Category Archives: Expectations

‘Tis So Sweet: Life, Rest, Joy, and Peace

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Yes, ’tis sweet to trust in Jesus
Just from sin and self to cease;
Just from Jesus simply taking
Life and rest and joy and peace.
-Tis So Sweet to Trust In Jesus,  Louisa M. R. Stead

“Just from Jesus simply taking life and rest and joy and peace.” I am feeling this line today, because today in particular I feel exhausted and inadequate, lifeless and anxious. I know that some of it is just “feelings” and that some of it is because I skipped my morning prayer time this morning (because ironically, I was tired and did not want to get up at 3:30 a.m.). But I know it is important that I continue to trust, even when my emotions don’t want me to.

Most recently, I realized that if anything came out of my girl giving me the word from God regarding This Man, it was anxiety. After the prayer night, I felt anxious about everything…about every interaction…about everything in my past…about how a relationship with This Man could possibly work because of our differences. In fact, my reaction when I saw the picture he posted in the situation she had prophesied about was proof in the pudding–whereas most people would be happy and excited, I cried, hyperventilated, and almost threw up in my friend’s laundry room. I guess you could say I was having a hard time ceasing from self.

But through the last three months, God has slowly but surely revealed Himself to me through His Word and this situation. And revelation from His Word is incredibly important to me, because it has so acutely defined exactly what I have needed to hear from him.

I think about how different I am from This Man. We are similar in some ways, but in one way, we are completely different and all I can think about is what other people might say or think. I think about how crazy this whole situation will seem to people, especially people who don’t know Jesus like I do. Yet God reminds me that He “…chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise…so that no one may boast.” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) And that gives me LIFE.

I think about the fact that I know and This Man doesn’t. And I feel like somewhat of a fraud when I am around him, and I lose sleep over the situation and whether I know that I know that I know (Arthur Burk) or whether this is just going to be another letdown in my life. And God gently whispers, “My presence will go with you.” (Exodus 33:14) And that gives me REST.

I think about the men I have loved who have hurt me so deeply. Like Leah with Jacob, I have hoped so much that what I would give to them would cause them to love me. But just as Leah finally realized that her desire was misdirected, so I too, concluded that no matter whether this works out the way *I* think it should, no matter what the outcome whatsoever, in the end, “This time, I will praise the Lord.” (Genesis 29:35) And that gives me JOY.

I think about how my past has inadvertently formed such a desert in my heart. I think about how that might happen again in this situation, and God astutely reminds me: “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:19) And that gives me PEACE.

But in order to have all of these things, I have to constantly remind myself to TRUST. Trust in Jesus. Trust His process. Trust His love for me. Trust His Word. It is only when I let go of my thoughts, my dreams, my SELF that I can receive what He has to offer: life, rest, joy, and peace.

I surrender.

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My First Love

Success. Everyone wants to tell you how to get it. In the business world, companies that made it big want to tell you how to succeed—even if they are Christian. Recently, I have been struggling with the idea of success. A few months ago, I was doing all the things that everyone told me to do to be successful: I was doing my social media posts, I was writing blog posts, I was talking to people about my business, I was scheduling events. I had a business plan for 2015, a brand new calendar to write my new business stuff in, and a head full of steam. I was “hustling,” as a friend of mine and I started saying about ourselves.

love sky by winnond

image courtesy of winnond / freedigitalphotos.net

 

I planned a brief vacation with my mom, with full intent of “getting back to hustling” when I returned. I couldn’t work on vacation—I was in another country and wanted to be present with my mother. So I put away my cell phone, my blogging, and all the nice new habits I had acquired. When I returned, I picked up my cell phone…and some weird virus that left me mostly incapacitated for the month of November. Then my father died in early December, and I spent the rest of that month mourning and recuperating. I realized that I was exhausted. I had been doing a lot. But save for one week in November, I had forgotten how to BE.

