Life Lesson #3: Do the Right Thing


The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire came a gentle whisper.

–1 Kings 19:11-12

One week ago, God pierced my heart with a gentle command that made me cry out with a loud, “No!”

I realize that sounds like an oxymoron… piercing with a gentle command… but that’s how it was.  God nudged me quietly, but it struck me to the core.  I thought to myself,”If I do what  God is asking me to do, I won’t be able to go to grad school.  I don’t want to give up grad school.  I’ve worked too hard for this!”  So I prayed, “God, if this is something You really want me to do, please don’t let me talk myself out of it, and don’t let others talk me out of it either.”  You see, I’m really good at bouncing things off of other people.  I think I am hoping they will either talk me out of something or tell me what to do.  I never seem to trust my gut instinct; but I’m learning that when I don’t, I wind up making poor choices.

Sure enough, within a few days, I had a number of people tell me not to follow through on what I thought I was supposed to do.  Pretty soon, I had just about talked myself out of it, too.    A few people suggested that perhaps I could partially follow through; but when I contemplated that, God always laid the passage about Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) before me.  It didn’t take me long to know that partially following through wasn’t an option.

In the meantime, God continued to nudge me.  I opened up my Matthew Henry’s Commentary and studied the passage I had been reading when God commanded me the first time.  The more I read, the more He continued to nudge me that what He had originally commanded me to do was still what He wanted me to do.  Yesterday at church, the passage I was struggling with was one of the readings of the day.  I’ve walked with God long enough to know that when Bible passages show up more than once within a short period of time, it is something I am supposed to notice.  So today I followed through.  I know that if I did what God truly was asking me to do, He will bless it in some way.

On one hand, I am happy that I did follow through; because I know I am right with God.  On the other hand, I can’t say it makes my heart more tender towards other people who are involved and who will benefit from what I did.  I didn’t do it for them; I did it because I wanted more than anything to obey God.

Can you relate at all?  Do you have a nagging sensation in your heart that just won’t go away.  Do you “know that you know” that God wants you to do a particular thing, but you keep dragging your feet?  What’s holding you back?  What would it take to step out in faith and do whatever it is God is telling you to do?  Are you like me?  Do you go back and forth wondering if you’re hearing correctly?  Do you bounce it off of so many other people first that you get talked out of following through with whatever it is you’re supposed to do?

If you do, there are a few things that will help you learn to hear God’s voice and pay attention to it:

  • Get alone with God where it is quiet.  You won’t hear him in a room full of noise.
  • Pray–Ask God for guidance.  Be specific.  Say, “God, I believe You are telling me this.  If that’s true, please show me how to follow through on it.”
  • Be patient–God oftentimes won’t show you the whole path up front.  He will light your way one step at a time.  If you want to know the next step, you’ve got to follow through on the step you’re on currently.
  • Pay attention to what your heart or your gut is telling you.  We can’t always rely on our feelings (as they oftentimes lead us astray), but God will speak through His Spirit within us if we just take the time to listen.
God doesn’t want us consulting with a bunch of other people to follow through on what He is saying to us.  He wants us to listen to Him alone.  He wants us to seek Him and question Him about our doubts and fears.  He wants us to spend time in His Word and down on our knees in prayer.  He wants us to get to know Him on a more intimate level.  Other people always have the potential to let us down or lead us astray.  God will do neither.  He loves us, and He wants what is best for us.  The only way we will come to understand what that is is to come to understand Him better.
 
Seeking to know Him more…
 
Lori Lynn
 
Father… teach me how to tune out the distractions and noise of this present world and heed Your gentle whisper.  Help me to trust Your voice more than the voices of other people in my life who have the potential to lead me astray.  Keep me focused on Your Word that I might know You better.  I want to do the right thing.  I want to be right with You.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

Life Lesson #2: Follow Your Heart


Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind? — Job 38:36 (NLT)

 

For years, I have wanted to be a writer of children’s books.  When I was in my 20’s, I flew to New York City and interviewed with a major publishing house.  I didn’t get the job.  A few years later, I followed the man of my dreams out to Boston to pursue a job in children’s book publishing.  I had dreams of working at Little Brown or Houghton Mifflin.  I went so far as to call Little Brown and offer to work for free.  The girl I spoke with thought I was a crazy person.  I wasn’t crazy; I just really wanted to learn about publishing.

I wound up working for an accounting firm as a secretary, and then I got fired.  I hated my job.  The day my boss and the human resource person told me I was being let go, I looked across the desk at them and said, “Thank you SO MUCH!”  They glanced at each other with a raised eyebrow.  I had no idea how I was going to pay my rent, or even if I would be able to stay living in Boston, but I did know one thing; I was free.  I had been released from a dungeon of drudgery.

