Archives

Mistakes

I have a tendency to be a klutz. I do weird things but not on purpose. They just happen. Words come out wrong. I might get confused and do something silly or stupid. Sometimes I am unaware of this.

Apparently this is quite funny to most people.

Sometimes I can laugh too.

But one part of depression involves mood and the other part involves thoughts. 

And sometimes the thoughts can beat me up pretty bad. I’m never quite sure what mistake is going to come to haunt me and my brain will ruminate on it. Yeah, obsessive thoughts can be part of depression as much as anxiety and physical pain. Lovely illness isn’t it?

And there can be a nice way to make fun of something . . . and then there can be a way to subtly humiliate and demean while making the joke. The first I handle pretty well. The second is adding salt to the wound.

Sure, even a paper cut can be brutal when you add that to it. Or maybe some lemon juice. Yeah. Ouch.

So maybe a mistake is small but the pain cuts deep.

And then there are the grace-givers. Those who can laugh at my mistake but say “You know, once I did this . . .” and make me feel normal again. Like I’m not the only human being on earth who does clumsy things. Or friends who are willing to speak truth and say, “Hey, Susan, that was pretty minor, but you sure are beating yourself up over that.”

So I’m grateful to the grace-givers. I’m thankful for those who know how to laugh with me instead of at me and at the same time let me know that as a fellow wanderer on this planet, I’m okay. Not perfect, but good enough because of who God made me to be.

Sometimes I wonder if God allows these instances to keep me humble. I don’t think he accepts the disrespect of some, but he keeps track so I really don’t have to. Still, it can hurt when little things become opportunities even a week later to rip a scab open for the purpose of making themselves feel better.

I’ve been a victim of verbal abuse in my past and now strive so hard to be the opposite. To be an encourager. But as my pastor told me, enouragers are sometimes those that are in desperate need of the most encouragement themselves. But in reality, like many other spiritual gifts (giving, mercy, faith, helps . . .) there is a level to which we are commanded to live out these characteristics in our faith. Gift or not.

But not everyone else is there yet and I suppose that’s where I need to be the grace-giver to those who pour salt on my failures. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to do it so I avoid them. Sometimes letting my wounds heal is better than letting someone else pick at them for their own entertainment.

So if you are a grace-giver.  Thank you. Your words give life and healing that I for one, am grateful for.

Advertisements

What Would Success Look like for You?

I had a chance to chat with my brother, John Pollard, this past weekend and he asked me an insightful question in regards to my book, Pesto and Potholes, coming out next spring:

What would success look like for you? 

Wow. Of course I would love it if my book sold well and I even made something to compensate me for my efforts to write it. Let’s face it, New York Times Bestselling Author is a nice moniker to claim but for inspirational romance and a debut novel, probably not likely. I can market and do book signings but ultimately, there is a lot of that which is out of my control. I can make people aware of my work, but I can’t force them to fork over their hard-earned cash to purchase a copy.

But I hope you will anyway. 

I told John (my younger and much wiser brother by the way) that ultimately my version of success would be hard to measure. This is totally opposed to any leadership training I’ve had or taught. Objectives are to be measurable!

How do you measure success without it?

The fact is, you can’t.

So what would success look like? Success to me would be people putting down my book and not just been entertained by a story, but encouraged in their walk with God. That they would be affirmed in their pursuit of obedience to Him. That maybe they would draw closer to our Lord because of the example of the characters in the story.

Renate - God loves you

Emotional impact.

Spiritual affirmation and encouragement.

Heart change. 

I can’t measure these things.

But God can. So while I have to rely on book sales and the reviews of readers to clue me into whether my efforts have paid off, God can track the truth with those who don’t write a review, or borrow the book from a friend. Because the reality is, in this life, we rarely are aware of the ripple effect of our words and actions.

And maybe that’s a good thing. It will make heaven all the sweeter when we learn how God used our pain, suffering and art to touch the hearts of others.

It’s months away . . . there’s Thanksgiving to get through. Christmas and a new year . . . so stay tuned here and at my fan page as I navigate this journey. And thanks. Thank you for reading, for praying, and encouraging this fellow traveler in this rocky road we call life.

 

 

 

Whatever Happened to Compassion?

I’m fed up. I pray that I never know enough to be a jerk about it. I want to be fully cognizant that the more I learn the less I know about myself, the people around me and the world I live in.

Why would this be my beef right now?

Because some people blamed Robin William’s death on his wife. Some tortured his grieving daughter on twitter. A church wants to boycott his funeral but a comedian has offered to pay for them to go protest ISIS instead.

As I do have a snarky side I’ll refrain from commenting further on that one. 

Because some people rejoice at the challenges facing pastor Mark Driscoll.