The seven letters to the churches in Revelation are one of many lists of seven in the Bible that correspond to the seven spiritual gifts in Romans 6. As a prophet spiritual gift, the first of the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2:1-6 has always beckoned to me. I was recalling this over the holidays, thinking about where I am and what it means. Here’s what it says:

I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. (Revelation 2:2-5)

More than ever, this passage spoke to me. Of course God knows my deeds and my toil and my perseverance—that I have endured for His name’s sake and have not grown weary. But soon after my father’s death, I realized I had left my first love. Was I spending time in prayer? Sure. But I was spending more time “doing” God’s work than I was “being” with Him. For the same reason that I put away my cell phone while I was on vacation to be with my mom, God wanted me to put away these deeds and get back to my first love—being with Him.

So what does that mean? Does that mean PPG Ministries is no more? Of course not! But it means that I have to give up some of the “comforts” in my business for now, like posting on social media. I’m trading those things in for quality time at the feet of my Master. I want PPG Ministries to be filled with God, not with me. My business really belongs to God, anyway—so I know I can trust Him with it. And I’m finding that this is its own purity challenge—the challenge to bring holiness into all areas of my life, not just my sexuality.

Maybe you’re out there, having forgotten your first love, and you need to hit the reset button. Maybe God is asking you to give something back to Him so that He can refine and purify it and you, and make you both better than you ever knew. My challenge to you today is this: will you let Him? Will you trust God enough to give back to Him what is already His? If so, join me on this journey of purification. I don’t know where it’s going to lead, but I do know that God’s plans for us are for good and not evil, to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And as further proof of that, here’s how that passage in Revelation ends:

To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)

So are you ready for this year? Or more importantly, are you ready for this God? Ready or not, here He comes. 🙂

Emotionally Healthy Habits: Failure

health pyramid by Stuart Miles

image courtesy of Stuart Miles / freedigitalphotos.net

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on my past, particularly with my career and my relationships. I was a youth pastor for about 10 years, but not a “successful” one by any means (if you are looking at numbers, particularly). I have been a worship leader at my church, but never a “successful” one by standards that I would use to measure success. I had one long-term boyfriend, but have only dated inconsistently in the past 10 years. Even at my job with the school system, I have never quite gotten up to the level that others think I should. I often look back at my life and see that it is riddled with failure in these two areas. And of course, my two biggest concerns are whether my business will succeed and whether I’ll ever get married. I’ve experienced enough defeat in these areas to last a lifetime.

Failure comes in many forms: rejection, watching others succeed in areas where you didn’t, trying new ideas that don’t work, outright defeat. But even with its different looks, failure can be an emotionally healthy habit, if we can remember these three things about failure in our lives:

  • Failure is inevitable. Everyone fails at something, because failure is a part of life. You don’t get every job that you apply for, you don’t date every person that you want to date, and you don’t get picked for every team you want to be on! From the beginning, we are destined to experience failure and suffering. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” This means that I should expect failure, honestly. He didn’t say that we might, He didn’t say only some would—He said that we all would experience tribulation, and that includes failure. God knew that I would experience a lot of career failure, and He knew that I would experience failure in my relationships. And once we accept that failure is a normal, natural experience, we can move forward.
  • Failure does not define you. Failure is not who you are, it is what happens to you. I have failed at many endeavors, but that does not make me a failure. I have received many words of encouragement from former youth, people who felt God’s Spirit in worship experiences, and friends who felt loved by me. I know that the Lord used me in many of these instances to bless others, even if the overall impact was less than I or others expected. In addition, I realize that my identity is not tied up in the things that I do—which means that failure does not determine my identity! My identity is instead wrapped up in the person of Jesus and everything that He says that I am—and Galatians 3:26 says I am a child of God—through faith, not success!
  • Failure is a great teacher. Romans 5:3-5 says, “We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” When we fail and suffer, we learn a great deal about endurance, character, and hope. We develop wisdom through failure that we cannot learn through success. (I guess this means I should be really wise!) In addition, God uses those failures to encourage us and others. What have I learned from my failures? That I am a great administrator; that I work better with adults; that I should not compromise what I’m looking for in a mate. As such, my failures have contributed to me knowing my passions and purpose just as much as my successes have.

