Life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies

by Angela Jamison – featured columnist

Life is hard.

After a particularly difficult day not getting everything exactly how she wanted it, my daughter, age six, went into a meltdown. The stars were not aligning properly and she just knew that if she had new barbies life would be perfect. My eight year old son, clearly wise beyond his years, simply told her, “Well, life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies.”

Life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies.

Hilarious, yet pertinent and insightful commentary. It’s true – life isn’t all cupcakes and barbies. Sometimes we feel entitled to “cupcakes and barbies” because we’ve accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, but that’s not what is promised to us. Eternal salvation is promised. Earthly ease is not.

In fact, life is sometimes down right crumby.

As Christians, we have the tendency to assume our place in the family of believers as one of Christ’s children means the absence of trials, tribulations or difficulties. That’s simply not the case. Satan is hard at work here on Earth and he will continue to rear his ugly head.

Being a part of Christ’s family does not mean life will be easy, but it does mean that we will never have to travel alone. The burden of pain, heartache, or trial will be shared and there will be an unyielding hope that resonates within us.

Joshua 1:9 – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.

God is not wishy-washy, he’s commanding. He commands us to be strong and courageous, not afraid or discouraged.  He commands these things because He, the Lord your God, will be with you wherever you go. Not once does he imply that we won’t face trials that frighten us or defeats that discourage us, but rather commands our behavior and attitude for when we do.

God prepares us with his word and his promise is steadfast. Even on the hard days, we are not alone.

Life may not be all cupcakes and barbies, but it is faith, hope and love.

Advertisements

Goal Setting is Inspiring & Encouraging

I made a quick Facebook post yesterday asking what people were planning for their goals for 2017.  It was a post generated from my personal assessments and plans that I’m putting into place for this next year.  I always spend most of December thinking through the last year and anticipating what things I can jump into for the new year.

Here’s what I posted –

What goals are you setting for 2017? I’d love to hear them. Share away!!

I’m not sure what kind of response I would receive but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the longer the post has been on my page, the more responses I receive.

One of the things I have learned through adulthood is the value of accountability.  I’m mostly a lone ranger at heart – only child, very driven and ambitious, and not much of a team player.  I’ve always been able to do more on my own.  But as I get older, I can see the value of accountability in relationships.

Perhaps it’s the blunting edge of age on my life, or motherhood and finding sisterhood in that journey that’s helped me see that journeying WITH others is better than lone ranger.  While I’m still in charge of my own destiny, knowing that others are aware of what I’m trying to accomplish and that they are cheering me on or giving me a swift kick when I’m down, accountability has been such a good thing for me to seek out.

Accountability to others helped me accomplish my goal to memorize the book of James this summer.  Knowing that I would receive a text asking how my scripture memory was going, or an email or even an encouraging message on Facebook about what it meant to them to hear those verses recited out loud.  I felt the extra push some weeks that someone would regret not hearing me share if I didn’t reach the memory goal for the week.

Sometimes I think we don’t actually share our big dreams, or goals because we are worried about failure.  I wrote about failure not too long ago over on my other blog – you can read more here if you’d like.  The reality is most of us are afraid to fail.  We’d rather not step out of our comfort zone if it means we risk failure.  The beauty of success though is looking back and realize that failure might have happened along the way but it was not a stopping point, it was the catalyst to the success that came later!

Anyway – I found that several people were willing to share their goals with me – and I was given the unique opportunity to cheer them on.  Some I know very well, some not so much – but we were each bound with the anticipation and inspiration of looking ahead and saying out loud what we want to accomplish.  So.very.powerful.

So I ask you the same question – I don’t care how young or old you are.  I don’t care how busy you are or how difficult is right now.  The moment you stop dreaming you stop living. I speak from experience.  Sometime in the middle of motherhood, I found myself just doing what needed to be done each day without really allowing myself to dream about the future.  With dreaming about the future, planning ahead is so important, and for so long I didn’t do it.  I was afraid to fail, and afraid to want something that I couldn’t have.  Totally faulty mindset there.  Don’t fall in the trap!  Be inspired!  Be encouraged!  Think about those things you’ve always said you’d do. One day. When the kids are grown. Maybe that’s not what you are waiting for, waiting for any next step to happen before you dream about the future is stifling and limiting.

So share with me!  What are your goals for 2017?  I’d love to hear them and cheer you on!

Anxiety and Hurricanes

This morning during my quiet time, I spent time thinking about Hurricane Matthew that has torn through Haiti, and is now apparently setting his sights on Florida.  Anytime a hurricane develops, I feel a familiar pit in my stomach.  Although it’s been 11 years now since the landfall of a hurricane on the mainland United States, the monstrous effects of Hurricane Ivan on me, and my family personally, remain.  While I, my mom, and the kids evacuated from Hurricane Ivan just prior to its landfall on the panhandle of Florida on September 16, 2004, my husband remained behind to help with rescue and recovery efforts.  The effects of that hurricane remain on my life forever.  My husband stayed because he was a volunteer fireman in our local fire department and felt his presence was vital to help our community with recover. He and the crew evacuated just far enough inland to still be accessible once the hurricane had passed through as they were ordered to stay off the roads until the all clear.  I’ll leave his escapades for a future post for another day, but suffice it to say he and the rest of the crew are true heroes and some of the most selfless people I have ever known. They were even featured in an episode of Storm Stories that the Weather Channel used to produce.

