I Am Free!

I am free!

I realize this is not politically correct; however, as I tolerate all kinds of views with which I disagree, I hope you’ll give me the same courtesy. On this Independence Day, I celebrate TWO freedoms: one from the tyranny of Great Britain, and the other from the “Matrix.” I am free. 

Having revisited the history of the Revolutionary War with my son recently, I was reminded of the tremendous sacrifice and incredible amount of brain power that went into forming this amazing country. The rights and privileges we enjoy here are unparalleled, and today we celebrate 240 years of freedom.

I am grateful for the sacrifices of brave men and women who have fought to secure (and continue to fight for) my freedom as an American citizen. I thank God for allowing me to be born in America where I have the right to choose who/what/when/where/how and even whether or not to worship, AND I thank God for making it possible for me to have a personal relationship with him.

Free your mind

I took the red pill many years ago, so I walk through this life #awake—aware of satan’s schemes to use, abuse, and destroy. Aware of efforts to shame me into silence. To be like everyone else. To be forced to conform to a society that has no idea it’s enslaved to the enemy.

“If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36)

Today I exercise my rights as an American citizen to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. As a human being with an intellect and a soul, I exercise my freedom to choose the road less traveled. 

 

Embrace the Wait and Find Hope Again

Embrace the Wait

Do you think it’s possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? I do, but I also know how we approach the wait has everything to do with its fruitfulness in our lives. My wait has been so long, I’d almost given up all hope. But then: Epiphany.

>> (TL;DR? Skip to “How to Embrace the Wait”) <<

It all started on December 26, 2015, when a few friends and I gathered for our third annual “Mom’s Night Out.” This has become one of my favorite Christmas (technically, post-Christmas) traditions, and I look forward to it every year. The MNO is a little something that we do for ourselves the day after Christmas towards the end of an inevitably chaotic and stress-filled holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving dinner and ends with New Year’s Day. We leave our children at home with their dads and head out to take in a newly released movie followed by a nice dinner and fellowship.

Joy Movie

Our choice this year was Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence. Based on a true story, Joy creatively retells the life story of Joy Mangano, an inventor who created the Miracle MopÂŽ and currently holds more than one hundred patents. The movie spotlights various points in Joy’s life which illustrate her penchant for thinking outside the box, creating practical inventions, and facing challenges head-on. Her journey is rife with obstacles—personal and professional—which must be overcome in order for her to fulfill her destiny. In the end, she develops into a very successful businesswoman whose estimated worth is currently $50 million.1 This movie struck a chord with me on a very deep level, and I didn’t realize it until a couple weeks later.

A Personal Epiphany and Soul Stirring

On January 6, 2016 (Epiphany), I had a “moment” with the Lord during the Communion time of our Wednesday night service, and my heart was stirred in a way that it has not been stirred in a very, very, very long time. I was alone that night (hubby was home sick and son was with the youth group).

Lord's Supper Elements

During the solemn, self-reflective moments which precede partaking the Eucharist, I suddenly found myself in tears. The noise of the surrounding environment softened into silence; the activities swirling about me slowed to a crawl; and time seemingly stood still. I remember right where I was sitting, my hunched-over posture, the super-dim lighting, the cup in my left hand, the bread in my right. In the quietness of my heart I despondently cried out to my Heavenly Father, “LORD, I’m going to be forty-nine years old this year. I was called into full-time service when I was nine! Did I imagine it? Was it real? I’ve been waiting for almost forty years!!!”

Then, all of a sudden, there was a sense of His presence. Enveloping. Comforting. Near. Peace-full. Hope-full. Power-full. Real. And I was instantly overwhelmed with the significance of those words: “FORTY YEARS.

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

Forty years…that’s a Biblical number. Who else had to wait 40 years? Noah. Sarai. Abram. Joseph. Moses. 

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

It’s time. 

Time for what?

I slowly came to the realization that the service was moving forward. People were singing again. The pastor would be preaching soon. What just happened? I would spend the next few days processing through it. Really, the next few months. Probably, the rest of my life.

You see, I have been waiting almost forty years for the fulfillment of a calling I received when I was nine years old at church camp. It’s not that I haven’t been actively following the Lord: I have. Volunteering and leading. Living and learning. Faithing and trusting. Serving and teaching. But my calling into full-time service has technically never been fulfilled.

