The Trouble with Apples

I began taking a writing class this fall, and walked into the classroom a few weeks ago to find a bright, shiny apple at each of our desks. My first thoughts were, ‘How cute is that. She brought us a snack tonight.’ Then, ‘Oh no… Please tell me we’re not playing a game!’ Group games with strangers are not my cup of tea. We had to sit through half the class, wondering what this apple was for before she told us we’ll be using it in a writing exercise. Whew… what a relief! Our instructor told us that in the next twelve minutes or so, we’re to use our five senses in writing about the apple. Pick it up and feel it, smell it, taste it, look at it, listen to it, and see what kind of pictures and emotions this simple piece of fruit can conjure up. Then write down whatever comes to mind. Well, twelve minutes never seemed so long. I wasted the first half pretending to be in deep thought and struggling to drudge up some creative work of literary greatness. What I really wanted to do was sneak a peek at my neighbor’s papers—as if that would be of some help. That they had written anything at all made my feelings of inadequacy that much more true. Their imaginations were obviously thriving, and all I could hear were pencils scratching, apples crunching, and the clock on the wall ticking. Without looking, I could even feel my instructor’s eyes watching us from the front. Talk about pressure! So far, all I’ve done is wipe my hands with the provided antibacterial wipe and anxiously await the moment my creative juices will begin flowing. Put me out of my misery, man! I’ve changed my mind. At this point, a group game sounded great! With only a few minutes left, I began to scribble a few things that came to mind about this apple. I could feel the blood rush to my face as the minutes were drawing to a close. Fear was setting in because I’d be humiliated if she called on me to read what I had written. I’m pretty sure an eight-year old could write just as well as what I scratched out that night. I sat there, discouraged and avoiding eye contact, as she encouraged us to finish up, contemplating which of the following were true: 1) I am very out of tune with my senses. 2) I don’t write well under pressure. 3) I’m not cut out for this writing thing. Who do I think I am anyway?! A couple weeks have passed and I’ve caught myself thinking about that apple exercise a number of times. I’ve reminded myself of the innumerable times I’ve quit in life at things I’ve started when it required work on my part or didn’t come easily. Those feelings of inadequacy have followed me around like a shadow for as long as I can remember. Maybe we all struggle with that to one extent or another. In junior high, that’s what caused me to be the meanest person I knew. I thought by acting tough that I would never have to face my insecurities and inadequacies head-on. I was a bully, and people were afraid to walk by me in the hall. The secret I held somewhere deep inside my impenetrable shell was that I was broken and hurting on the inside. I was so insecure and very lonely. I wanted to feel like I was worth something without having to hurt myself or others, and wished I was dead. The drugs and alcohol only made things worse, and I still didn’t feel good about myself. When that wore off, I’d run away from home, find some “friend” who’d take me in, only to be used again, and then be brought home or to a foster home by the cops… again. Rage consumed me, and for most of my life, I haven’t known how to not run from my problems (or any kind of adversity). My knee-jerk response was always to run—or when cornered, lash out. These last dozen years have been a daily work of overcoming that mentality, and allowing God to transform my life and the way I think and feel about myself… the way HE sees me. God has been faithful to show me how to press through the hard times and not believe the lie that I’m not good enough, or that I don’t have what it takes. Actually, it doesn’t surprise me that I felt like a turbo-loser in my writing class, since those thoughts of inadequacy seem to...