The kids, my mom and I evacuated, remarkably now in hindsight – since we now live here- to the Memphis area to stay with dear friends.  It was a forever long week, and the recovery time even longer.  It sobers me today to even think about it again.  We had significant damage in our home, our community and elevated fears for myself and the children.  Our future for the next few years was marked by distinct changes with regards to how we watched hurricanes.  For me, I was constantly check the tropical waves coming off the coast of Africa, the naming of the newest “invest #” and tropical depression status all the way to hurricane.  Once it had a track, I was tracking it.  I watched the radar, and could tell you each wobble based on the eye movement.  Literally obsessed with it, I remember vividly the anxiety of going through another Ivan brought me.  Katrina arrived the next year and while the landfall was clearly west of us, I still evacuated once again because it was terrifying. For the kids, it was the fear of having to grab just a few items and evacuate again.

We have moved since then, and Florida hasn’t seen a major hurricane in years.  I stopped tracking ever single movement of every dust storm off of Africa, and I’m thankful.  I didn’t realize at the time how very fearful I was, it’s only in retrospect that I understand the grip it had on my heart.

So today, I feel great empathy for my friends in Florida and along the eastern seaboard.  As they shop for essentials just in case there is no electricity after the hurricane, or make hotel arrangements in case they need to get off the coast.  The added expenses if you are already financial strapped can be crippling.  The anxiety of the “what if’s” and which way will it go can be unbearable mentally.  I empathize. I have been there and done that.  So I pray and ask the Lord, the one who controls the winds and the waves to quiet the storm.  I pray for those in it’s path to dwell in the knowledge of His care for them, and for those who have already weathered the storm, I pray for them as the rebuild their lives once again.  For a country like Haiti, it’s an even more devastating proposition because they already struggled to begin with.

Hurricane season doesn’t mean what it used to for me, but I will never forget.  I have travelled that road and it wasn’t easy.  I am thankful for the comfort of Scripture!

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:28-29

Perhaps you don’t actually have to face Hurricane Matthew today, but there is another circumstance in your life that feels as overwhelming as a hurricane.  I wrote about my own experience with that here. I know that mentally the anxiety can build for you as well.  I spent time praying this morning as well for my friends and family who are facing cancer and it’s treatments and surgery, for those facing the loss of a loved one, and those who are enduring financial burdens.  I pray you keep your eyes on the One who will sustain you and carry you through those turbulent days as well!

Be an Encourager!

An encourager is one who by definition inspires others with hope, courage or confidence.  Don’t you enjoy being around someone who is encouraging? Aren’t they like a breath of fresh air?

Perhaps you are naturally gifted in this area, and it’s easy for you to speak kindness and encouragement into those around you.  If on the other hand you are like me, and you tend to see all that’s wrong around us, you have to work at it some more.  Just like we work at being purposeful in our daily lives with our activities and goals, I would also like to propose that we be INTENTIONAL with choosing words of encouragement to be spoken to those around us.

Perhaps it’s our family members that need to know they are doing a good job, or that they are appreciated for their hard work – don’t just think those thoughts, be sure to speak them.

Maybe it’s a co-worker, classmate or sweet friend who is battling a difficult time – depression, cancer, loss of a mate, failing grades – what can you do to encourage them through this trial?  Maybe it’s just a verse of Scripture that means something special to you, or an inspiring quote that has been encouraging for you, will be just the thing that will encourage another person.

While each of us do not likely have the capacity to change the world, we do have the ability to change one person’s day.  The opportunity to bring a smile, squeeze a hand or give a hug for one person is something that can spur others to action as well.  In that small action, we do have the capacity to be world changers.  All it takes is a little thought, a bit of openness to share and encourage.  Be light to someone in your world today!

 

The need for Hope

birds-800671_1280My favorite poem about Hope is from Emily Dickinson.  I recall my mom reciting the opening line, and then realizing later that I loved the whole poem.  Here it is

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – 
That perches in the soul – 
And sings the tune without the words – 
And never stops – at all – 
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard – 
And sore must be the storm – 
That could abash the little Bird 
That kept so many warm – 
I’ve heard it in the chillest land – 
And on the strangest Sea – 
Yet – never – in Extremity, 
It asked a crumb – of me.

It has been said that Dickinson’s poetry has a similar style as the psalms and other religious hymns – perhaps that’s why I connect with her writing style.  It’s flow appeals to me, and her metaphor here speaks to me visually.

Hope in it’s simplest form is a bit shallow.

“I hope it rains tomorrow.”

“I hope my daughter buckles her seatbelt.”

“I hope you feel better.”

But if we dig a little deeper, hope can add an element of expectation.  When hope combines the idea of wanting something to happen with the idea of expectation, whether because of past results or sheer faith, Hope becomes so much more meaningful.

Today I want to encourage you with a word about Hope.

Daily life can drag us down.  Maybe you wake up like I do, with expectations of accomplishing a large number of things – my lists are long!  but somewhere after the day begins, I start to realize that I am a little too “hopeful” about how I am going to accomplish the day’s jobs – and I start to dwell in reality.  The task lists get rewritten, and I settle on a more manageable “list” for my day.

Reading the news can drag me down.  I try to get my news in small clips now – like twitter for instance.  Reading large amounts of news, hurts my spirit.  I just can’t do it.  There’s so little hope in our world, and because there is such little hope people turn to evil.  The evil is rampant and overwhelming.  I find that dwelling in the difficulties of our present our realities can bury me in discouragement and cause me to lose my focus.

Instead, I’m thankful for hope.  The deeper knowledge that there is something far greater beyond this life fuels me forward.  While there are many wonderful joys in this life, it cannot compare to the hope of our future in Glory.  We should share hope with those around us.  Not a flimsy, shallow hope though – let’s share the reason for our Hope – our expectation of a future more wonderful than we can even imagine.