Sarah and the God Who Keeps His Promises

Sarah was married to Abraham. Famous, wealthy, “God credited his faith as righteousness,” Abraham.

One day Abraham calls to Sarah, “Hey Honey, pack up! I heard from God and we’re on the move.”

To which I’m sure Sarah responded, “I’d follow you anywhere, Handsome. What’s our destination? I’ll Google it to be sure we don’t get lost.”

“Well, I don’t know where we’re going, exactly. We’re just going. God will show us where.”

“Let’s see how this turns out,” comes Sarah’s knowing reply.

They travel and travel and travel and about a year later they settle in Canaan, the Promised Land. Then, just after they’ve moved into their new diggs, God promises Abraham that he will be the father of a great nation.

Abraham is 75, Sarah is 65, and they have no children. None. Zero. Not one descendant.

I imagine Sarah heard this new promise and thought something like, “The last time God made a promise to us it took about a year to fulfill. This couldn’t take much longer than that, right? Piece of cake.”

SarahTen years later God is still making His promise to Abraham. Ten years later there is still no baby.

By this time Sarah is feeling a little like she’s never going to have a baby. So she comes up with a plan. Sarah gives her servant Haggar to Abraham and together they have Ishmael. Problem. Solved. Here come the descendants. God no longer has to worry about making good on his promise. Sarah has it handled.

Fourteen years after Ishmael’s birth God makes his promise a fourth time. Perhaps Ishmael was a difficult teenager or Abraham wasn’t interested in starting over with a new son. Maybe he was doubting God’s sanity or his own ability to hear from God. Whatever the case? This time Abraham laughs and asks, “Can’t Ishmael be the blessed one? Can’t my descendants come from him?”

Sarah heard the promise for a son that fourth time too.

For 25 years Sarah has heard, “God will give you a son.” For 25 years, Sarah has lived in the cycle of hope and disappointment. For 25 years, Sarah has wondered when it’s going to be her turn and finally she’s had enough. She’s in the tent, preparing a meal and she laughs to herself. “I’ve heard this all before. Sure, buddy, I’m going to have a son. Let’s not hold our breath, K?!”

Sometimes I feel a little like Sarah. Sometimes I feel like God has sparked in me a hope for the future and it seems to be just out of reach. Sometimes it seems like I must have misunderstood. Perhaps the dream is for someone else. Maybe you feel a little like Sarah sometimes too. You wonder if God forgot about you; if He still knows the cry of your heart.

I have good news for you. God didn’t forget Sarah. And he hasn’t for gotten us.

When Abraham asked if Ishmael could be the fulfillment of God’s promise God replied, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son…” Read it again, slowly.

“Yes, but your wife Sarah…”

At 90 years old it was Sarah’s turn and Isaac was born.

All that time the promise was for Sarah. We serve a God who keeps his promises, even when we lose hope, even when we wonder and even when we look for a way around God’s timing.

God didn’t forget Sarah. He hasn’t forgotten you. He hasn’t forgotten me.

God uses people who wonder if He still cares. God uses people who lose hope. God uses people like us.

On May 3rd I’ll be speaking at Coffee Talk, an event my church hosts for women. I will be highlighting the stories of a few of the women in Genesis as we discover the kind of woman God asks to be part of His story. This post is a sneak peak at my talk for Saturday the 3rd. I’d love to see you there!

What to do When You’re Ready to Give Up

Last Thursday I called in sick to motherhood. Oh yes I did.

I needed the day for my physical and mental health. As much as a mom of two can, I gave myself a break right in the middle of motherhood. I stayed in bed, let the kids eat cereal and watch videos in their PJs until way too late in the day. Around 5 I pulled myself together long enough to get something on the table for dinner before crashing on the couch again.

It’s not a pretty picture. Don’t judge.

As I sat there, worn out, unwell, and feeling a little sorry for myself I began to see that I was slipping into old habits. Something had to give or I was going to find myself back in the doctor’s office looking for a way out of depression. I came to the conclusion that as much as I love Intentional Jane it needed to go to reduce some of the stress in my life. So right there on my couch I began to compose my farewell post.

Here I am just a few days later not writing my last post. This weekend I re-learned a little about what to do when you’re ready to throw in the towel.