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wOrD sTuMbLe

Have you ever had someone tell you they love or admire you? That anyone would see any good in me is a testimony of God’s goodness and grace, and it helps remind me of that whenever someone tells me those things. I was a little caught off-guard when a friend told me a couple weeks ago a few of the things she finds most endearing about me. She told me very lovingly and matter-of-factly that she’s noticed when I speak in a group, oftentimes what comes out of my mouth is unpolished, and then she said something I hoped no one ever noticed… that I even “stumble over my words”! I thought I would die of embarrassment and wanted to crawl under a rock. I couldn’t believe it. And somehow that’s endearing? I thought, surely she’s making this up. What my friend didn’t know is that I often pray that I would become more articulate and confident in my speech. I don’t remember always feeling this way, but then again, I haven’t always spoken publicly or in groups either. Sometimes my mind goes completely blank, like brain wave activity ceases to exist… my heart races, and I couldn’t formulate a thought if my life depended on it. The inner turmoil I’ve felt about speaking publicly or in a group setting because of the fear of stumbling over my words has, at times, made me physically ill. And now she confirms that it’s NOT just my imagination, but that she has even noticed it?! My friend continued to tell me that she loves that I always speak from my heart, that I never pretend to be someone I’m not, and I just keep on being the real me no matter what, and those are some of the main reasons that she’s always been drawn to me. I started feeling a little better after that, but I’ve been thinking about her comments since she stopped me that day. We all have fears or insecurities at one time or another that we’re working through that no one else knows about. Those things can hold us back from walking in the fullness of God’s plan for our lives, and that day, I realized that even though the devil is trying to hold me back, I have—with God’s help—faced that fear and stepped up and done some things to overcome it. If that weren’t the case, my friend wouldn’t have had anything to say to me about how I sometimes stumble over my words. If I was bound by the fear, I would never put myself in situations where I have to open my mouth in a group setting. It was like God sent her to tell me those things to encourage me at a time when I felt I’ve made no progress at all… and to keep doing what I’m doing. I had an overwhelming sense that my heavenly daddy is proud of me for the progress I’ve made, and that He wanted me to know that He’s there, and people will either like me or not—just how I am. He spoke to my heart to continue letting Him help me and change me by being willing to speak whenever He prompts me to, and stumbling over my words in front of a group of people isn’t the end of the world. If I keep trusting Him to help me, it will only produce good things for Him in the end. Writing is one way the Lord helps me organize my thoughts. So… so what if I don’t speak like a pro! If we’re honest, we know we’re not going to be good at everything, so why not take the pressure off ourselves. When we relieve ourselves from the pressure, I believe that God’s grace begins to work and that’s when we see those wonderful things happen. What areas of your life has the enemy tried to make you believe you’re stuck… that there’s no hope for you… and you’ll never get over the hump… or make any progress? Don’t believe a word of it. God tells us that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind. He wants us to be true to who we are no matter what, and He knows that we’re all a work in progress. And who knows, He just might use your faults and failures to bring hope into someone else’s life today… if you dare let them see it. Psalm 27:14 (AMP) ~ …be brave and of good courage and let your heart be stout and enduring. Yes, wait for and hope...

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Rediscovery

My husband, Jon, and I have been realizing over the last year or so that our family is entering a new season of life. For as many years as we’ve been parents, family time has been a priority for us, and now with our daughters being teenagers and going different directions many days of the week, those times are becoming less and less. We used to play family board games, go hiking, read books together (my favorite!), eat dinner together every day, and do jigsaw puzzles in the middle of the living room. Those things don’t happen like they used to. Excuse me for a moment while I reminisce… and perhaps ball my eyes out. Okay, I’m back. We’ve fought to never become one of those families who struggle to sit down and eat dinner together more than once or twice a week. But now with jobs, college classes, evening meetings, play rehearsals, boyfriends, and the like, it’s becoming more of a regular occurrence. Instead of being sad about how things are changing, I am so grateful (beyond words!) for the years that we guarded and protected our family time when the girls were younger, and that we’ve always put a premium on it. Never has it felt more real that once those days are gone, they’re GONE. In retrospect, had I known how much our lives would change when our oldest daughter got her driver’s license, I might not have let her get it! Most of mine and Jon’s lives together thus far have been spent raising our kids to be followers of Christ, which has occupied a considerable amount of time in our marriage. Even though we’ve done our best to keep each other—and our marriage—at the top of the priority list (second only to our relationship with God), the balancing act has been easier-said-than-done at times. We’ve been getting a taste of what it’ll be like when the kids are moved out, and it’s been, well… interesting. Little did we know (until it was upon us) that there is a pre-empty-nesting stage of life that begins when the kids are in their mid- to late teens. We’re rediscovering each other in this transitional phase, and sometimes it’s been really fun. Other times not so much. We’ve experienced some growing pains. Jon and I have always enjoyed being together and spending time together, but we’ve spent almost eighteen years raising our daughters, and for the most part, putting our own interests on the back burner. Now that the kids are away from home so much, we’re often left in a quiet house, looking at each other, half-jokingly asking questions like, “Well, now what? And by the way, who are you again?” We were happy to discover that most married couples experience this to one extent or another, but that doesn’t make the rediscovery phase any less work. I believe these years are really a critical period in marriages. Unless you’re talking about the changes, it would be so easy to think your marriage is in trouble. As things slow down for us, we have time to reflect on where we are and how we got here. I like how Dennis Prager describes what happens in men around this time. He says, “By a certain age, many men realize that what they have achieved falls short of the image they had of what they would achieve by that age.” I don’t really ask myself questions like that, but Jon probably does. My personal reflection questions echo in my mind over the span of my lifetime, and have to do with things like whether I’m doing a good job with my kids and whether I’m the kind of wife I always wanted to be. I don’t want to end up feeling like a dissatisfied and over-committed woman, nor have Jon feel like he’s not still my knight in shining armor. We’ve had many conversations lately about things we could spend time doing together. Right out of the gate, Jon is full of adventurous ideas, like any man would be. I thought of some fun and safe things, like hiking, which we both love to do. Or golf or tennis. The point is to connect while spending time together—and to have fun. Additionally, I decided I’m going to get back to the little things and just hang out with him while he’s doing projects around the house. He always loved when I’d pull up a lawn chair and hang out in the garage while he changed the oil on the car, and things like that. There will be some trial and error involved, but all...