Because some people are more concerned with dumping ice than reaching out to someone with ALS personally.

Because some people are more concerned with the size of someone’s waist than with the state of their heart.

Because when I was on vacation and met a homeless man, some preferred to ignore him rather than expressing compassion for his plight.

What’s the point in learning if we lose our heart? What’s the point in memorizing Scripture and being able to defend our faith in Jesus Christ if we never live out our faith? Yes, Scripture is clear. Learn sound doctrine. Defend the faith. But even more than that we are to let our actions speak louder than our words. We are to bear fruit.

fruit checker

To listen to another’s hurts and encourage them.

To treat people with respect–from your wife to the homeless man on the street to the pastor you only know through social media. Or has that our standard of truth nowadays?

I have strong opinions on many things – but if expressing them as an expert would throw up a roadblock to Christ, I try to refrain.

After all, God can be glorified in the life of someone who is:

  • Democrat or Republican.
  • A Packer or Bears fan or yes, even a Vikings fan
  • Sends their kids to public school, private school or home-schools
  • Vaccinate or choose not to
  • Seeks traditional medicine for cancer or seeks alternative options.
  • Whether you worship singing hymns or contemporary music

I’ve often said I am a champion navel-gazer. (for those who are confused, I’m talking about my belly button). Part of that though is my personality which enables me to write and serve in ministry like I do. It’s part of God’s unique design that I am introspective. But I hope I am never so self-absorbed to ignore the pain of another.

I probably swing too far the other way.

But the reality is, none of us can save anyone from the pain and challenges of life. We might speak words of love and encouragement. We might give money or food or meet other needs. But ultimately the deepest struggles we all face are at our core, spiritual. And knowledge can only go so far to heal those hurts.

We all need compassion. Understanding. Love.

We do not need condemnation, harsh words, hatred spewing out.

And part of me fears that I’ll come off as judgemental in even writing this post. After all, don’t the narcissists and self-righteous “know-it-alls” among us deserve compassion too? Sure, but not for those behaviors. Pity maybe.

Lord help us. There are people suffering in this world who desperately need us and not our deep-seated opinions. Give us humble broken hearts for those who hurt. Make us quick to listen and slow to speak. And help us recognize the divine opportunities you put in our path to be “Jesus with skin on” to those we meet. 

Not Good Enough

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not good enough. Is that a common fear or something only I struggle with? I had a negative interaction and at first was thinking, “why can’t this person just get along with me?” I felt disrespected.

Then it hit me. Maybe the issue isn’t him. Maybe it’s me. In spite of thinking I’m respectful, competent and have a right to be heard on an issue, what if instead I’m coming across as arrogant and I’ve frustrated and hurt this person instead?

Ouch.

How does one not take failure personally?

Respect is a huge issue for me. 

Once I confronted someone for the lack of respect they were showing me. They had been saying negative things about me behind my back and I caught wind of it. It had happened before so I addressed the issue. Her response? She laughed at me.

Ouch.

Another time I told a person how I had felt I had been disrespected by her. Specific instances that were clear. She looked at me and nodded and said, “Yes, I did all those things. But it’s your fault.”

Ouch.

Let’s get this clear. Both of these instances were verbally/emotionally abusive. The responses these women gave were intended to demean me and strip me of any belief that I deserved respect.

And to be honest, I’ve had way too much of that in my life. And it hurts. And even though I forgive, the pain lingers.

unsafe

In my mind people like this have a stamp on their forehead that says: “Unsafe.” Yeah, really. I can almost see it.

I have had many more conversations though that didn’t end so badly. I disagreed with a leader and I told him why and how I felt about his decision and he listened and apologized for not taking into consideration my feelings. I let it go. He had my full support through however his decision ended up. I have great respect for him years later and in relationship to him, I’m good enough.

Another person I sat down face to face with and said, “You apologized and I forgive you but I want you to understand how your actions affected me.” When I’m working with him I know, that even though I make mistakes, I’m good enough.

So why am I on this today? I think the enemy likes to dredge up those hurts, some that continue daily in my life, and tell me that they are the truth.

I’m fighting to believe it’s a lie. Scripture says I’m good enough to do the work God has called me to do. Will I do it perfectly? No. I’m okay with being human (most of the time). I’m okay with apologizing when I screw up.

I struggle with depression. I’m also an author and sometimes the pain of my characters is my own and writing about that scrapes wounds raw as I explore them more deeply. To not be good enough to be wanted or loved. Isn’t that a deep fear for everyone?

Thankfully God doesn’t look at me like that. I’m good enough because of Jesus. And I’m becoming better as I lean on Him and let Him continue to lead and guide me, even when the outcomes hurt. The pain of art. The pain of life.