Some of the greatest successes have come because of great failure, and in order to be greatly successful in God’s Kingdom, we must understand that failure is unavoidable! But once we accept that and reject the idea that failure defines us, we can learn from our failures and thus grow in our emotionally healthy habits!

DISC: Is This Really Me?

DISC-logo-2014

image courtesy of Christian Coach Institute

I have a new coworker at my “day” job, and since we have finally gotten settled into our office after a month offsite, I decided to take her on a tour of our facility. While she is not new to the organization, she is new to the building—the only building I’ve actually worked at during my tenure at the company. We left the office for our “brief” jaunt but ended up taking a little longer than usual as we walked throughout the entire building. When we returned, the intern asked candidly, “What took you guys so long?!” I was about to say, “It’s a large, confusing building”—which it is. But before I could say anything, my coworker replied, “Michelle knows everyone, and everyone loves her, so she had to stop and catch up with everyone!” That was an interesting observation about me, a task-oriented high D!

Luckily, the DISC profile covers those discrepancies in our personalities, giving users two graphs to consider. The first is the “This is expected of me!” graph, which addresses who you think other people want you to be—how you act out others’ expectations of you. The second is the “This is me!” graph—who you really are when you are with close friends and family. My coworker’s observation of me was simply her seeing my “This is expected of me!” graph (high I) on full display—the people-oriented salesperson who loves and inspires everyone. However, when she made that comment, I had to ask myself…is that really me?

Here’s a couple of things to remember about that tension between who you believe others expect you to be, and who you really are:

What you think others expect of you can change. I’m going to be honest: I’ve found that when I’m working at something that I don’t care about, my “This is expected of me!” graph tends to change with the situation. I can be super steady, candidly cautious, a demanding director, or an inspiring people person! For example, I currently work with a high C, a high I, and a high S—so I am comfortable being the high D in my office. But for the previous three years, I worked with two high Ds, a high C, and a high S—so I needed to be the high I to balance the office environment. This high I personality was the person that everyone in the building knew—and the one everyone liked. It was my job, but I wasn’t passionate about it, so I simply adapted to my circumstances. I equate this to the apostle Paul, who noted that he became “all things to all people” so that he could preach the gospel more effectively (1 Corinthians 9:22). However, it was way more exhausting for me to constantly be someone other than my true self.

Who you really are is what’s important. Ultimately, you want to have both graphs match or at least be similar, because you don’t want to spend your life being two people—one that others expect, and one that you actually are. But how do you merge the two? I’ve found that one of the ways that I can help my graphs to become more similar is to do something that I love. When you are doing what you are passionate about, it is much easier to be yourself without caring what others expect or think of you. The second way is to mature, both emotionally and physically. Physically, the older we get, the less we care what others expect of us (yay for that!). But emotionally, as we concern ourselves more with finding our true passions and purposes, the better we become at letting go of “This is expected of me!” and embracing “This is me!” The Bible warns us that caving to others’ expectations is a snare (Proverbs 29:25); instead, we should accept who God has made us to be and live confidently as His children.

The pull between expectations and reality are a daily battle for each of us. However, you can begin to win those battles for reality simply by being yourself. Learn more about who you are, what you love, and what God has called you to do so that you can confidently declare in every situation, “This is me!”

What is your “This is me!” personality? Let me help you identify it through personal coaching!

DISC: Cautious, Not Caustic

DISC-logo-2014

image courtesy of Christian Coach Institute

My current boss (not to be confused with my supervisor) is a classic high C. He is consumed only by the task to be performed, the job to be accomplished, and the excellence involved in getting there. He is a very detailed and focused—almost to a fault, because he always demands perfection while rarely engaging personally with others. In fact, it’s even difficult for him to express his appreciation to those who work for him. A few weeks ago, he came into my office and fidgeted uncomfortably in front of my desk for several seconds before launching awkwardly into a monologue on how grateful he was for my diligence and commitment to the office over the last few weeks during our administrative transition. I could see him struggling with how to put his feelings into words, so I interrupted and told him I appreciated his acknowledgement. He then gave me the highest form of a C compliment: he released me early from my duties.

