The long way around

I learned in school that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When I travel, that is the route I always like to take. I choose “shortest route” on the map app on my phone.

But, in life, God doesn’t always take me that way.

Oftentimes, He takes me the long way around. I suppose it should comfort me that I’m not the only one.

Exodus 13:17
It so happened that after Pharaoh released the people, God didn’t lead them by the road through the land of the Philistines, which was the shortest route, for God thought, “If the people encounter war, they’ll change their minds and go back to Egypt.”

So, if I understand that correctly, He knew them well enough to know that if they faced the opposition that was inevitable on the shortest route, they would bail. Instead, He took them the long way around. On the way, they developed character, they learned about His timely provision. They acquired the tools they would need for battle.

If I am comforted by the fact that I am not alone, it is short lived. I become disturbed once again when I realize that if I had been determined enough from the beginning to handle opposition with resolute determination to persist on the journey NO MATTER WHAT, I may have saved myself a lot of time.

Of course, this is just speculation and I know that God in His sovereignty may have still decided to take me the long way around, however, if He gives me a choice in the future, I choose the shortest route from now on.

I say, bring it on! I am ready to face the giants.  I am ready, knowing that He goes before me, paving the way, protecting me, and picking me up when I fall.

Long way or short way…I’m going the distance.  How about you?

closer than before, on my way, go the distance, face the giants

Last Monday I had a hangover.

vulnerability

I thought that might get your attention!

But, it’s not what you are thinking. What I had was a vulnerability hangover.

Let me explain.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at my church. It was a message of encouragement but within the message I told the entire congregation about the fact that my depression had gotten so bad last year that I decided to treat it with medication. It was pertinent to the conversation because I was talking about shame – something I felt a great deal of and had to fight off. I felt good about sharing because even though I knew it would be uncomfortable, I believed it would help someone.

It went well and many people thanked me for my transparency. On Sunday night, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Then Monday came.

I woke up and thought, “I can’t believe I shared such personal details with 3 services worth of people not to mention those who may watch the video.” I was experiencing a vulnerability hangover. I didn’t make that up. It is a term coined by Brené Brown, researcher of such topics as courage, vulnerability, authenticity, empathy and shame. Brené explains that a vulnerability hangover is “the feeling that sweeps over us after we feel the need to connect… and we share something deeply meaningful. Minutes, hours, or days later, we begin to feel regret sweep over us like a warm wave of nausea.”

I’m happy to say that because I have been sharing bits and pieces of my story for a while now, my hangover was not too bad. I was able to shake it off pretty quickly having learned these 3 things.

#1  It’s worth it.

The discomfort of vulnerability is worth it when you weigh it against the value of connection.  Connection, true connection is what people who are in need are looking for.  It doesn’t help them to see someone who acts like they have it all together all the time – it only adds to their shame and impedes their ability to open up and share themselves. When true connection is made, we share. When we share we heal.

#2  It’s not the critic who counts. (thank you, Theodore Roosevelt!)

At the heart of the vulnerability hangover is the fear of being judged.  Since depression is classified as a mental illness I battle the fear of being defined by my struggle. There are people who will disagree with how I choose to handle and overcome depression but in the end it is not those people who I necessarily feel drawn to connect with.  I have come to terms with the reality that there will be those who may not understand or have a different opinion than I do. I have resolved that I answer only to the One who has called me to share my story in order to help others.

#3  It’s not about me.

We live in a me-driven world. As a Christian and follower of Jesus, I want to live as He lived.  He lived His life entirely for others.  Notice I said I WANT to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean I always do, by any means. But when I am feeling exposed and vulnerable I remember that in order to live the way I claim to want to live, it requires dying to myself and living for a greater cause.  Ironically, it ends up being the best thing for ME. It is where I derive true joy and peace – so in the end it sort of is about me.  But that’s how God works.  The more we pour ourselves out on behalf of others the more he pours joy and peace into us. It’s a pretty good deal.

Final thought on vulnerability, again from Brené Brown. (can you tell I love her and her work?)

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. 

Amen.