I’ve savored seasons of anticipation, belief, and hope. I’ve despaired through days of doubt, disbelief, and discouragement. I’ve battled depression and struggled with envy of those who were able to live out their calling while I sat at home day after day designing websites and home-educating our son.

So, when God met me where I was on January 6, 2016, I was unprepared. I had come to worship and commune, for sure. But I was not expecting a moment with the Almighty. One in which He stirred my soul. One in which He breathed life into these dry bones. One in which my ministry heart began to beat again.

Talk about scary!!! Yes, I do mean scary. When you’ve waited as long as I have for a dream to come true, you don’t instantly become euphoric about the possibilities: You become cautious. Really cautious. You’re afraid of going down that path again. The path that looks like it leads to an oasis, but turns out to be a mirage. Again. It’s difficult to find hope once it’s been covered by the sands of time.

So, the question that bubbles up is this: Is it possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? My answer is: Yes, actually, it is. (Just let that sink in for a moment.)

You Are Not Alone

There are many men and women all over the world—desperate to live out their calling—who have been left on the bench or sent to the sidelines for a variety of man-made reasons including gender bias, prejudice, denominational politics, and/or marital status (just to name a few). These godly servants are all around us, and they are hurting. They are questioning themselves. Doubting their callings. Feeling frustrated with delay after delay.

These women and men LOVE God, and they yearn for the day they can serve Him in the roles to which He called them. They are serving where they can when they can, but their callings remain unfulfilled. And the longer they wait, the harder it becomes to keep hope alive. No surfacey Christian ‘wisdom’ will soothe the heartache of a leader in long-term waiting. And hope wanes thin.

Well-meaning Believers come alongside with advice such as: “Have faith in God. His timing is perfect!” or “You need to pray harder.” or “They don’t know what they’re missing.” It feels clichĂŠ. Don’t they realize we already have faith in God? That we know His timing is perfect? That we are hard-praying people? Sure they do, and the wait is making them uncomfortable, too. They don’t know what else to say. And whether or not anyone realizes what they are missing by not hiring us, that’s not the point. This is not about losing faith in God or His abilities.

20150822_185714What I’m alluding to is losing hope in your own calling. Becoming discouraged. More than discouraged: disheartened. I’m referring to what happens when you’ve sought the Lord with all your heart, followed where He led, took the required steps of faith, and in His power accomplished great things, BUT, for whatever reason, you continue to not be hired.

If you’ve been through anything like this, you know that of which I speak (write).

I know for a fact that I am not alone in this experience. When you journey through something like this—a hot, dry Sahara—it’s not long until you begin to doubt whether you ever heard God in the first place.

  • Was I imagining that tug on my heart? 
  • What was I thinking? 
  • Why would God call someone like me?
  • Who do I think I am? 

If you’ve ever packed up your resources and stored them in the attic, refused to unpack them at a new home, or given them away because you just couldn’t look at them anymore, I want you to know that you are not alone.

If you’ve ever reworked your resumĂŠ, updated your Linkedin profile and social media presence, purchased a new outfit or suit for an interview, traveled to scout a new home for your family, given your testimony to a committee, answered their probing questions—ALL because you truly sensed the Lord’s leading—only to be bypassed (maybe multiple times)—you need to know: you are not alone.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to just drop off the planet or quit the faith—and stopped yourself, because you KNOW God IS who He says He is—you need to know that you are not alone.

When the Wait Seems Never-Ending

Super-long waits can, and often do, eat away at our ability to trust and obey. Repeated rejections result in diminished hope, tendencies towards self-preservation, and a forcefield of cynicism. The forcefield goes up; emotions are stuffed deep down inside; books are packed; and we become a little less of who we’re called to be. We isolate ourselves, because the hurt is too deep and the questions too unsettling to discuss with people who will never understand what it means to be called only to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for the calling to be fulfilled. They don’t get it. They want to be helpful, but there’s only One who can soothe that pain, and that is God alone.

Before we assign the delay to ourselves or “God’s perfect timing,” we must also take into consideration the many factors that play into the hiring process, and sometimes, personal agendas and emotional baggage get in the way. It is entirely possible that the insecurities or biases of committee members preclude you from consideration, or it could be something as simple as your spouse’s looking at someone on the committee the wrong way. It may very well have been God’s will for you to be at that church at that time, but humans got in the way. The truth we must hold onto is this: God is in control. He allowed the decision to go another way—whether it was His will or not—and He will work it out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He promised!

