Using the “F” Word

Sherri singing

I sang at church two weeks ago, less than twenty-four hours after receiving the news that a second pathology review of my mammogram and biopsy determined that the abnormal mass in my body was not good after all. It needed to be removed. The sweet monotone voice on the other end of the phone told me I needed to see a surgeon for a consultation. That was on Friday. She made the appointment for Monday.

In between those two wonderful days, I was set to sing one of my all-time favorite worship songs at church that weekend, one I’d been dying to sing for months. And all I kept thinking was, Really? This weekend?

Everything in me wanted to cancel. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through the song without bawling like a baby. I wanted it to be awesome. I wanted to sing my little heart out without my voice cracking and causing everybody to squirm in their seats, unable to focus on worship.

But as much as I wanted to, I couldn’t back out. It simply would have been the wrong thing to do. So, I sang my heart out anyway, fighting back tears each service, praying that the audience didn’t notice all of my “off” notes or worn-out vocals. Oh, there were some great vocal moments, but there were some not-so-great ones too.

Which is why it happened. That’s what finally did me in and prompted me to use the word. It was after Saturday night’s service when my husband asked me how it went, that the word came out of me with a surprising confidence and deep-felt conviction I didn’t realize had been growing inside of me over the past few years. I was so depleted, so tired, so worn out, so done trying to do and be all things to all people, in all ways… that I finally had had enough. And gave in. And said the four-letter “f” word:

Fine.

It was glorious.

Instead of describing in detail, like I usually do, which note I hit, missed, where I did great or didn’t do so great, how I felt, what people said, what people didn’t say – I simply said to my wonderful man, It was fine. And smiled a big, fat smile. And ate my dinner.

I’d forgotten what a great word “fine” is. You see, I always strive for awesome. Excellent. Incredible. But that night, that weekend, something snapped. I no longer wanted to care if things were awesome or not. I just wanted to be able to live with “fine” and be really, really good with it.

How freeing! Instead of wallowing in anxiety about upcoming singing and speaking engagements, I have been preparing my best and then letting myself rest, knowing that the outcome will be good enough – no matter what that turns out to be. Yes. Do my best and then rest. It will be just fine.

There is so much freedom in wrapping our efforts in the blanket of God’s grace. And self-grace. I’ve noticed myself daring a bit more, saying “yes” to more engagements, and living a bit more courageously.

How about you? Where could you use a little more “fine”? Maybe you need to be fine with not being able to exercise as much as you want to right now, or fine with some relationship you’ve been waiting to turn into “awesome” someday.

I know for me, I’m going to give myself permission to write a little more often, unrefined, just-because-I-want-to, blogs. I need to practice being fine. I hope you start using the “fine” word a little more often too, allowing yourself to be exactly who you are without any apologies or unnecessary descriptives.

Oh, and just to keep you up to speed, I saw the surgeon and will be having surgery sometime in May to remove this mass. I’ll keep you updated and would appreciate your prayers. I’m counting on everything being fine. :)

Taking Shortcuts

shortcuts2

Lucky me. I’m back in school again. I get to work on research papers, take tests, write sermons, debate with my fellow classmates and entertain my friend Anxiety, instead of spending time on my blog and other fun stuff. Yippee.

It’s been an interesting class. Last week I was given an assignment that every opinionated, self-righteous Christian would love to do, yours truly included. It was something many Christ followers indulge in after church (although they shouldn’t) – except I got to do it legitimately and not feel guilty afterward.

The assignment? To critique a sermon and then write a five-page review based on what I’d been learning in my textbooks. Sounds easy, right? And fun! I mean, how many times have you wanted to send a note or two to your pastor on how he could improve the weekend services to meet your particular needs? I know I’m guilty of that.

But, back to the paper. It had to be detailed. Thorough. I had to measure his preaching against thirty-seven criteria and expound on each point, in detail, against what my texts had to say, supporting each finding with appropriate scholarly backup and long, fancy words.

Usually, when I write research papers, I begin with a thesis statement and work up a skeletal outline. Then, I begin to fill in the outline until I have a ton of material at my disposal, which makes writing the paper much easier. It simply flows out of the outline.

But this time was different. I was impatient. I wanted to play. And write other things. And eat. I was antsy and didn’t want to bother working on the outline first. After all, it wasn’t really a research paper and it only had to be five pages long.

So I tried to skip it altogether and got down to writing the paper. It didn’t work. I tried a skeletal outline and then tried writing the paper. That didn’t work either. Instead of the text flowing like it normally does, I kept struggling in vain to make that stupid paper come out of me and settle its sweet little self right into my Word document. But the darn thing wouldn’t come. The more I tried, the more frustrated I got until finally, I decided to raise my white flag and surrender to the glorious process of outlining that had never failed me in the past. It won.

As I began conceding, it hit me. I wanted so bad to skip certain parts. The research. The note taking. The outlining. I just wanted to get to the writing without having to deal with all of the other stuff so that I could get to the end result more quickly. And it struck me…

Isn’t that just like us? Wanting the product without the process?