Give Up

  • Get away. When you’re ready to give up it’s a sure sign you need a break. Take. One. I ran to my best friend’s house for the weekend. If you can’t get away for the weekend take half a day. If you can’t afford half a day take an hour.  Stop what you’re doing, stop thinking it through, stressing over it and just get away. Do whatever it is you do to clear your head. Have some down time. Get away.
  • Find a cheerleader. When I told my friend I was going to quit writing she said, “You can’t quit” and then proceeded to help me think it through. She saw potential in me I didn’t believe I had and helped me realize I was overcomplicating the issue. Find a friend who believes in you. Trust them with your doubts. Let them speak truth and encouragement over you. Let them help you remember how much you love what you do.
  • Have some fun. We laughed a lot this weekend, pampered ourselves a bit and generally had a great time just being together. I was reminded how important it is to let loose, relax and watch too many episodes of LOST with your best friend. Go ahead, have some fun. It’s okay.
  • Rest. Our culture glorifies a busy, hyper-scheduled, work-til-you-drop mentality. We worship productivity and scoff at those who dare not to achieve the highest standard. We weren’t built to run hard without rest. I’ve said this before and it seems I can’t say it enough. Rest. I need to rest. You need to rest. As in go to bed and sleep, rest. Without sleep your body cannot stay well. Go rest.
  • Monitor your life online. I was away from Facebook, Pinterest, and the news most of the weekend. When I checked my Pinterest feed this morning I could feel my stress level rise. I shut it down and didn’t check Facebook until late in the day. If I’m not careful my on-line life will run my real life and leave me believing I don’t measure up and never will. I’m no longer willing to let it have that much control over me. Be honest with yourself about how your life on the screen impacts what’s happening in reality and take steps to protect what’s real.
  • Don’t decide to give up on your worst day. If you’re going to quit, do it on a good day in your best frame of mind. You’ll have less to regret later.
  • Get back to it. When you’re rested, played out and Monday comes back around pick up your baton and run your race. We need you to do what you love. Go do it.

Today was better. Life isn’t perfect. It never will be but I’m refreshed, ready to face the week and still doing what I love.

My challenge to you this week: Take a break. Find some time to breathe and rejuvenate. You’ll be better for it.

What do you do when you need to take a break? What do you find to be most refreshing?

How to Be A Better Listener (and Friend)

There we were, enjoying our coffee and conversation when my friend began to share with me an incredible story about her daughter. I don’t know what came over me but for some reason I chimed in with, “My daughter doesn’t do that, exactly, but she just amazes me with how mature she can be.”

Friendship fail. I violated one of the cardinal rules of good listening:

“Let the conversation be about the other person.”

Sharing your story doesn’t communicate how well you listen. It makes the conversation about you. It. Is. Selfish.
better listener

To be a better listener it helps to understand the three levels of listening.

(Dear Self: You should take notes. Go get some paper. I’ll wait.)

Level 1: Internal Listening  - Internal listening is listening to your own dialogue. This is the voice in your head wondering if you have spinach in your teeth, forgot to turn off the oven, or if anyone will notice the two different socks you’re wearing today. When we listen internally we make the conversation about us. This is the voice that says, “Hey, I have a similar story to share. She’s going to think I really get her.” (Ugh.)

When is internal listening appropriate?
Any time you’re the topic of the conversation it’s appropriate to listen internally. When you’re picking out an outfit, remodeling the kitchen, in a therapy session, or speaking in public (hopefully not all at the same time) by all means listen to yourself. If you’re the subject feel free to choose your words carefully, decide how to convey your message and make yourself the center of attention. It’s okay… go for it.

If you want others to feel heard you’ll have to listen at a deeper level.

Level 2: Focused Listening - Every conversation has internal as well as external noise. Focused listening seeks to cut through the noise and places the focus on the person at the center of the conversation. Focused listeners tune-in to word choice, intonation, and body language. Then they follow up with with clarifying questions (not their own story).

90/10/1 – A Rule for Asking Questions:
90% of questions should be open ended. Ask: What? How? Where? Who? When? Which? These keep the conversation going and send the message, “I’m listening. Tell me more.” (Write these on your hand. It might help.)

10% of questions should be closed ended. Ask: Can you? Do you? Will you? Have you? Don’t you? These questions close the conversation. They work well when you need to stop the conversation or redirect it elsewhere.

Ask, “Why?” only 1% of the time. When a listener asks why it can sound like a judgment. Refrain from using why if you can help it. “Why did you let your kid stay up until 10?” would be better received as,  “What kept your son up last night?”

Level 3: Global Listening - At level three the listener relies on instinct as well as external factors influencing the conversation to hear what isn’t being said. This skill is often honed over time and/or in close relationships. Someone listening at level three would be able to sense tension, better understand his/her audience simply by the ambiance , or pick up on subtle changes in the conversation that would not be evident at level two.