The worst thing we can do after an experience like this is navel gaze and pout for more than an hour. (I think an hour of pouting and navel gazing after an unexpected rejection is perfectly normal and probably healthier than stuffing the emotions inside.) The fact is God is still on His throne; He still has a plan for our lives; He will continue to work things out for us so that, eventually, we will be living out our life’s call…just as He promised.

How to Embrace the Wait

We who have been called should use this time to serve in a variety of areas, deepen our spiritual walk with the Lord through the exercise of spiritual disciplines, sharpen our ministry and leadership skills, and learn as much as we can about ourselves and others.

1. Serve Where You Are

We who have been called are responsible to serve HIM whenever and wherever we are— whether on staff at a church/school/college/non-profit or working a full-time secular job with no prospects for a ministry position anytime soon. This means we volunteer to help where we are needed, regardless of whether or not it fits within our specific calling—even if it’s simply helping children register for Sunday School each week or greeting people at the front door with a smile, handshake, and bulletin. By serving in a variety of positions, we can gain new appreciation for volunteers, a different perspective on kingdom work, and hopefully, new skills we can call on later when the time comes. We must trust that God is utilizing that time to carve us into the servant-leaders He needs us to be. It may be a humbling time for us, but we should never don’t doubt that God will use these experiences to teach us more about Himself than He would if we were stuck in a perpetual pity party or only serving where we felt properly equipped. He will teach us what we need to learn, and then we will be released to do and learn something else somewhere else.

Recommended Resources:

  

2. Practice Spiritual Disciplines

In order to deepen our spiritual walk with the Lord, we need to continually practice spiritual disciplines. These include prayer, fasting, solitude, Scripture verse memory, meditation, etc. There are many spiritual disciplines, and the best thing to do is work on one at a time. Some disciplines will resonate with you in such a way that you cannot imagine how you did life without them, others you may try and wonder what the big deal is. Cool. That’s great. You found something that doesn’t work for you. move on to the next one. After a few months, you’ll have a few favorite disciplines you can practice in order to keep your relationship with the Lord healthy, vibrant, and growing. This will also help to ward off the blues which lurk around the “why am I still waiting” corner. Our goal in all this is to increase our ability to draw close to the Lord and discern the His voice form all others.

Recommended Resources:

 

3. Sharpen Ministry Skills

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves during the long waiting period is to work on our ministry and leadership skills. We should spend time studying the Word as though we were already on staff—this is especially important for those who have been called into the pastorate or a teaching ministry. Preparing a sermon or Bible study lesson with all the passion you would if you were on staff somewhere will not only feed  your soul, it will also keep your skills sharp. A methodical approach to Bible study will keep us grounded in the Word, and we may discover new resources and tools of which we were previously unaware. Streamlined lesson preparation is a huge asset. Think about it this way, the more you practice, the less time it will take to get the sermon or lesson prepared (or the time you spend will be more efficiently used)—your family will thank you. (Lesson and sermon preparation are NOT to take the place of spiritual disciplines.)

Recommended Resources:

       

4. Broaden Leadership Skills

In addition to ministry skills, development of leadership skills is CRITICAL during this waiting time. More and more churches are being destroyed by great preachers with terrible leadership skills. Although we may not hold leadership positions at church (which is a crying shame), there’s no reason why we cannot volunteer as a leader in another organization. The need for excellent leadership is not limited to the walls of the church or faith-based organization. You could volunteer to be on your HOA board or Neighborhood Watch. In addition to being in a leadership position, you could also hone your skills by reading books on leadership, listening to leadership podcasts, and attending leadership seminars. Don’t let satan fool you into thinking that the only place you can lead is in the church. That’s a lie. 