The high C is competent and task oriented, motivated by quality in every area. While they are cautious about everything, they have to be careful when dealing with others, who may see them as caustic and unfeeling. Here are three things to remember about the high C’s in your life:

  • High C’s are known for their clear, rational thinking…which means they are able to separate their emotions and make accurate, logical decisions. Their need for excellence, when paired with this logic, is ideal in many situations, especially the field of medicine. Everyone wants a surgeon who is a logical perfectionist! My boss is cautious and calculating about everything—he weighs every option and circumstance before making a decision. Sometimes, his indecisiveness delays progress, even though his final verdict is usually correct. This week, my boss wanted to delay finishing a large project for one document that was under review. After four days of indecision, he finally decided to finish it and replace the document at a later time—something the rest of the team had already decided three days earlier! He eventually came to the same logical conclusion, even though it was much later.
  • …but many also think they lack warmth and don’t care for others’ feelings. C’s are so task-focused and concerned with results that they don’t always remember that people are people. If you’re unaware that my boss is a high C, your first impression of him while working for him is just that he is unfeeling and cares nothing about the personal lives of people. In fact, as I noted in an earlier blog, this is exactly what caused a bad transition out for our former secretary. While our high C boss was considering long-term decisions and thinking logically about the transition, the former secretary wanted personal affection, attention, and inclusion in the future plans. Her misaligned expectations caused her to misunderstand our boss’s actions and intentions and caused her to be extremely hurt. My boss, on the other hand, did not understand her reaction to him at all—because he had not acted no differently than normal.
  • In conflict, C’s can be harsh and unforgiving. Because they think so rationally, C’s in conflict are concerned with the facts and will use them against you. They seem unconcerned with the feelings of others and only think about who is right (which they usually are). They can be extremely critical and fault-finding. My boss is most concerned about seeing things his way when there’s an issue in the office. When he is upset about something, he becomes focused only on his thoughts about things becoming agitated when he cannot clearly communicate his desires. In a conflict-riddled discussion with my former coworker, he could not understand why she was upset with him—he could only see that he had not done anything wrong.

They may often be caught up in their own heads, but C’s are a great asset to every team. Their ability to think clearly and reasonably make them great friends to help solve problems and think through difficult decisions. Just remember, as with all the DISC types, to have reasonable expectations for them, especially in the area of emotions!

The Porn Identity: Great Expectations

I spent the entire day today crying. I even woke my roommate up this morning with my loud sobs. Most people think I am simply reacting to the death of a friend, the state of my uncle’s recovery from his stroke, the impending death of my father. And while these things are weighing heavily on me, none of them have been the reason for my sorrow. Nope: I’m upset because I didn’t hear from someone on my birthday yesterday. I have spent hours in tears today because someone did not text me, call me, or leave me a Facebook or Twitter shout out on the “holy grail” of days in my life. And because of this, I feel used, taken advantage of, and unloved. Suffice to say that as I was contemplating my blog topic in this new series, God very clearly told me to blog about expectations.

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image courtesy of digitalart / freedigitalphotos.net

Pornography creates its own identity in its addicts. Our brains begin to think differently: we see pornography, internalize it, and begin to LIVE it. Consequently, there’s a number of things I’m still undoing in my life due to my former addiction to pornography. One of those things is learning to temper my expectations. Here are a few things the porn identity has led me to expect:

