Fake Strength, Real Weakness

In the mornings I watch my daughter, Esther carefully select the clothing that she will wear for the day.  In her head, she sees a fashion diva when picking out these outfits and she has the attitude to match.  However, regularly it is something crazy, such as a wild printed shirt under overall shorts with a sequined bow on them along with a skirt over the overall- shorts.  Then to top it off, a big bow or sequined cat ears, and a “braid’ that resembles something very different than any braid I have ever seen.  I love her sense of creativity but under no circumstances would her outfit match her level of confidence.  Now, she is six and I love her but I am not sure she is the fashion icon she sees herself as.  It is cute at six, however, I don’t believe that if I was to copy her style, that it would either be viewed as cute or fashionable.  We may not do this with clothing, but I do think we try to do this in different ways as adults, especially within the church

Within our own Christianity, we say that God meets us right where we are, yet somehow we find ourselves portraying a picture of how we want people to see us, and rarely is it reflective of a God that takes us mess and all.  We feel that in order to be a good representation of God, we have to be the finished product.  When we adopt this thinking, we hide all our flaws and only show our best self even if that isn’t a true reflection of who we are.  My daughter could care less when she picks out her outfits in the morning of what I think or anyone thinks, that is where she is at.  As she gets older she will learn what does and doesn’t match.  She will also become more self-aware.  The one thing we all have in common is our humanity, the fact that we all fall short. Hopefully, we are growing, we love showing everyone the areas we have already grown in but it is so much more difficult to show our shortcomings or what we are currently working on.  That takes vulnerability.  I believe vulnerability is a strength if we will allow it to be.  My vulnerability makes me more relatable and it also makes others feel safe.  There is no safety in shallow relationships. My best relationships are with those who have seen my worst and yet still believe in me, supported me, and have never pretended that I should aspire to be as put together as they are.  

We live in a world where people are masters of reading a room and figuring out who they need to be to gain the appeal of the room. We have a world where nobody knows who they actually are anymore because they are constantly fulfilling the needs of others rather than focusing on becoming a better me or more importantly who God intended me to be.  There is a very powerful lesson in coming to terms with the fact that not everyone will love you and there are people who can’t handle a messier or more authentic you.  Authenticity isn’t just your wonderful moments, it is also your fears, mistakes, and challenges.  We are all flawed, we all need grace and compassion. When no safe space exists it is easy to find ourselves isolated and full of anxiety.  I know this from my own experience.

There was an experience I had with a church leader several years ago, where I was being open and honest about the grief that I was experiencing.  The grieving process had started 4 months prior to this conversation. Anyone who has ever gone through grief knows that it is a process that looks different for everyone and does not have a specific time frame.  This church leader had pointed out that they could visibly see that I was sad and heartbroken and then they began to question how deep my roots were and if I was bearing good fruit.  That moment really shaped how I approached the next few years after.  It meant that I suffered in silence.  It didn’t stop my pain, it just meant I kept it to myself and learned to smile a bit more and act cheery even when I felt heartbroken.  There was no safety. To be honest, I didn’t even believe that what this specific leader had said, I just knew that they weren’t safe. At that moment I had hoped to find understanding and encouragement but instead was met with judgment.

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.

Romans 12:15-16

I love Romans 12 because the whole passage is on genuine love and what that should look like in our own life.  Being a vulnerable leader means letting our guard down, it means allowing ourselves to have empathy.  Vulnerability means sacrificing our need to share our wisdom in order to listen and connect to what others are experiencing regardless of whether we are rejoicing with them or weeping with them.  We need to be with people where they are at, after all, that is what Jesus does has always done. 

As church leaders, we get it wrong.  We mess up, especially when we are dealing with things we don’t understand and have not experienced ourselves.  We need to feel comfortable in those moments to say, I have no idea, I have never been through that but…I know someone who has. For myself, I want to always eir on the side of grace and empathy. There have been many times as a leader where I have gotten this wrong, where I know that I thought I was doing the right thing but I have hurt someone. In those moments I want to have the humility enough to say, I am sorry, I handled that wrong.  As leaders, we need to be vulnerable.  We need to admit when we get it wrong, we need to be quick to say sorry.   We need to not be afraid of people we lead, seeing our faults. Again, our humanity is what connects us to each other.  Our highlight reel will only isolate us and those around us.  

My encouragement to you is, your own failures and weaknesses might be exactly what God wants to use, they may actually be the connection point to someone else finding freedom.  Haven’t you experienced healing because someone else has been vulnerable enough to share?  I know I have.  People are craving authenticity in a world where authenticity is lacking.  Choose to be someone people can connect to, someone who is confident regardless of their shortcomings because you know that God is bigger than your shortcomings. One of the most miraculous things about humanity is how we continue to thrive despite our weakness and insecurity because we recognize our need for God.