Recommended Resources:

       

5. Learn about Yourself and Others

It’s not narcissistic to try and understand yourself better, it’s necessary. When you learn about your personality type, as well as the personality types of others, you are going to be amazed! This dovetails nicely with developing your leadership skills and enhancing your ministry skills. As our worship minister recently remarked as he peered out over the congregation, “Y’all are weird!” He got a good laugh, and what he said was absolutely true: God’s people are “weird.” We’re an eclectic bunch of sinners saved by grace who enjoy gathering together on a regular basis to learn and help each other grow. No two of us are alike. And the more we, as leaders, understand various personality types and traits, the better able we will be to address  their needs and enforce healthy boundaries as needed. Start with yourself first, then your spouse, and go from there. Take the online quizzes or have the test administered by a professional. We need to know who we are and how people perceive us. We need to use this time to grow, because once God puts us where He needs us, we may not have the time to work on ourselves like we do when we’re in the holding place.

Click here for a brief description and links to a variety of FREE Online Personality Quizzes you can take at no charge to get you started.

Recommended Resources:

 

Conclusion:

When it all comes down, God will use our “delays” for His glory. He will do work in us during this time that will potentially completely transform how we approach ministry and life. The experiences we have along the way will increase our skill sets, nurture empathy, and diversify our sphere of influence. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

Feel free to comment and/or share if this has encouraged you to embrace the wait!


Photo credit: Lord’s Supper Elements by Alanscottwalker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16842185

When God says, “Work on THAT part!”

When God says, "Work on THAT part"

As I spent time in solitude this morning, pleading with God to speak into my heart, I was reminded of two seemingly unrelated events which took place yesterday: lunch with a dear friend and my son’s piano practice. Somehow, they converged into an unmistakable message from God—perfect timing, of course—and I got the memo! (More on that later.)

EVENT #1: LUNCH WITH A FRIEND

Mexican FoodYesterday, I was privileged to have lunch and spend a couple hours alone with a dear friend (thanks to the fact that our children are finally old enough to stay home by themselves).Thank you, Jesus! We enjoyed great Mexican food, a sweet time of fellowship catching up on what God is doing in our families, and then we got to work. You see, my friend and I have individually felt God’s prompting to author books. We decided earlier this year that we would hold each other accountable to make sure we were obedient and actually started writing our books. As a trusted “corner four” friend, she’s also been praying for me as I took this leap of faith putting myself “out there” for the world to see.

At one point during our conversation, we were discussing the “About Me” page on this site and how much I’ve struggled with what to include or omit—especially whether or not to feature my educational background and credentials. It’s always been important to me to include this information when introducing myself to a new audience. However, when my friend asked me the following question, it stopped me in my tracks: “Isn’t Jesus enough?”

“Of course, but I…”

“Is Jesus not enough?”

Lovingly, my friend explained that there was something going on with me and my desire to share my educational history that needed to be addressed.

“Do you think it’s pride?” I asked…hoping she would say no. (Although I have never considered myself to be a proud person, I am keenly aware that the sin of pride can creep in where we least expect it.)

“No,” she replied. [ Phew! ] “I don’t see you as a prideful person. But it is something.” We agreed that I would pray for God to open my eyes about this, and then we returned to the book discussion.

As I drove home from this meeting, I prayed for discernment about my felt need to share my education. It’s been so important to me to share this as part of my testimony and to help people know who I am.

INTJI began to wonder if the reason I want people to know my educational background might have something do with my personality type. According to the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory, I’m an INTJ (Introverted, Intuitive, Thinking, Judging). INTJs are intellectual by nature, and we relate best on an intellectual level.

commentsWhen I shared my website with a Christian INTJ Facebook group of which I am a member, the very first comment—I kid you not— was: “What are your credentials?”

Since only four in every 500 women test INTJ, I’ve grown accustomed to the fact that I am “different.” Many years ago, a wonderful friend in business literally told me, “You’re weird.” She was not insulting me; it was simply her observation. She was right—I’m not like the majority of other women out there. According to PersonalityGrowth.com:

Many people do not understand the female INTJ, wanting her to fit into the typical female role. She may struggle with men not respecting her for her independent thinking…It is important to INTJs to be valued for their intelligence, wanting others to respect how hard they work and how much knowledge they have gathered. Having to deal with people doubting their natural abilities, is intensely frustrating to the INTJ. 1

In addition to my so-called “rare” personality type, I was educated by men on subjects geared towards men in classrooms full of men. I was the sole female Religion major in my college graduating class and one of only two female Master of Divinity recipients in my graduating seminary class. I didn’t mind, actually—I loved it.