I spent the summer looking for a job and collecting unemployment.  My future husband surprised me by taking me on fun outings to get my mind off being unemployed… hiking in New Hampshire, visits to Martha’s Vineyard, dinner and excursions throughout Boston, etc.  The man of my dreams somehow faded out of the picture.  He basically said, “Tough break.”

I’d like to say I persevered and found a job in publishing, but I didn’t.  I wound up in another dull, lifeless secretarial job.  By this time, I had convinced myself I wasn’t supposed to get into publishing.  Throughout the summer, I had continued to look for jobs in publishing.  I had one wonderful man (a vice president at one of Boston’s major publishing houses who rode the same bus I did, and whom I wound up interviewing with) tell me, “In this business, unless you’ve gone to an Ivy League school or come from money, your chances of breaking in are pretty slim.”  That’s when I sort of wilted and gave up.  Publishing wasn’t God’s plan for me.  He had closed every single door I had tried to go through.  Obviously, I was supposed to be knocking on different doors.

I figured since I wasn’t making it in the career world, perhaps I was meant to be a wife and mother.  I changed my focus.  I got married, gave up grad school, had three children, and completely lost my identity.  (Before you start thinking, “Oh boy, here she goes… on the pity-me bandwagon!”, I want to assure you that’s not where I’m headed.  I HAVE been there, done that, but have decided it’s time to get off and start doing what God intended for me to do in the first place… hang on to Him and persevere.)

Throughout my journey, one thing has remained constant (well, two actually, when you count God being the only One who has continued to love me through it all), and that is my love for publishing and writing.  My writing needs a lot of work; it’s rough and tends to segue off onto multiple tangents at times, but it hopefully touches my readers every now and again in a a profound way.  I’m praying it will smooth out in time.

My point to all of this is… if your heart consistently tells you something, and the message rarely changes, LISTEN.  God designed each of us with a specialty.  We’ve each been given a gift.  Your gift will call to you.  It oftentimes will be something that comes naturally.  It can also, at times, require a great deal of studied focus and attention.  It ALWAYS will be something that touches your heart and spreads a warmth throughout your soul.  It will be something that brings you joy, and usually it will be something that blesses others.  So…

Lesson #2: Follow Your Heart

Don’t allow other people to determine what you should do in life.  Don’t be forced into a career that will make you miserable.  So much of our life is spent working, that we really need to be careful that we don’t get locked into doing something we dislike intensely.  If we’re unhappy when we get up in the morning, and we can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed to go to a job we can’t stand, it doesn’t set a good precedent.  There ARE fantastic jobs out there.  It might be something as simple as taking meals to the elderly people on your block or it might be jet-setting around the world cinching major business deals.  If it makes you happy, it’s the right job for you.  The thing is, no one can tell you what it is except YOU.

If you are a young person reading this and  you don’t know what it is, volunteer your services in a variety of areas.  Talk to your friends and ask them what they like/dislike about their job.  Take some time to reflect on whether you enjoy being around people or being alone, working with things or working with ideas, traveling or staying put, working set day shifts or a flexible variety of shifts, being your own boss or having someone else give you direction.  When you’re in high school and college, take a variety of classes.  Get involved in extracurricular activities.  You don’t always need to know what you want to major in at the start of your college career.  Part of the early college experience is exploring your options (of course, high school is an even better time to do this), but my point is to try out a variety of things to find out what you like and what you don’t.  You aren’t going to be good at everything.  That’s okay.  Focus on what you ARE good at.  The rest will fall into place.

If you aren’t so young anymore, but you realize you’ve spent your entire life doing what makes everyone else happy, and you wake up one day and realize you’ve lost your spark, it’s time to reassess things.  It’s never too late to learn something new.  Take some time to think about what you’d rather be doing.  Find some time to go away where it’s quiet.  Take a pen and some paper (or your iPad!) and write down steps on how to make that happen.  It’s a proven fact that the first step in getting from Point A to Point B is to have a plan, so make some goals and write them down.  Start imagining yourself in your new role.  Our thought life is a huge contributor to where we end up in life.  Make a timeline.  You may need to make a budget.  Post these things where you can see them on a daily (or weekly) basis.  Cut out pictures of where you see yourself or what you see yourself doing.  Visual reminders are HUGE in helping us move out of a rut.  Reward yourself along the way to reaching your goal.  Remember, a journey begins with a single step.  If you don’t take that initial first step, you are never going to get to where you want to go.  Believe in yourself and others will believe in you too.

Go on now… get going!  I’m rooting for you!