I’m good enough and I am blessed that for every “unsafe” person there are many more who are-especially Jesus.

Skipping Stones

At some level we all want to know we are important. The truth is that actions and words can have a ripple effect we don’t know about and that can impact the world for centuries to come. It’s hard to live in that reality that one person is important. That no person is ever unimportant.

Some people are a force to be reckoned with. When you think of people in the public eye, their good (or bad) deeds are seen by many and have a ripple effect. When we hear of their deaths, (rest in peace Andy Griffith), we mourn as if we knew them.

But we didn’t.

me with burlap to cashmere
I got all fangirlish seeing a band I loved from way back. They were gracious enough to let me get my photo taken with them. (Thanks Burlap to Cashmere! You guys RAWK!). The fact is though, they gave me an hour of pleasure in watching them exercise their God-given gifts. Then I go back to my life and they go home. They don’t know me and won’t remember me and while I will always appreciate their music, I don’t really know them beyond what I can read on-line. I don’t know their favorite color or what makes them laugh or what their biggest fears are.

As I reflected on this it hit me that we do this to people whose gifts we appreciate. And while they share the gospel in song, they aren’t saving lives or fighting for our freedoms.

But no one is more important than anyone else. 

I’m nothing special. I suspect I would be missed more for what I do than for who I am when the time comes. Because much like the guys in a band, most of you really don’t know me. And maybe that’s good. I’m pretty open and honest about what I like and don’t so if you follow me here or my fan page on Facebook, you’ll get a pretty good clue. But even then you won’t know the deep hurts that resonate within me day after day. And in reality, you probably don’t care. You have your own hurts to hold. And social media is not the place to always share those darker corners of our souls.

Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In some ways I resemble a skipping stone. Smooth on the outside. Maybe even flat (they skip better I hear). God tosses me out on the lake of humanity and I touch and leave ripples, skip and repeat and eventually, plop. Down I go to sink beneath the surface as if I never appeared. Maybe that skip was a blog post, or a one-on-one for counseling, a class I taught or sending a contract for a book. But then you move on with your life and I move on with mine, sinking under the water.

Blub. Blub. Blub.

And the only way I can resurface is when God reaches down to pull me back out again and cast me where he wants me to go. There for a moment and then gone, hopefully touching lives for the better but always sinking in the end.

Some people are blessed. God has gifted them with another human being, a spouse or a closer-than-a-brother friend to celebrate or commiserate with the skips. Someone who validates that even after the ripples fade, that yes, they had been there and made a wave. I hope that a band like Burlap to Cashmere have close relationships within that group to get them through the lonely moments of life. I hope you do too. In the meantime I’ll just keep letting God drag me up from the bottom of whatever lake he’s skipped me across and let him toss me again and trust that somehow, in the sea of time, I make a difference. Even if no one else notices. And that that difference pleased my Creator.

In the meantime, maybe you’ll be blessed by this band and their classic hit from 1998 performed at a live concert earlier this summer.

 

It’s a Wonderful Life Even When It Isn’t

A depressed George Bailey.

A depressed George Bailey.

Depression sucks.

So I referenced It’s A Wonderful Life in my title. Here’s why. I dislike that movie. Ironically when it first came out it did poorly at the box office. It didn’t even break even financially. In the film world, it was a dud.

I hate a movie that became a Christmas classic. The reason is that poor George had dreams and he gave them up. He had waited and saved and held a carrot out in front of him and it was snatched ruthlessly from his grip when he was on the cusp of reaching his dream.

This man’s suicide attempt didn’t just happen when money was lost and he was going to be arrested for a fraud he never committed. No. It came when he gave up his dreams.

Yes, he was noble and responsible and he sacrificed it all at the altar of everyone else’s dreams and needs and then ended up getting screwed in the end anyway. (Yes, I know it ends happily but come on, he got the raw end of a deal from Mr. Potter). So he did what he was supposed to do. All the right things. And it still left him empty.

Grab a tissue.

Maybe I relate too closely to George Bailey. Maybe the reason the movie is now a classic is that at some level, we all relate.

Who among us gets everything we dreamed of

and longed for out of this life?

Making a difference in the lives of others is the silver lining in this tale. Was George the richest man in town though because his friends came through for him? I mean, sure, he avoids prison, but does it really fill that hole deep inside?

At the heart of depression is a feeling of worthlessness. Even more than that is a sense of helplessness. George Bailey had, in many ways, let life make choices for him. Sometimes, when depressed, a person can’t even see the choices that might be out there. Yes, George made some good choices and impacted the lives of many. In the alternate universe only the negative was highlighted though. Does one person’s life really make that much of a difference?