College - Religion Major Friends & Mentor ProfessorCBU Religion Grads, 1990Receiving an award from my mentor, Dr. M. Vernon Davismbts-females

Being surrounded by and working closely with men for so many years, I learned how to be assertive, speak up for myself, defend my positions, and not back down. I was right alongside them when we were taught that our education had value and set us apart from those who didn’t have the training we did. They didn’t tell us this to foster some type of superiority complex, but rather to encourage us to fully embrace the experience both inside and outside the classroom and to learn as much as we could from our professors/mentors as well as our peers.

What I’m beginning to realize is that when I mention my educational background, people don’t know what to do with it or me. Some mistakenly assume that I’m bragging, and that’s a turn-off. Some see “red flags” and begin to wonder about my personal relationship with the Lord, as if somehow I think it’s all about the degrees. Some wonder why I’m mentioning it at all, since authentic faith has nothing to do with what I studied 20+ years ago. Yikes!

EVENT #2: PIANO PRACTICE 

As if the first event were not enough, the second event took place last night while I was listening to my son play the piano—one of my favorite things to do. Currently, he is working on a complicated John Williams composition entitled “Jedi Steps and Finale” from the blockbuster movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The sheet music is seven pages long, and it takes around nine minutes to play the entire piece from beginning to end. I love the score. I love piano solos. And I love hearing my son practice the piano…Well, mostly.

You see, there’s this one difficult section that is not so sweet-sounding, if you know what I mean. It’s not just any section: This particular section includes a critical shift in the score that must be hit spot-on, or it’s more painful than pleasant to hear. When he plays the wrong notes at the critical shift, I literally cringe—sometimes internally, sometimes externally. Since it had happened more than once, I made a mental note of it so that when he finished the song, we could have a little chat.

Son playing piano“I LOVE hearing you play! You’re doing such an amazing job with this piece! But there’s this one little section that really needs your undivided attention. Why don’t you spend a few minutes, and work on that part.

* Heavy sigh *

“Mahhhm!”

(I shoot the “I’m serious” look across the room.)

And almost immediately, his very focused practice on that section begins.The first couple times, it’s rough; however, within a few minutes, the sour notes have transformed into delightfully sweet and harmonious sounds: pleasant to the ear. Additionally, an air of confidence swirls around my boy who figured out how to overcome another challenge. Thank you, Lord!

When God says, “Work on that part.” 

Fast forward to this morning’s quiet time. As I reflected on these two seemingly unrelated events, they converged in my mind, and the Lord said to me, “You need to work on that part.” And I understood. I got it: I’ve been asking for guidance, and He gave it to me. Specifically. Tailored to my needs. I love how God speaks in ways we can understand, and how His guidance is perfect for our lives.

Milestone Moment:
The conversation with my friend after lunch yesterday was extremely eye-opening and will impact how I present myself from now on in EVERY arena. This was definitely a “Never Go Back” lesson for me (cf. Never Go Back: 10 Things You’ll Never Do Again by Dr. Henry Cloud).

I will not only rework the “About Me” page on this site, but I will also—more importantly—work on how I present myself to people in general. I never realized how I was coming across to others (a typical INTJ trait—I’m so glad I have learned about my personality quirks! Click here to learn about yours).

As Dr. Drenth at PersonalityJunkie.com states:

Onlookers sense that INTJs seem to ‘live in their own world.’ Immersed in their own minds and interests, INTJs can be oblivious to social norms or other practical aspects of life. While incredibly ‘book smart,’ they may fall short when it comes to social or ‘street smarts.’2

Yeah, that’s me: Ms. Oblivious.

Why did I never recognize this pattern before?! Argh! I have to admit that I’m a lot embarrassed about this. I just didn’t think about it. I wanted people to know me for who I am, and my education is (was) a HUGE part of that. Years ago, my friend, Robin Denny (The Healthy Wife Club), encouraged me to limit my personal introduction to the most recent 3-year timespan. Now, I understand why.

As James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

The good news is that I am teachable—slow on the pick-up, but teachable, nonetheless! And I have learned my lesson. Moving forward, I will not mention my education. It’s going to be hard, but now that I understand why, I will leave it out and provide a CV upon request.

Yeah, I think I’ll work on that!