Have you ever experienced a vulnerability hangover after taking a courageous step to share a part of yourself?  I’d love to hear about it ~ please leave a comment!

My Story.

This has been my year to be brave.

In the beginning of the year, actually at the end of 2012 ~ this verse leapt off the page to me and I didn’t really know just how much I would need to draw upon it until now.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go ~ Joshua 1:9

For five years I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story and my struggle with depression but never in as much detail as this past Sunday.

A few months back my Pastor asked me if I would share my story as the wrap-up of a series called UNMASKED.  It was timely request.  After 7 years now of cycling in and out of rough bouts with depression I finally feel like I have a handle on how to cope with it.

Every time I make it through a rough patch I believe that I am done with it forever although I know that is not probable.  The difference now is that I feel like I have all the tools I need to fight. Until this past year I always felt like I was missing something. Now that I know how to combat the shame associated with depression I believe that I will never suffer as badly as I have in the past.

You can hear my story here. The message begins about 21 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 8.47.23 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame affects every one of us without exception so regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not I believe this message will encourage you.  At least that is my hope and the reason that I have chosen to be brave and share.  As always I welcome your feedback and comments…

It’s OK not to be OK

On a daily basis I post a picture or encouraging word on our Facebook page for For the Girls International. To let you in on a little secret…I usually post things that resonate with me personally.  That’s how it works.  I see something that hits a nerve for me and I figure someone else probably needs it too.

Occasionally I check to see how many people we are reaching with our Facebook posts and the data I saw yesterday was very telling.  In case you don’t know how it works, the more people that “like” or “share” a post the more people it reaches.

The last 7 posts (not including the announcement of my incredible granddaughter’s birth – which generated a lot of interest!) averaged a reach of 284 people.

Then a few nights ago I posted this (because I needed it):

Tough times, hardship, depression,

The reach for that post rose to over 2000 just for that one post! I don’t have time to figure out the math (that would seriously take me several hours) but that is a huge increase in reach.

So why was that post so popular?

3 reasons:

Because we all have our struggles.

Because we all need to know it’s ok not to be ok.

Because we all need to know that God loves us and is working through our struggle.

This is a tough time of year for me.  Thankfully it’s not as tough as it’s been in the past but the process of writing my book causes me to unearth some past hurts and pain that stirs up some emotions that I struggle with.

Reading that post helped me take a deep breath and know that God is allowing me to go a little deeper and peel another layer off to become more and more whole.  He loves me that much.

Sharing that post helped me realize that the more we are transparent about our struggles the more we help others to know that it is ok that they struggle too.

I’d love to hear your thoughts ~ so please feel free to share.  It helps to know that we are all in this together 🙂

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I'm ok, you're ok, mental health, depression
And sometimes it’s ok not to be ok!

One BRAVE step at a time

impossible journey

How do you make a dream come true?

One brave step at a time!

So far in 2013, over at For the Girls International, we have built all of our events around this idea that we were created to be STRONG, BEAUTIFUL and BRAVE and we have been cheering women on to take brave steps all year.  I have taken a few myself by talking about my struggle with depression…you can read a little bit about that here, here, and here.

And even though I feel like I’ve definitely taken a few brave steps this year there is one more I have decided to take.

For the longest time I’ve had a secret dream. Well, not completely a secret. Some of those very close to me have known of it. I’ve dreamed of writing a book. I love books!

I love stories and characters and plots and themes. I love how you can learn, even from recreational reading, about places and people and life. I love how words strung together in just the right way can transport you to another world. And I love how people sharing their life experience can reach out beyond the paper pages and touch you right where you live, giving you strength and helpful tools for your journey. And I’ve dreamed of inspiring others as I have been inspired by so many wonderful books.

But here’s the problem:

There are SO many books already! When I stand in Books A MILLION I hear this little voice tell me that the world doesn’t need another book, at least not from me. Who am I to think that the world needs to hear what I have to say?

I expressed this nagging thought to my business coach. (I hired him to keep me focused – something I highly recommend if you have a fly by the seat of your pants kind of personality like me)

And he said to me, “The truth is…you’re right. The world doesn’t need a book from you. The whole world doesn’t need to hear what you have to say. But someone does.”