Most of us listen at level one. We’re accustomed to listening, sharing our story in an attempt to relate, and then waiting for the other person to respond. This kind of listening always leaves me feeling unheard. Always.

When I jumped all over my friend with a story about my daughter I sent the message, “Hey, so what? We’re special too.” Which was not at all what I wanted to communicate. If I had it to do again I would want to say something like, “Wow! That’s incredible. She is such a delight. What is this like for you as her mom?” (If you’re reading today Friend, forgive me. Please.)

Knowing the levels of listening is step one. Step two is practice. It takes time to unlearn bad habits. (Trust me, I know.) say muchTo give level two listening a try:

Focus on the other person. Get interested. Ask questions. Resist the urge to share your story.

You don’t have to say much for others to feel heard.

When was the last time someone really listened to you? How did you feel after the conversation?

(Was this post helpful for you? Feel free to share it. Sharing is the highest compliment.)

For more on this topic check out the book Co-Active Coaching.

When Motherhood Isn’t Your Calling

“Motherhood is the highest calling.”

“It’s such a privilege to raise these children. I just can’t imagine doing anything else.”

“When work is over I can’t get home fast enough. I just can’t wait to see my kids.”

A few short years into motherhood comments like these left me feeling broken.

Motherhood wasn’t like that for me. Wasn’t I supposed to find motherhood completely fulfilling? Wasn’t I supposed to want a few more kids, the mini-van to go with them and find it was exactly what I was made for? No matter how hard I tried (or didn’t try) I couldn’t make being a mom all I needed. Motherhood wasn’t my calling.

WhenMotherhoodIsn't.jpg

Maybe you can relate. Maybe motherhood surprised you by just how hard it can be. Maybe you’ve found that as much as you delight in your children and desperately desire for them to be whole, healthy, happy, responsible, loving and capable individuals you also want something else. Maybe you feel broken.

Friend, I want you to hear me on this; You are not broken. You are not less of a mother because motherhood didn’t strike your heart as the fulfillment of all your dreams. You can passionately love your kids and have a passion for something else. It’s okay.

When my almost 7 year old picks up her art supplies and begins to create she is completely at home. It’s delightful. When my little guy begins to tinker and build with his tools it’s awe-inspiring. As a mom I know the joy it brings me to see my children pursuing what they love. How can I teach them to do what they love, to pursue a calling and passion in life if I’m unwilling to pursue my passion?

If motherhood is your calling can I applaud you for a minute? If you’re delighting in everything about your children and finding yourself fulfilled by the joys, triumphs, sorrows and defeats of being surrounded by wee ones (and not so wee ones), please don’t let me make you feel like your story means less. You have embraced this season and all it has to offer. Thank you for making motherhood into an art form. You are beautiful. We need you to inspire us.

Our kids need us to love what we do. Whether your calling is mothering or something else your kids need to know it’s okay to use their gifts, strengths and talents in a way that gives them purpose and meaning.

You teach them to dream and come alive when you believe it’s possible for you.

It takes courage to seek what makes you fully you. Here are 5 strategies that worked for me. Maybe they’ll work for you too.

 

5 Ways to Pursue

  1. Commit to one activity. Take one class. Sing in one show. Enter one photo contest. Write one post. Run one race. You get the idea. Commit to one thing you enjoy. Remember what it’s like to be fully you.
  2. Read a book that makes your heart sing. Yesterday I devoured a book about helping families define their goals. I actually teared up at the success stories in this book. Go read a book that does the same for you. Do. It.
  3. Find a friend or two (or twenty if you’re an extrovert) to share your art. A few years ago two of my good friends took a photography class together. They wanted to get out of the house and see where photography might take them.  Now, they’re amazing photographers, artists. Sometimes all you need is a friend who shares your passion.
  4. Give it 15 minutes.  If life has left you with no time to pursue what you love, can I encourage you? Find 15 minutes this week to remember what makes you come alive, then find them again as soon as you’re able and again after that. We need you to come alive, even if it’s only for 15 minutes.
  5. Guess. I know how it is to wonder what you love; to feel disconnected from yourself in such a way that you don’t know where to begin. It’s okay to guess. You may not be right on target but you’ll be closer than you were before. Give yourself a chance.

Go pursue your passion! You may just find it makes you a happier mom.

What have you found that makes you come alive? What strategies have you used to pursue what you love? Please share. I love to hear your stories!