  • Porn told me to expect perfection from others. Whether it was physical appearance or the perfect sex life, porn told me that everyone and everything was perfect. Therefore, when I encountered real people—messy people, sinful people—I was appalled. I still struggle when people disappoint me or hurt me, because I never saw that happening in pornography. I believed that fake perfection could be realistic, so I expected it. But God says that all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). He says that no one is righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). That means that people ARE going to disappoint me and hurt me. And I am going to sin and hurt others. And I have to learn to accept that and deal with it—not end relationships when people aren’t perfect (as I was prone to do).
  • Porn told me to expect life to revolve around me. Porn is all about my pleasure, very me-centered in its content and with those who use it—everyone always gets what they want. I became quite a brat in believing that, and my pity party for myself today goes without saying: sometimes, I still have that expectation for others. But God says life revolves around HIM—because He is life (John 14:6). When I am making life about me, how can I also be living life for God? The truth is, I can’t. In this me-centered culture, we are told to take offense at everything, to look out for #1, and to give only when we can get the same in return. But that’s not Biblical, and that’s not how God calls me to live. And when I put my trust in Him instead of the world around me, I can let go of the expectation that life is all about me.
  • Porn told me to expect the good, but not the bad. Porn is all about happiness, fulfillment, and sex. Nothing bad that happens in pornography—no one dies of cancer, people aren’t hurt by each other, and no one’s father abandons them. People likely wouldn’t watch porn if it was such a killjoy! That’s not real life, though. God says that we are going to have trials and we are going to suffer in this life (James 1:2-3). I’m in a season of trials and suffering now, and I feel like giving up. The birthday non-texter was just another thing on a long list of hurts. But God says I am to count this all as joy, because it’s going to produce perseverance in me. God says He’s going to use all of this for good (Romans 8:28). And God says I can trust Him (Psalm 112:7).

While it’s tempting to continue believing what porn said to me many years ago, I know that what God says is far more important—and what God says is true! As I consider that, I must remember to temper my expectations for myself and others while increasing my expectations for my Creator and King–He’s the only one who can meet and exceed them!

Enforcing Boundaries

DO NOT CROSS by artur84

image courtesty of artur84 / freedigitalphotos.net

Jennie’s mom calls her seven or eight times a day. One time while dining with Jennie’s mom, she made a point to call Jennie just to say, “We just finished dinner, and now we’re going to eat dessert. It went well and they liked my shrimp.” Because Jennie is one of my dearest friends, I knew she was frustrated. (Even I was annoyed by it!) Jennie often vents about how her mother’s life revolves around her and her family and how she wishes her mother had a life outside of her. I listen, knowing what the problem is: Jennie has not set clear, firm boundaries with her mother.

Boundaries are limitations that we place in our lives to help us meet our own needs, maximize our strengths, and minimize our weaknesses. Boundaries can help protect us emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally by regulating any circumstances that would not support our personal growth. For example, Jennie’s mother has not grown emotionally or mentally because Jennie has allowed her mother to depend on her too much. In addition, Jennie has not grown emotionally, either, because she is too afraid of hurting her mother’s feelings by being firm.

Boundaries are a healthy human behavior trait, and the following are some things you can do to have them, set them, and enforce them:

  1. To have boundaries, you must be self-aware. You cannot set limits for yourself if you are unaware of your personal needs, likes, and desires. Before I was self-aware, I would lash out at everyone when I didn’t receive enough “Michelle time”—much to the chagrin of my family and friends. Once I realized that I needed time alone to recharge, I began to plan it into my schedule on vacations, short weekend trips, and busy weeks. This helped me to maximize my strengths and minimize my weaknesses by meeting my need for silence, relaxation, and reflection. Ask yourself the difficult questions: What do I need? What do I like? When ____ happens, how do I feel?
  2. To set boundaries, you must communicate them. Once I figured myself out, I could not expect that my friends and family suddenly just “knew” that I needed alone time—I had to tell them, and I often have to remind them! Please do not expect people to read your mind. Communicate clearly and communicate often—there is no need to defend or debate, but you must say it. Most importantly, communicate your boundaries to others with grace and kindness. You don’t need to explain yourself, justify your boundaries, or defend your choices: but you DO need to communicate them to others.
  3. To enforce boundaries, you must be firm—but flexible. A lot of people have no boundaries or soft boundaries because they do not know how to firmly but lovingly enforce them. Being firm with boundaries takes discipline and practice! You may have to repeat yourself a number of times and have consequences for when your boundaries are violated constantly. However, being firm does not mean being rigid with your boundaries. If your bedtime is set firmly at 11:00 p.m. on weekdays, but a once-in-a-lifetime event is taking place that will run until midnight, you can give yourself permission to say yes! Remain flexible but firm.

You have a right to care for yourself, and you have a right to be healthy! Boundaries are a great path to self-respect and emotional intelligence and health.

What are some boundaries that you have set in your life?