And that is precisely why I am taking this journey. It’s a little scary to put yourself out there because in order to bring real hope there must be transparency which can leave one feeling a little…well, naked.

But this hope that I have and hold so dearly, I want to share.

So, yesterday I started my journey to write The Six Impossible Things I Believe Before Breakfast – (tag line still to be determined). With one brave step I started.  I had actually written a little bit already but yesterday I bought a white board and post it notes and now I’m telling YOU so that makes it official!!!

What brave step have you been putting off? Start your journey today and let’s do this thing together!

I’ll be sharing bits of the journey here so follow along and please feel free to leave comments.  I love to hear what you have to say! first step

You are enough ~ Part II

As a follow up to yesterday’s blog I thought I share with you a little nugget I got from reading Esther’s story this past week. Esther is an incredible example of a woman who knew who she was and used every bit of it to fulfill God’s purpose in her life.

King Xerxes was looking for a new queen.  Esther was chosen along with many others to be pampered and beautified for a whole year and then presented to the king one by one for him to choose his new bride from the group of beautiful women.

So there is this group of women of which Esther was one, all vying for the same position of queen. And here’s how it went…

Thus prepared, each young woman went to the king, and she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the women’s quarters to the king’s palace.15 Now when the turn came for Esther to go in to the king, she requested nothing but what the custodian of the women, advised. And Esther obtained favor in the sight of all who saw her. Esther 4:17 (edited)

I bolded and underlined the part that leapt off the page when I was reading this the other day. Esther knew something that each of us need to know. SHE WAS ENOUGH.

She didn’t need to load herself up with things to make her feel better about herself. She didn’t need to add to what she already had.  She operated from a quiet confidence that she was enough and as you will see in the next verse it won her favor and she was crowned queen.

Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen… Esther 4:17

The book of Esther is all about God’s providence although interestingly God’s name is not even mentioned in it.  However, it is clear that God called Esther to a position of power so that she could influence the king and save her people from genocide.

God positioned her to fulfill His purpose through her.

Here’s what I tend to do when God calls me to do something – see if you can relate.

First, I look at what I think it requires.  Then, I look at myself, my capabilities and I immediately conclude that I need to add something in order to fulfill the task….maybe I should go to school because I don’t have enough education. I think to myself…if only I had certain connections or more money I could get started.  If only I was more talented… and then I have to stop and realize what Esther realized.

If God has called me to a position then He knows that I am capable. All I need to bring is myself and He will equip me to fulfill His purpose for my life. What a relief! I can stop spinning myself in circles trying to measure up!

Of course we can always learn more and hone our skills and make new connections and find new ways of doing things but we must operate from the core knowledge that we alone are enough.

What have you been waiting to start because you thought you needed something more?  You already have what you need – YOU!

And you are enough! Walk boldly and confidently towards your destiny.

esther

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Dare to Dream

dream, perseverance, faith One of my favorite books is called The Dream Giver by Bruce Wilkinson. It is a modern day parable of a man named Ordinary from the Land of Familiar who is visited by the Dream Giver and given a Dream.

I read it at least once a year. It reminds me that the ups and downs that I experience as I pursue the dreams God has given me are all part of the journey and common to any dreamer.

The chapter outline alone comforts me. It helps me recognize where I am in the dream cycle. Here is the outline and maybe you can identify where you are.

1. Ordinary Embraced His Big Dream
2. Ordinary Leaves His Comfort Zone
3. Ordinary Meets Bullies in the Borderland
4. Ordinary Enters the Wasteland
5. Ordinary finds Sanctuary
6. Ordinary Reaches the Valley of the Giants
7. Ordinary Thrives in the Land of Promise

This past fall I entered the wasteland. In the winter I found sanctuary and gained the strength I needed to face the giants. Now, I am ready to enter into the land of promise. How about you? Can you identify with any of these stages of the dream cycle?

Be comforted today as you pursue your dreams that as we are tried and tested we are still making progress towards the land of promise ~ it is there waiting for us if we persevere.

Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4