Lori Lynn

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.  –Steve Jobs

 

 

Life Lesson #1 (Updated): Deal with Your Stuff


“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. — Romans 3:23-24 (NIV)

{I originally wrote this post in January 2012. It has been rewritten a bit, as events in my life have changed, but the life lesson is still the same (and more important than ever for me to share).}

It’s very difficult when writing a blog to know just how much to share with your readers.  As a writer, I want to touch my readers’ hearts.  I want them to read what I write and say, “Oh my gosh.  I know exactly what she’s talking about!”, or “I SO get where she’s coming from.”  At the same time, I don’t want to share so much that it portrays people in my life in a bad light; because there are two sides to every story, and you are really only hearing mine.  Suffice it to say, because of poor choices I have made in the past, my life has not exactly gone the way I had hoped; but I am hopeful that some of my mistakes can be used for good in teaching others not to do what I did.

Lesson #1:  Do NOT marry someone until you have dealt with your “stuff.”

When I married my husband, I knew I did not love him.  I did know he was a good Christian man, and he had a good heart; and I truly believed that God would help me grow to love him in time.  I was 28 years old, desperately wanted to be a wife and mother, and felt the biological clock ticking.  I had just come out of a four-year off-again-on-again relationship with a man whom I loved more than anything but who had no intention of marrying me anytime soon because of family pressure on his side.  It was actually this man who sat in church with me one day, looked out over the congregation, saw my future husband in one of the front rows, pointed and said, “You should go out with that guy.”  My initial reaction was, “Oh my gosh.  No way.  He is SO not my type!”  (Now I realize that many of you highly-intelligent readers will be asking, “Why did you go out with this guy for four years when he is telling you to go out with other people?”)  Can I just say, “It’s what insecure people do.”  It’s also what led me to marry my husband.

Which brings me back to dealing with our stuff…

We can drag an awful lot of baggage, which we aren’t even aware of, into our marriages.  Are you familiar with any of these:

  • Insecurity
  • Low self-esteem/unworthiness
  • Unresolved relationship issues
  • Poverty (lack of money or love)
  • Emotional/physical/verbal abuse
  • Codependency
  • Anger
  • Mental health issues

If you haven’t dealt with them BEFORE you tie the knot, trust me when I say that you WILL deal with them at some point after.  All of the baggage mentioned above comes with a bountiful set of emotions.  Emotions get triggered in our brains from the darnedest things…  a sound, a smell, a touch, a look, a word, etc.  You may think that you can suppress emotions, but they can only be suppressed for so long.  Emotions are alive, so suppressing them is like burying something alive.  They will eventually erupt and find their way out; and when they do, it isn’t pretty!

I was married for almost 22 years.  I can honestly say, it was a struggle from Day 1.  On my wedding night, I was crying because I had a new last name.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  I had every intention of changing my name when I got married.  It wasn’t having a new last name that was the problem; it had everything to do with thinking, “Oh my gosh, I can’t go back.  I’ve made a horrible mistake.  This is not what I wanted.”  I don’t come from a belief system that says, “Get married today and divorced tomorrow.”  I had made a covenant before God.  This was serious business.  For what it’s worth, my husband was probably feeling the same way.  All of the sudden he was faced with a hysterical wife who was not at all like the woman he thought he had married.

In retrospect, I think I was more in love with the IDEA of getting married (the ring, the dress, the flowers, walking down the aisle) than I was with the man I had agreed to marry.  Also, in my insecurity, I didn’t believe anyone else would ever ask me to marry him.  My husband did; therefore, I thought I better jump at the opportunity.

I had had similar feelings (that I was making a mistake) the morning of my wedding but had brushed them off as wedding-day jitters.  At that point, I remember thinking, “I can’t back out now.  Everyone has flown out here for the wedding.  My parents have put a lot of expense into this.”

Both of us lamented the fact that we did not have premarital counseling before our wedding day.  We were supposed to have it.  We even went to our first session; unfortunately, right in the middle of it, our pastor got an emergency phone call and had to end the session.  We somehow never rescheduled.  I think the pastor thought, “These are two mature individuals who obviously love each other, both from good Lutheran stock, so they will be fine.”  (Of course, I have no idea what he was actually thinking.  Pre-marriage counseling for us may have just slipped his mind.)  I do think, though, that many of the conflicts we struggled with over the years would have surfaced in those counseling sessions, and we could have been spared quite a bit of the heartache we experienced (or at least been a little bit more prepared for it).