Cheerleaders and Critics

Last spring I signed the boys up for a soccer program that they have for children with special needs. The program is great, they teach them soccer skills and then at the last practice they play a game with the parents. The plan originally was for Tom, my husband to go with the boys and Esther and I were going to have some girl time every week. However, Tom ended up having to work, so I had to take the boys every week and Esther had to watch the boys practice.

I thought that Esther would be upset at the thought of not being able to play, but she wasn’t. Instead, she took a self-appointed position as the team cheerleader. She would stand on the side yelling, “give me an A, give me a P, give me an R, give me an E, go Elijah and Moses”. Esther may not have been able to spell or read, but it did not put a damper in her spirit. She was doing ‘cartwheels’ and leg kicks and everything. She could have been jealous that she wasn’t the one playing or she could have called out everything the boys weren’t doing but instead she chose to cheer them on. She wasn’t calling out where they lacked but she was calling out there potential to be superstar soccer players. I love my little girls’ spirit.

If we lived in a perfect world and were surrounded by people who cheered us on, we would truly believe the sky was our limit. We wouldn’t have any inhibitions. We would truly excel in our talents and gifting. However, we do not live in a world where everyone is cheering for us, there will always be critics. It has been said many times and in many different ways, that who we surround ourselves with will determine where we go. Sometimes we can control who we are surrounded by and then sometimes we just simply can’t. We need to identify who’s voices we hear the loudest. Sometimes the line can be a bit blurry of who are critics are and who are cheerleaders are.

One thing we do know about cheerleaders is that they cheer whether their team is winning or losing. It doesn’t matter if their team has a slim chance of bouncing back, cheerleaders call out the best in their team. After-all a cheerleader has seen their team at their best and knows what they are capable of. They know their strengths and they know their weaknesses. However, they are there to cheer on the best in there team.

If you are surrounded by critics, you will only see your shortcomings and you will avoid risk at all costs. After all, risk may lead to failure and failure may reveal your own weaknesses. Your weaknesses aren’t safe with critics. Critics like to focus on other’s weaknesses and rarely get to know your strengths or appreciate your strengths. Listening to critics will evoke fear and you will tend always lean towards the safe choice or stay put. Fear will also cause you to over-analyze your decision-making abilities.

However, cheerleaders will call out the potential that you may not even see in yourself. When you feel like giving up they are the ones reaching out to you and encouraging you, telly you that you’ve got this. Find those people who see the best in you, who will pull you up when you need to be pulled up and who will even push you when you need a bit of a push. Cheerleaders will remind you of your strengths when you feel like you have failed and push you to try again.

There are many seasons where I have felt overwhelmed by critics. One particular season comes to mind where I thought that the people I had surrounded myself with wanted the best for me, that there harsh words and critiques were there to help me. That may have even been there intent but it just left me feeling small, incapable and not enough. I wanted to be teachable and take in all the feedback because I wanted to be a better me. This individual had told me I was too loud, attention-seeking and prideful. So I felt I needed to be quiet, never talk too much or joke around in case it was perceived as attention-seeking and that I needed to fade into the background to become humble. This person also had convinced me that those who cared about me most were not good for me. I had eliminated all the cheerleaders in my life and had believed the very worst about myself.

Once I realized that this person’s voice needed to be removed from life, I made drastic life choices to ensure the voices in my life were positive voices and that they were people who genuinely wanted to see me do well in life. That season of life taught me to be very careful with who you allow to influence you. That season helped me evaluate myself and recognize the areas where I was at risk of being a critic.

Regularly, I ask myself am I a critic or a cheerleader to those around me. I know which one I want to be. Cheering people on will always cost more than being a critic. It takes patience, being supportive, and being there for the long haul. Oh, but when they win, you feel like you win too. Critics don’t plan for people to succeed, they plan for people to fail. Critics hone in on every mistake. We don’t cheer for people because they are perfect but because in spite of not being perfect, people do succeed.

Maybe you don’t feel like you fit into the role of player, critic, or cheerleader. Maybe you have sitting on the bench. I want to be the one to come along you and say it’s time to get up, you got this. You have what it takes. We might even fail, but we are going to fail together until we win! Everyone has there unique part to play. If you need to sit out on the bench for a bit to catch your breath or relax, that’s ok, just don’t stay there. The world needs you and what you have to bring.