A depressed person can’t see that their life makes a difference. No matter what anyone tells them, the message is blocked by the words and lies of others planted early on that say otherwise. After all, shouldn’t those people closest to us and have known us the best speak truth when they tell us no one will ever love us? Or that we aren’t pretty enough? Or smart enough? Or important enough?

“In 900 years of time and space

I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.”

Doctor Who

Yeah, I’m quoting a fictional character. Get over it. The fact of the matter is, even the shyest among us wants to be considered important. That’s why we want to the object of someone’s love. Or have a BFF. Or be the best at whatever it is we do. Because somehow that means our existence is validated.

Andy Andrews wrote a book called The Butterfly Effect that illustrates the importance of one life and the millions of lives one person can impact over generations.

It’s hard to see with that kind of vision when one is in a deep pit smothered in a thick woolen blanket. And the world around is farting in your face.

The real tightrope is our identity in Christ. I am his favorite child. The favorite of all the people He created like me . . . because there is only one me. But He has other favorites too. You are His favorite you. With a unique fingerprint, DNA, gifts, personality and life experiences, no one else is like you.

And God didn’t put us here to wander. He’s given us a purpose and a unique identity in Him. So I am the best. Whether the world around me wants to acknowledge that or not. I am the best me there is. I’m not perfect, but I’m growing and changing and sometimes that is painful.

But even if the world around me cannot convince me of my worth, this should: Jesus died so I could have a relationship with Him. He is my best friend and the only one who can really validate my existence. I may not see the impact or have a Clarence to show me, but I can trust the keeper of the stars to let me know when the time is right, that my life, even the low points, were still used by Him for His glory.

 

 

 

I’m No Expert

Experts? 

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of adamr / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I hate the idea that you should find the one thing you are really good at–become an expert–and use that as a platform to make money. Or do ministry. Or both.

It’s as if we are to find that one thing and use it as a way to lord it over others that you have more years, experience, training, ect than others to do that job. And maybe if you’re lucky, they’ll pay you for that privilege.

I experienced this years ago in ministry with a woman who had great skills. But on a team with a younger leader who lacked some of those skills, she sabotaged the team (and that leader) instead of filling in what lacked on the team and providing training, support and encouragement that young woman needed. God worked and the team accomplished its goal but rationally, spiritually, emotionally, there was a heavy price paid because of this pride and arrogance.

Ouch, did I really write those words?

I see this in the writing field too. I’m off to a conference this week and I’m doing a workshop. But I want to make it clear. I don’t know it all. I’m not an expert. I might be further along the path than some in some areas but I still need to learn and grow and sometimes I find my capacity for that growth is stifled by the tasks I need to accomplish. At the end of my workshop I’ll be pointing people to someone else who is teaching further along the path of my topic, I’ll get their feet wet and he can douse them with info they will need! Maybe I should provide towels? 

Ministry or People? What’s More Important?

We lose focus on what’s important. As my pastor, Ken Nabi has said,

We don’t use people to get ministry done. We use ministry to get people done.

But from what I see often in the publishing world, we are failing at this in honor of a buck or our name on a book, or maybe as the teacher of a workshop at a conference.

I’m still growing as an author and editor and would never have come this far if it hadn’t been for those further along the path who have taken time to encourage and mentor me. A helping hand. A little push from behind. A word of encouragement on the way when times get tough. And maybe even a dose of humility as thoughts and beliefs are challenged. This is true of my younger years serving in church leadership as well as with my writing career.

The fact is, none of us have arrived. If I see someone further along the path, I ask questions, challenge too if I need to, and grow. If I see someone younger in the journey or maybe less developed in skills I might have, then I can encourage, train, show the way and if it is a leader I follow, push them to further growth as others have done for me.

The Missing Ingredient

Now this is the thing that has been weighing on my heart most about this process: accountability. This in the church to varying degrees and there needs to be more. I don’t ask the hard questions often enough myself. But community cannot grow without that kind of vulnerability. As an editor, I’m not sure I’ve stepped in to assist my authors as much with their spiritual walk as I have their publishing journey.

And that’s a shame because their walk with God is more important than their name on a book or good ratings on Amazon.

My weakness goes back generations. I want people to be happy. I write “happily ever after” endings because of this deep-seated need within me. Ultimately we get that in this life, when we are with Jesus.  In the meantime though, it is in the best interests to help others grow towards that “happy” but along the way sometimes truth hurts. Truth spoken with love and grace can be a powerful force towards growth though. I’m just praying that if God pushes me that way, I will have the courage to follow. I need to humble myself more and more before His throne if he can even use me in that way. It’s not a happy task, but done well, glorifies God.

After all, He’s the expert.