  • We want to be sober but we don’t want to work a program.
  • We want to lose weight but we don’t want to exercise. Or stop eating animal fries with light spread.
  • We want to be strong in our faith but don’t want to put in the time.
  • We want to get out of debt but don’t want to walk through making a budget.
  • We want to be a better person but we don’t want to have to work on ourselves.
  • We want to be an author, a superstar, a great speaker, but we don’t want to do the homework. We want to skip the outline.

The outline is grunt work. Hidden work. Menial work. Nobody sees it and we often feel as if we’re wasting our time when we could be jumping ahead, cutting unnecessary corners that only stand in our way.

But the fact is, I never write a great paper when I try to skip steps and take shortcuts. The end result is mediocre at best. All of the work I do beforehand is an important process that gets me to the finished product.

So for me practically, this means staying the course with my writing. It means writing and writing and writing, even when no one is looking and cheering on my hidden work. It means exercising even if my jeans still seem to be shrinking. It means spending time with God, even on those days when He seems farther away than ever. It means writing an outline for each area of my life that needs working on, line by line, until there is enough material to support the end results I desperately desire.

I pray you find your desired results too. Now start outlining.

New Beginnings

Lam 3 22-23

“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”      Lam. 3:22-23

Happy New Beginnings in 2014!

This morning, this New Year’s Day, my heart is full. I couldn’t wait to sit with God this morning and thank Him for every possible thing I could think of that He did for me in 2013. We sat together for quite a while.

At the same time, my heart is also a bit sad.

Although today represents new beginnings for many of us, the flip-side is that thousands of people will make resolutions they won’t keep – like losing weight, stopping smoking, spending more time with God, having more fun in life, making more time for family… the list goes on. They’ll start off with the best of intentions. They’ll even do well for a week or two. Maybe even a month. But then it happens. They blow it.

How sad.

But not for the reasons you might be thinking.

The sad part is not that people won’t keep their resolutions. (Heck, I don’t even make resolutions anymore because I usually blow them within the first few days.) No, the unfortunate part is that they’ll forget they can start over again. Tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow. And the next.

So, instead of wiping the dirt off and trying again, they’ll succumb to their failures. They’ll think things like… I blew it again… I’ll never be able to get this… Forget it… Maybe next year…  

And that’s why I believe most of our resolutions never succeed. We stop trying. We forget that the road to success is paved with failures. If we would only place each failure in front of us and use it as a stepping stone, using each one as an instrument to propel us forward, instead of piling them up in front of us, only to impede our progress.

Maybe success is not about an end result. Maybe it’s about a way of living.

I am so glad God’s mercies and faithfulness are new every morning. I need a new batch every day! Did you know they’re available for you, too? Every single day.

So, here’s my challenge. Use His mercies. Use His faithfulness. The verse quoted at the beginning of this blog goes on to say…

I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  Lam. 3:24

Wait on Him. Make Him your everything. Then, give Him your failures, and let Him turn them into successes. Make that resolution, fail, and then try again. And again. And again… until, before you know it, you are well on the road to success!

How Grinch Stole My Christmas – Almost

Christmas bulb

May I get something off my chest? I’ve been a little grouchy this Christmas season. A little “Grinch-like.” Want to hear my excuses? Here you go…

•  The holidays started off with me backing out of my garage into someone else’s car who was parked right behind me. I have a heavy car. Lots of repairs. Yippee.
•  I screwed up the lyrics to a song I recently sang and my vocals were less than perfect. Self-condemnation made sure I knew I had let my friend down who had put this event together, (even though Self-condemnation had never given her the memo).
•  In my hurriedness, I didn’t think through some of the planning for our Christmas dinner of 35 people at our house. It’s going to be a tad snug this year. Good thing we all like each other.
•  I went to make myself a cup of coffee one morning to lift my spirits. And forgot to put the cup under the Keurig. Nice.
•  The kicker? I almost did it again. Right after the first time.
•  I’ve had very bad hormone “issues” this month. My poor husband. Enough said.

As I laid in bed this morning, confessing my bad attitude to God, I was gently reminded of some things a few other people I know are dealing with this Christmas season…

•  Like my sweet friend who has cancer.
•  And my friend who’s been alone, looking for a soul-mate to share Christmases with for years.
•  And my other friend who is still desperately looking for a job.
•  And another one who will spend this first Christmas without her mom.

How sobering.

That I have a car to back into someone is amazing. That God has gifted me with a voice to sing His praises – even more amazing. And my large, wonderful family? I get to call “mine.”

Not to mention, I am the daughter of the most amazing God – the one and only true God – who humbled himself into human form, over 2,000 years ago, so that I could drink that cup of coffee, warmed by His grace.

It’s time to introduce my Grinch-like attitude to the real meaning of Christmas.

And so, this year my prayer is that, more than anything else, I come to understand Christmas at a different level. A deeper one. One that is not defined by long lines, bad drivers, lack of parking spaces, forgetting gifts, bad attitudes or spilled coffee. Rather, one that is defined by the most important gift anyone could ever have – the Good News of a Good Savior. Enough said.

I pray that you get that too. And may we all, no matter what our circumstances, have a very merry Christmas!

Sherri