My new goal is to stop talking (or writing) about what I’ve done, and focus on the amazing things God has done in my life: How He has led me ever since I was a little girl to follow His will. How he has taught me to hear His voice. How He has taken me from baby steps to big leaps of faith. How he has helped me through some pretty dark times. How He is still working in my life every single day. How I’m a work in progress with an active relationship with HIM. How He’s a good, good Father.

How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?* I hope you’re still reading, because I want to share one more thing: I’m currently reading a book called “How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?” which has encouraged me to listen for God’s voice through what I’m saying to my son. This book is having a hugely positive impact on my life, and I highly recommend it.

@RachaelCarman www.RachaelCarman.com

#HMTimes #parenting #gratefulforfriends #cornerfour #poweroftheother #nevergoback #INTJ #workingonit

__________________

1 Personality Growth. “The Rare INTJ Female.” http://personalitygrowth.com/the-rare-intj-female-and-the-struggles-of-being-utterly-uncommon/

2 Drenth, A. J. “INTJ Personality Type (Newly Updated).” http://personalityjunkie.com/the-intj/

Speaking Truth: Sometimes it’s not easy, but it’s often necessary.

Speaking Truth

As I was reflecting on my own calling into full-time service, I remembered that of my favorite prophet: Jeremiah. I identify with him more than anyone else in Scripture. His father was a priest, and at a young age, he was called out by God to “go to all to whom I send you, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.” He proclaimed God’s truth to the residents and rulers of Judah during some of her darkest days.

Rembrandt van Rijn, Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, c. 1630
Rembrandt van Rijn, Jeremiah Lamenting the Destruction of Jerusalem, c. 1630 (Public Domain)

Often misunderstood and persecuted for his words, Jeremiah—periodically and understandably—questioned his calling. He wondered if God had truly set him apart for this purpose since people were not responding they way he thought, hoped, and expected they would.

His prophecy to King Jehoiakim was so entirely unwanted and rejected that “when Jehudi [an officer of the king] had read three or four columns [of Jeremiah’s prophecy]…the king cut it with the scribe’s knife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jer. 36:23). I just have to pause here for a moment and take that in…Wow!

Every word burned up by his king. As devastating as that must have been, Jeremiah persisted with what the LORD had called him to do, even going so far as to have his scribe re-write the entire scroll.

Despite his personal doubts and questions, in the face of opposition from the very people he was trying to help, Jeremiah remained obedient to the LORD. He never quit—even though he wanted to from time to time— and God used him in a mighty way, equipping him for each and every task.

And despite things not working out how he hoped they would, Jeremiah had such an impact on his community that his words remain for us to this day.

Jeremiah’s life inspires me! And his words resonate with my soul:

But if I say, “I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. (Jeremiah 20:9)

“Make Peace with the Negatives!”

This blog post will explain how I finally made peace with the negatives in my life, and how you can, too!

Recently, I’ve  had the amazing opportunity to get a “behind the scenes” look at a book launch. As part of the process, I was invited to join a summer book club in which we read and discuss the truths in Rachael Carman’s new book How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You? 

(Download a free sample chapter here: http://bit.ly/25hAHh0).

The goal of the book is to help increase our sensitivity to and awareness of God’s voice in our lives. How? By listening to the words coming out of our own mouths towards our own children, and then reflecting on them to see if maybe God is speaking to us, too.

In the introduction to her book, Rachael issues a dare:

“List the top ten things you hear yourself say most often to your kids. Then ask your kids to list the top ten things they hear you say most frequently. The resulting lists will give you a starting place to explore the things God wants you to hear.”

Sounds easy enough, right? So, I took the dare. First, I made my list, and then I cajoled my son (age 13-1/2) make his. My list included statements like, “I love you,” “Time to get off the technology,” and “Don’t forget your nightly routine” (that one is VERY important with an adolescent, #justsayin). My son’s list included things like, “Good morning,” “Good night,” and “Take out the trash.” What can I say? He’s normal! And while I’m sure God will speak to me through these statements as time goes on, there was one statement on both of our lists which has RESONATED with my soul:

“Make peace with the negatives!”
 
