety at some point. But for now, here’s my best attempt to summarize. Joseph is the younger son of Jacob (aka Israel the father of the Israelites). He has one younger brother and many older brothers. His Dad favors him, even giving him a beautiful robe. (Fun fact: the Broadway show Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat was based on this story. But I digress.)

Joseph is about 17 and probably had a little bit of attitude as teenagers do. One day he tells his brothers of a dream he had. In the dream, they were all binding sheaves of grain in the field. Joseph’s sheaf rose and stood upright. The other sheaves gathered around his and bowed down to it. This did not go over well with his brothers, as you might imagine. They already were jealous of him because he was the favorite. Now he tells them this dream where the symbolism is clearly that he’ll be ruling over them. They yelled at him and hated him even more.

You would think Joseph would learn his lesson and not share his dreams with them again. But he doesn’t. He has another one with similar imagery of him in charge and them bowing. Does he tell them? Of course he does! This time even his Dad got angry with him.

Poor Joseph, he couldn’t help himself. He was in the first phase: the promise. This is the euphoric time where you’re so excited by the new idea or venture. You want to share it with everyone. But not everyone is going to be for you. You should always be very careful with whom you share your dreams. And you should keep in mind that after the dream is born, you’re about to enter the in-between. Get your ticket for the Land of Contradiction ready. Your train is about to leave the station.

Joseph’s story goes on. His brothers want to kill him but then think better of it. They choose to throw him down a well instead. These fellas give a whole new meaning to the phrase family feud. They then sell him into slavery. Read that sentence again.

But no matter where he ends up, God continues to show favor on Joseph. He’s a slave but the head of the household promotes him to a high-ranking position. Of course, then the guy’s wife tries to seduce him. (Bet you didn’t know the Bible was this spicy.) He refuses, so she accuses him of assault. Poor Joseph is thrown into prison.

But God. Once again our boy Joseph is shown favor by the prison warden. He basically becomes second-in-command. While serving his sentence he meets the King of Egypt’s (Pharaoh’s) cupbearer and baker. They’re chatting one day, and the men reveal that they each had dreams but don’t understand them. Well, here comes Joseph to the rescue. He interprets their dreams. (Spoiler alert: one has a happy ending, the other…not so much.) Before they leave the prison, Joseph asks that they remember him to the king. They do not. Not right away.

Two years later, Pharaoh has multiple dreams that no one can interpret. The cupbearer remembers Joseph. Do you know what happens next? Joseph is brought before Pharaoh and interprets his dreams concerning seven years of prosperity followed by seven years of famine. Joseph gives Pharaoh instructions of how to prepare during the abundant years for ample storehouses during the years of famine.

Here comes God’s favor again. Joseph is appointed to lead this massive operation. He’s given a high-ranking office, second only to Pharaoh himself. It might seem like Joseph has left the Land of Contradiction and is living in his fulfillment phase, but the story doesn’t end there.

A time comes when his brothers arrive to purchase grain from Pharaoh’s storehouses. They are brought to Joseph, only they don’t recognize him. But he remembers them. They even bow before him (just as in his dreams). He does mess with them a little bit before revealing his true identity. You can read that for yourself.

The point of my sharing this story is that there is a space between promise and fulfillment. There is a season of the in-between. You probably will do some time in the Land of Contradiction. But there are lessons we can learn, maturing that can take place, humbling and refining of character that can happen.

Dare I say, in order to truly live the dream, we may need the Land of Contradiction?

If you read the full story, you’ll see how God used every circumstance, every disappointment, and every setback in Joseph’s life to bring him to his place of fulfillment. He loves you just as much. Can you dare to believe that He’ll be with you through every twist and turn from promise to fulfillment?

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28, emphasis added)

I’m not saying the in-between is easy. The Land of Contradiction has many mountains and valleys. It’s steep, rough terrain. The weather is unpredictable. The resources may be scarce. But you don’t have to stay there forever. And you have the best Guide navigating you through it all.

Dare to dream. Dare to hope. Dare to pursue.
Dare to believe.

Until next time: stay happy, stay healthy, stay in the know.
Look forward to hearing from you,
-Kat

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