Imperfectly Beautiful

As you can see from the picture, I have this placard hanging in my house. You can see the cracks in the heart and it looks outdated and worn out. From looking at it, you wouldn’t know the story behind it or the journey it has been on. It isn’t perfect but it is Imperfectly Beautiful and it means the world to me…

Over ten years ago, I was holding the broken pieces sobbing uncontrollably. My heart was broken in a million pieces and I just so happened to be holding a broken heart that was so much more than a gift. It was a gift my brother had given me for Christmas. I had packed it so carefully and put it in my suitcase for safekeeping. Now it was broken and it would never be as it was again. Devastation was an understatement of how I felt.

We were moving back to the States from Australia, so we had packed up all our prized possessions and were stopping off at Toronto for some of our best friends’ wedding before going back to Montana, where my parents lived. One of our friends was bringing up our suitcase when he had noticed that the placard had been broken on the plane. Our friend had no idea of the importance that it held to me and was caught off guard by my uncontrollable crying. After all, it was just a placard, one I surely could replace. He didn’t know it was from my brother.

My brother, Timothy had passed away only a few months before that. He had passed away only 3 days after I had opened that gift. My mom had told me, he had spent a long time putting thought into and choosing that specific placard out. My husband and I had just been married in November and he wanted to give us a gift for our new home. Three days later he was gone and I was shattered. This was the last gift I had received from Timothy, it was so much more than a placard. It was one of the few tangible things of Him I had left to hold onto. Now it would never be the same, I couldn’t help but think that the broken pieces I held, that were once a heart was how I felt. I felt like my heart was broken and could never be put back together again.

My husband held me while trying to comfort me by assuring me it could be glued back together. However, I just wanted it to be like it was before it was broken. I wanted everything to be like it was before my heart was completely and utterly broken a few months before. Life wasn’t fair and it was hard to imagine it ever being good again. After all, does a broken heart ever look or even operate as it once did? Can something broken actually be beautiful or is it just broken?

You see, that placard represents my beautiful brother and his beautiful thoughtfulness but it also represents so much more. I survived one of my darkest seasons. Although I still feel the brokenness of his death and absence from my life, I AM HERE and I am so grateful for the time I had with him. I am ok and it is a part of my story, it isn’t perfect but it is beautiful. That season changed me, I am not the same person I was and that is ok. I found courage that I didn’t know I had in me, I found out that actually the human body can endure tremendous amount of pain and still survive even when it feels like you can’t. I also found that God surrounds you with the right people when you need them at the moment you need them. These are all invaluable lessons that have helped make me who I am today.

As you can see from the picture, it was glued back together carefully by my wonderful husband and it has lived on my walls in five different houses through many different seasons. There have been many seasons that have come and gone since that season and some very painful. There have been seasons where I have remembered to see the beauty in those difficult and unexpected seasons and then there are seasons of relearning, relearning to breathe and know that you will be ok. In these seasons, God has been so faithful to remind me of who I am and whose I am. Can you see my brokenness? Absolutely, I am still being put back together but not so I can be the same as before but so that I can tell my story, my Imperfectly Beautiful story.

We can’t always see the pain and heartache in each other that has shaped and made us who we are. We all have Beautifully Imperfect stories and it is no small thing that you are here to tell it. You have survived and maybe just maybe gained some invaluable treasures despite the pain and heartache along the way, I know I have. I don’t know what dark and difficult seasons you have gone through but they don’t disqualify you. They are a part of your story, just a chapter, not the whole story.

Freedom and Uncertainty

For the last couple of weeks, I have been thinking about the Israelites during the exodus.  There have been many messages on the Israelites lack of trust in God’s faithfulness and I have often pondered it myself.  How could you doubt God after having seen him part the red sea, protect you by a pillar of smoke/fire or feed you with bread from the sky?  God had gone above and beyond what they could have imagined as slaves in Egypt. God wanted to free them and had freed them. They hadn’t reached their destination but God had set them free and they were being guided to there promise land.  Why would they ask to go back to a place of slavery, a place that they were so desperate to leave?

Maybe they weren’t desperate to go back to slavery but maybe they craved familiarity, stability, and certainty.  FREEDOM meant a lack of certainty, it was unfamiliar territory and most likely felt unstable at times. They didn’t have a home and they didn’t know when they would feel settled.   They had seen God’s faithfulness but they were uncertain the FREEDOM was worth the cost. They were doubting whether God’s promises were worth it, whether God’s best was truly the best.