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Please, Soul… Be Still!

I’ve had so many random thoughts running through my mind this past week. I’d be thinking or writing about something, and then abandon it to start a new one. The same was happening in my conversations. I’d continually interrupt myself with my next thought. It seemed like each thought brought with it bursts of energy, and then as quickly as it came, it left. Over and over last week. I’d have a zap of energy, then I’d crash. I’ve been happy, but still, something was off. I don’t remember feeling so scattered in my thoughts like that for quite some time. It reminds me of Attention Deficit Disorder actually. As the week progressed, I began feeling a little unnerved by it because my heart would beat fast and I wasn’t really feeling capable of focusing on anything for more than a couple minutes at a time. A few days ago, I was telling my husband about something that happened in my day, and God bless him for hanging in there with me and trying to follow along as long as he did. Laughing, he stopped me, and asked if I could please write it down. 🙂  He could see that my brain was going a mile a minute and I was all over the place, but when I write, my thoughts just seem to flow and are laid out in a more linear and understandable fashion. Many times I even write out my prayers to God and conversations with Him. I do write things out a lot because not only does it help me formulate my thoughts, but it also has a calming effect on me. In our fast-paced, technology-filled society, where everything is only a click away, we have to find a way to slow down and remove ourselves from the constant stream of stimulus happening around us. It takes a purposeful, diligent effort to do that. It seems like we are often like speedboats skimming the top of the water, versus taking time to go deep… like a submarine, in our thoughts and in our relationships (with people and with God). In addition to writing, another thing that takes me to a new place and helps me go deeper in my thoughts is getting outside and breathing fresh air. Going for a walk in the park by our house is something I can do every day that helps bring me to that place of rest. What is it that helps you to slow down and not be all aflutter? I try not to take life too seriously or over-analyze things, so I still don’t know why I was so jumpy and unfocused last week, but this morning I asked myself, does the reason WHY really matter? No, it doesn’t. I’m not going to start obsessing about it. It could have been any number of things. I’m a woman! Need I say more? 🙂 I believe whatever the issue was, it was temporary, and that God is bringing everything back into balance—even as I write this morning. I don’t have it all figured out, but I do know that it’s the enemy’s goal to get us distracted and feeling flighty so we get off course. I trust what the Word of God says about me. That’s what I’m focusing on this morning, and this is my confession: I have the mind of Christ. Everything I set my hand to produces good fruit and prospers. I am blessed whenever—and wherever—I go. I am the focus of God’s thoughts and He cares about me. He also cares about MY thoughts. He helps me think clearly and shows me how I can reach out to others and show His love every day. Because the life of God flows through me, His peace is available to me and resides in me. I’m taking time to go deeper in my relationship with God by removing the distractions for a little while every day. My soul is at rest because I lean on and trust in His Word. If you’re feeling scattered like I was last week, I thank God that He will help you and bring order to your chaotic thinking, just like He’s done for me. It’s a new day and it’s full of freshness, so make a fresh start today and take time to slow down and sink  into His rest. Psalm 131: 2 (Amplified) ~ I have calmed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with his mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me [ceased from fretting]. Matthew 11:28 (NLT) ~ Then Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who...

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