So, how did we stay married so long?  In this Married-Today-Divorced-Tomorrow Age, I’d like to think it was because neither one of us could come to terms with breaking the covenant we made before our God; and we were both too stubborn to give up.  In reality, it isn’t because of anything WE were thinking or doing.  The truth is that God was the third strand in our cord; and whereas our two strands would have broken early on, His continued holding on.  There was a purpose to all we went through.  Just as an ugly jagged-edged rock can be put into a tumbler and bounced all over for days on end and come out a beautiful gem, our marriage tossed us around enough to remove the jagged edges off of us whereby (hopefully) we can take our mistakes and use them to instruct others.  It means that all of the junk our children were forced to wade through was strengthening them and building them up for service to others.  They will have a sense of compassion and empathy from having “been there” that will give them remarkable insight in helping others through the maze.  I have also come to realize that divorce does not separate us from our stuff.  If not dealt with, our stuff follows us into any relationship we enter into.

Maybe you are in a similar place.  Maybe you’re about to get married and you realize you’re not getting married for the right reasons.  Maybe you’re already married, were lucky enough to have been in love when you walked down the aisle, but now find you have drifted apart.  Maybe you’re struggling with a wayward or mentally-ill child, and it is wreaking havoc in your marriage.  (I have a daughter who is ADHD/NLD/and borderline Asperger’s.  Trust me when I say I KNOW the havoc mental health issues inflict on a marriage.)  Maybe you are a single person who feels the only way you can be loved is to sleep with every person who asks you to with the hope that maybe one of them will propose.  Maybe you are the child of an alcoholic who has become a workaholic to compensate for the love you never got, and you’ve reached the point where you realize you’ve accumulated a lot of things but you have no one to pass them on to.

We all have issues.  We all struggle.  But there is hope.  We CAN deal with our stuff before it deals with us.  We CAN break the cycle that we’re in … be it codependency, verbal abuse, anger.  We CAN stop it.  It isn’t easy.  It means making some tough decisions (for me, it meant filing for divorce after 20+ years), but remember that it is for your good and the good of those who come after you (my children have told me filing for divorce was the right thing to do).  Dare to be the difference in your future child (or grandchild’s life).  Dare to be the one who breaks the chain.  And remember… the best thing you can do is to deal with it BEFORE you get married!

Saved by Grace …

Lori Lynn

Dear Lord… Thank you for being the third strand in the frayed and broken cord now binding me and my children.  Without you, we would have been done a long time ago.  Continue to show us in a myriad of ways that You have a purpose in all that we have gone through and give us the strength to continue holding on until beauty shines through.  Give us the courage to change what we know needs to be changed, and help us to grow to be more like You.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

Author’s note: Please know that I am in no way advocating divorce. I am not encouraging it, nor am I condoning it; but it happens.

Although I filed for divorce, I still believe it is wrong; and I will be held accountable when I go before my Father in heaven. But I am convinced that God knows my heart, and He knows why I filed. He knows my ultimate goal is to live for His glory and to show others that our sinfulness does not have to keep us from fulfilling God’s purpose for our lives… oftentimes He uses our mess-ups to connect us to people in ways we never thought possible. We all sin and fall short.  May He grace you today as He has graced me…

Faulty Expectations


“To learn to see- to accustom the eye to calmness, to patience, and to allow things to come up to it; to defer judgment, and to acquire the habit of approaching and grasping an individual case from all sides. This is the first preparatory schooling of intellectuality. One must not respond immediately to a stimulus; one must acquire a command of the obstructing and isolating instincts.”
— Friedrich NietzscheTwilight of the Idols, Or, How to Philosophize With the Hammer

I went to pick up my new eyeglasses today.  After putting the first pair on, I disappointingly said to the salesclerk, “Oh dear… I can’t see distance well at all.  I can see you clearly, and I can read this card pretty well; but the distance is blurry.”  Turns out the pair I had on were my new computer glasses, only designed for seeing well in the mid-range.  She excused herself for a minute and came back with my other new pair of eyeglasses, the regular pair.  When I put those on, I could see quite well in the distance and fairly well close up.

As I drove home, I pondered this experience, thinking to myself, “Isn’t that just like relationships?  We expect someone to be something they aren’t intended to be, and then we get disappointed because they don’t meet our expectations.”

What would happen if we change our faulty thinking?  Just as my perspective regarding my computer glasses changed after the salesclerk brought out my regular pair, and I adapted to how the computer glasses were intended to work, I firmly believe that our relationships with people we are not pleased with could change, too, once we adapt our perspective on how we see them.

When we get to know people for who they are, and for who God intended them to be, we will find that they are quite delightful to know.  We stop expecting them to be something they aren’t.  We stop trying to make them into what we want them to be.  We accept them for who they are.  When we do that, they can function as they were intended to function, and we just might find that we are grateful for what they add to our lives.

Seeing much clearer now …

Lori Lynn