Have you ever found yourself in that place?  Have you ever wondered if your journey to FREEDOM is worth the uncertainty and unfamiliarity? I know I have.  FREEDOM doesn’t always happen instantaneously and we will always need freedom as part of God’s refining. FREEDOM is hard and we can become overwhelmed by the hard rather than God’s faithfulness.  The challenge is to remain thankful to God in the process and to worship Him for the victories we have seen and the victories we have yet to see

There was a really unhealthy season I found myself in years ago and when I found my way out of that season, there was a relief.  However, the journey to FREEDOM and forgiveness was long. There was a choice that I had to make, I had to truly let go of that season even though there were many times I would reminisce about the good aspects of that season.  In some ways, I wanted to go back to what had been familiar for years because there was a level of certainty but I knew that God’s plan for me was greater than what that season had provided. Even though there are some aspects of that season that at times make me sad and frustrated, I am proud to be on the other side of that season.  The season of FREEDOM and healing that followed has helped me grow into who I am today. There is no way I would want to go back to that season or wish that I was still in it. The FREEDOM I experienced and the seasons that have followed are far better than any loss that I had felt. 

FREEDOM is worth the uncertainty that you may be facing.  It is worth the uprooting you may be experiencing. Ultimately you will get to the other side and you will confidently be able to say, I am so glad that I chose freedom over immediate certainty.  Your journey is not by accident and God has a plan and His plans are good.

Determined Momma and a Joy Filled Family!

I love personal growth, reflecting on 2018 Megan and then seeing 2019 Megan. It has always been important for me to look for ways of how I can be a better me. It isn’t about comparing myself to others or contemplating my shortcomings. For me, it is about making sure I am not complacent with where I am at. We all have areas we know we need to grow in, they may be areas we would rather not address but we know they are there.

When I was eighteen there was a specific area that I knew God was challenging me on. When describing myself, I would refer to myself as a blunt person, someone who would always tell you how it was. I believed that this was a good thing, after all it was authentic. However, I knew deep down that it was a lack of self-control and a lack of empathy. People don’t always want to hear your opinion and often it is an excuse for being harsh and unkind. God challenged me to make that year about becoming more compassionate. Compassion was my word for that year and God was faithful. That year was a year where I learned so much about how to love people better and more importantly to keep my mouth shut. So every year since then, I have chosen a word to define my year.

During the month of December, I search my heart and pray that God will show me what he wants to do in me and my family for the new year. There has not been a year where I have been disappointed. There are many other people I have met who pick a word for there year and they agree that it has been one of the best practices that they have put into place. It is an opportunity to trust God and see His faithfulness as you seek Him in the word you have chosen.

So this year, I have chosen the word DETERMINATION. For many years, I have thought of myself as a determined individual, some people who know me really well might replace that with stubborn. However these last few years I have been really worn out. There have been some health issues that have really zapped my energy and on top of that, I have three young lively children with autism. I haven’t felt myself and have felt as though I lack follow-through. So this year is the year to regain that determination. This blog was part of my efforts to step out, believing I will be determined enough to stick with it.

Choosing a word has been such a valuable and life-changing part of my life that this year I also picked a word for my family and that word is JOY. As a family I want us to find joy in every season no matter how it may look. I truly believe that joy is easy to find in the happy seasons of reprieve and then sometimes it is just flat out deep down. It is so deep that you have to reach and dig through the muck to find it. It is so important to do the hard work of pulling joy out even in the most difficult of seasons. This is where we worship despite our season knowing that God is still good and so faithful. Seasons are that, just seasons. They only last until the next season comes. I want us to find joy in it all.

This year I thought this could be a good year to ask the kids to pick a word for 2020. I explained to them that they need to pick a word that they wanted to see more of in themselves this year. So Elijah decided he didn’t want to from the get-go. Esther was going on and on about how she wants to be a gymnast who also is a horseback rider. She wants Tom and me to work on a farm so that she can ride these horses. There is not a chance that you will find Tom and me on a farm. Then Moses said he wants to be stronger. I was thinking to myself, now we are getting somewhere. I followed up with, in what ways do you want to be stronger? He said, “I would like some kid weights, a treadmill and a bike that you ride in place.” So there we go! Elijah wants nothing, Esther wants to be a gymnast horseback rider and Moses wants to have a six-pack. I will let you know at the end of this year how it goes.

As for me, this will be a year of DETERMINATION and it will be the year of JOY for my family. I am determined to have better health this year and I am determined to step out more and take risks even with the possibility of failing. I would love to hear about your word for the year, please comment below if you would like to share. If you have never chosen a word for your year I would encourage you to try it out. It isn’t too late, we are still at the beginning of the year and there are some great things ahead for you in 2020.