Negatives...negatives everywhere!You might be wondering if I’ve lost my mind. “Why would you say such a thing to your child?” I have two words: Saxon Math. Algebra 2, to be exact. My son is a couple years ahead in math, and for the most part, he does really well in this, his favorite subject. He just has one nemesis: negatives—not the numbers, just the symbol in front of negative numbers. You know: the dash! This thing:  ” 
It’s nothing personal; he just tends to ignore them…and that tends to cause problems when correcting homework due to, well, wrong answers! We figured out the “negative nemesis” last year when, after culling through a few assignments, we recognized a pattern: each of the incorrect answers involved a negative symbol that was ignored. He says, “Mom, you’ve always told me to be positive!” Um, no. This is not my fault! Good try.
Make peace with the negatives!
Since discovering this negative-aversion issue, my son pays closer attention (most of the time) to those little buggers, and he solves the problems correctly. HOWEVER, in times of stress when he’s attempting to rush the process, my son will inevitably fall back into the habit of disregarding the negative symbols. Later, when we’re in the middle of correcting his homework, he realizes his oversight and frustratedly blurts, “I hate negatives!” And my mama-teacher response? “I know you do, but Son, you need to make peace with the negatives!” I flash him a peace sign, and we laugh (well, I laugh, anyway—trying to lighten the mood). He reworks the problem, this time “accepting” the negatives, and voila! The correct answer is found.
 
“Make peace with the negatives!”
You might be wondering how God could possibly use something like math homework to speak to my heart and teach me a very-necessary and RELEVANT (perfect timing, btw) truth. Well, He’s God. He knows what my struggles are, and it’s the negatives. Let me clarify: I don’t struggle with the negative symbol, I struggle with negative people. Not just any negative people, mind you. No. My struggle is with a small handful of women who, despite their love of God, hold a negative influence in my life. “Christian women? Negative influences? Say it isn’t so!” I wish I could! But, I can’t. In my life, there is a small group of women—none of them know each other—who drain me. Their comments to my face and behind my back don’t add to me, they take away. They take away my confidence. They take away my sense of calling. They take away my enthusiasm. They take away my sense of purpose. I’d be lying if I said their comments didn’t affect me negatively. The truth is, when I’m around them whether physically or digitally, I am minimized, marginalized, and made to feel “not good enough.” Sadly, when this happens, I walk away doubting myself, doubting my calling, and wondering if God will ever be able to use someone like me for His glory. I feel smaller than I did before the encounter, and therefore, I do believe that I have a problem with negatives. 

Yikes!

And now, for the life lesson I believe God is teaching me through this experience of listening for HIS voice: I need to make peace with the negatives. As I explained to my son, “The negatives are not going anywhere. You’re going to keep having them in every math lesson, so you just need to make peace with them. They don’t hate you! They’re just there.” Wow. When I remembered that conversation, I had to take pause. To listen. And this is what I heard: 

The negatives are not going anywhere. They’re going to be around the rest of your life. They don’t hate you, but they will drag you down if you allow them to. Why not make peace with the negatives? By “make peace,” I mean you should rest in the knowledge that negative people are a part of life. You will never please everyone, nor should you try. Expect that certain Christian women will have vocal opinions—some positive, some negative—about what you do, how you do it, and even what you’re wearing while you’re doing it. Expect that some women (and men) will be threatened by you (your calling, your self-confidence, your abilities), and they are reacting out of their own insecurities. Make peace with these negatives, and then fix your eyes towards me, the Giver and Perfecter of your faith. 

As Paul wrote in his second letter to the church in Corinth:

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:7b-10

So, yeah, I guess I need to “make peace with the negatives!” I get it. I really do. And, it’s exciting! God’s still working on me. He’s shown me a bigger picture: God has shown me that focusing on the negatives actually robs me of the joy of the MANY positives He’s sent me: supportive family members, authentic friends, a loving church, and fantastic cyber-peeps (not to mention His continual presence in my life). He’s shown me that the “negatives” are far, far outweighed by the positives. There’s seriously NO COMPARISON! God has shown me that when my focus is on Him, I will have peace, in spite of the negatives. He is the source of my peace, and I no longer need to concern myself with trying to win over the nay-sayers. I need to do what He’s called me to do and stop living in fear of the negatives.

“Peace I leave with you;
my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled
and do not be afraid.”
John 14:27
How Many Times by Rachael Carman

Click here to order your copy of “How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

Keys to Understanding Yourself via Personality Assessments

Keys to Understanding Yourself

If you’ve never studied the different personality types before, you’re in for a treat! Although your personality is comprised of characteristics and qualities that make you uniquely you, you  may be surprised (and relieved!) to learn that you’re not the only one who approaches life in this manner.

Introvert Heaven

You’re not the only one who prefers a book to a party (or a party to a book). You’re not the only one who cocoons after being surrounded by a crowd (or seeks a crowd after too much time alone). Learning about your personality is fun and exciting, but why stop with yourself?  

Personality Types Matter

For me, the most rewarding part of understanding my personality came when I learned the personality types of my husband and son and parents and siblings and inlaws and friends. Yes, I enthusiastically asked them all to take the quiz, and they did! It was amazing to see how each person was “pegged” correctly and how insightful the descriptions were regarding how we relate to each other.

Know Your Personality type MBTI

TAKE THESE FREE ONLINE QUIZZES:

Here are a few of my favorite proven-in-real-life online quizzes to help us not only to understand ourselves and each other better, but also to show each other love and appreciation more effectively. Add your personality type in the comment section below! 

KEY #1: Know Your Meyers-Briggs Personality Type

In layman’s terms, the Meyers-Briggs Personality Inventory (MBTI) explains our “preferences” (how we act, how we re-energize, how we make decisions) Here’s a link to the best (in my opinion) FREE Meyers Briggs Personality Test on the internet: http://bitbike.com/cgi-bin/pt?language=en  (There’s also a personality test you can take for your children here: http://www.personalitypage.com/html/pqk_indicate.html)

Once you know your 4-letter MBTI personality type, read about it. See if the description fits you (that’s really the best way to know if you were typed correctly). Here are a few good resources to get you started:

KEY #2: Know Your Enneagram Type

The Riso-Hudson Enneagram Type Indicator (RHETI) complements the MBTI by providing insight into WHY we act the way we do (i.e., what is our motivation for making the decisions we make?). The sample Enneagram test below will give you enough information for you to figure out your main Type and your secondary Type (“wing”).

It’s important to know your wing, because it has great influence on your main type. To figure out your wing, simply look at your main Type (the type with the highest score), and look at the scores to the immediate right and left. Whichever of the two is the highest, that is your wing. Click here to take the FREE Enneagram Test.

Once you have your main type and your wing, Google is your friend. Simply enter your type & wing followed by the word “Enneagram” and enjoy the learning process! For example, I’m a 1w9, so I would type “1w9 Enneagram” into Google to learn more about my type.

KEY #3: Know Your Love Language

Marriage and family counselor, Dr. Gary Chapman, concluded years ago that people generally communicate in five basic “love languages.” The premise is that each of us has a certain way to give and receive love (our love language), and that we should each work hard to “speak” in the love language that is understood/spoken by the other person rather than only “speaking” in our own.

Learn the 5 Love Languages

This concept has been revolutionary in not only marriage relationships, but also family relationships and even co-worker relationships. Click here to take the FREE Five Love Languages Test.

Once you know what your primary love language is, you can continue learning about it by either purchasing the best-selling book (highly recommended) The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts or browsing their site.

KEY #4: Know Your Strengths (not free)

People are finally realizing how important it is for us to know our strengths (a.k.a. “themes” or “inborn talents”) and work within them versus focusing on our weaknesses in order to be more well-rounded. There are  basically 34 strength categories (“themes”), and this test will give you your Top 5 Themes.

This test is known as the Clifton StrengthsFinderÂŽ which requires a code. The research was done by the Gallup organization over a number of years and is some of the most SOLID data you will find. It’s very accurate and insightful. You can either purchase one of their books which includes the code, or purchase the code separately for $15.00.

It’s worth it to know your strengths! I suggest purchasing either Strengths Finder 2.0 or Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Strengths and Inspire Your Community (highly recommended for people of faith), and then use the code inside the book to take the test.

Once you know what your Top 5 Themes (your strengths), you can begin researching what they mean and how they impact your behavior and performance. Here are a couple resources for additional information about your strengths:

Here’s a short video series that goes through each of the 34 themes:

PHOTO CREDITS:
African American Family by @leighann-renee on @unsplash
Reading in France @mvp on @unsplash

Friends Talking @helena-lopes on @unsplash
Cotton Candy photo by @valerie-elash on @unsplash

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”