Jubilee For The Soul (#42)

This is my personal “Year of Jubilee.” The concept comes from Leviticus 25, where the children of Israel are instructed to make every 50th year a Year of Jubilee. A hallmark of the biblical Year of Jubilee is a returning of things to their rightful owner. Land which may have been sold reverted to it’s original owner. Indentured servants who had to sell themselves as laborers to repay debts were freed. In this holy redemption year even the land was allowed to rest.

I turned 49 in September and therefore I am in the midst of my 50th year now, my Year of Jubilee. While scripture does not discuss a personal Jubilee, I have thought a lot about it this year and what the principle of Jubilee symbolizes. I think about what it means to rest, to let go of things you love and didn’t want to live without, and to examine the rightful owner of things in my life. I will share more about my Year of Jubilee later; today I want to talk about the way this relates to baggage.

I have shared before my analogy that we are all born with a bag (See blog post #36). The bag is ours alone to carry.  It can be light, or it can be heavy depending on what we put inside and how long we carry it around. As we go through life, we make mistakes and also get caught up in the mistakes (sins) of other people. We get angry, sad, hurt, wounded, or worse…and we pack our regrets (see blog post # 39), experiences and feelings (such as wounds, anger, resentment, jealousy, and righteous indignation) in our bag. Some baggage is even our white-knuckled attempt to hold on to wounds for fear that letting go may somehow invalidate our pain.

And we often carry around contents that were never intended to be in our bag, contents which are not ours to own or carry. This is the baggage that needs to be returned to its rightful owner. This is not something most of us know intuitively how to do. We need help and compassion as we learn how to open our bags and do business with God over the stuff we’ve accumulated. While at times difficult, I found this to be an extremely liberating experience.

To that end, I would like to invite you to join me in person for an event where you will meet with God and do business with Him. You will learn what is and what is not your baggage to carry. You will be given the tools to walk away lighter and free, finally. You can learn more about the Finally Free Forgiveness Retreat taking place July 15-16, 2022, by visiting our sister website at OneTen Ministries. (Note: An online version of this powerful training is also in development. Stay tuned for future details.)

Give your soul a Jubilee, a time of returning your baggage to its rightful owner.

Rich Beyond Reason (#41)

Though spring has not yet fully sprung, the recent peeks of sunshine and temperate weather have brought a longing for summer. I fondly remember one particularly beautiful day last year, when the whole family went on a boat cruise on a particularly posh lake for my mom’s birthday. I love the water. There’s just something about the water that soothes the soul.

The sun was warm and the waves were calm as we made our way around the lake. The crew entertained us with historic information about the lake and the inhabitants of the perimeter, and we watched intently along the shoreline to see the homes from this rare vantage point. Some of the homes were modest, obviously having been there for many decades. Some were stately, clearly a result of newer money. The architecture of each home was unique and the lakefront amenities were enviable. It was fun to imagine and dream – if only for a minute.

And then we saw it. The boat’s occupants made a collective gasp as we came upon the sprawling estate, with a significant portion of shoreline on two sides. It was enormous and breath-taking – immaculate white stone, copious windows and a multi-level patio that rivaled the square footage of most other homes on the lake. As the boat slowed, we noticed a second building on the property, a stately albeit smaller 2-story home mirroring the architecture and stonework of the first. The crew explained this was the mother-in-law house.

As we collectively gasped and gawked, we all wondered what would that be like? To have that much money? To live in something so beautiful, so grand. It was altogether another world.

Amid my daydreaming, I became almost sad. I noticed that the manicured lawn had no discernable divots indicating children or animals at play. There were no signs of life, no toys, not even a boat in the dock. Perhaps there were no children or grandchildren to tear up the lawn. Perhaps the residents preferred to stay inside on this perfect weather day, there was certainly plenty of space inside. Perhaps they weren’t home. Perhaps the steady flow of gawkers made them uncomfortable.

Sometimes one assumes that money buys happiness, yet it doesn’t. So, I couldn’t help but wonder if they are happy, if they feel loved. I wonder if they are misunderstood or taken advantage of because of their wealth. I wondered if they have true friends who would be there for them regardless of their wealth. I wondered if they find it hard to trust others and if this lifestyle is marked by unimaginable stress. I wondered if the mansion(s) and manicured lawn are primarily for show – to be accepted by their peers. I wondered if this impressive display came from a foundation of joy and peace in their lives or was somehow compensating for a lack thereof. I wondered how often they are judged, and I thought about how harsh people can be with their words and assumptions. I thought about how important it is to have people with this type of wealth that can be generous and philanthropic, and I hope they are.

In the spirit of the Enough Life, I wondered if there is a point where the money becomes a burden or the wealth becomes unreasonable? I’m sure there is. Most of us know what it is to lack, with the associated stress and challenges. Most of us don’t know what it means to truly have the kind of wealth displayed by that estate, or more. While we think we may like it, and it was fun to dream for a minute, in the end there are burdens of another kind that accompany that level of wealth.

Oh, for sure the poor and rich can be equally unhappy and feel equally unloved, equally used by others. And regardless of one’s position on the spectrum, greed, envy, and jealousy can creep in to steal joy and sour relationships. I thought of Ecclesiastes 5:10b, which says “How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!” (NLT). The writer of Ecclesiastes has much to say on the topic and ultimately laments that this too is meaningless.

I walked away with an appreciation for the beauty I saw that day and with an understanding that we are all on our own journey. I prayed for them and wished them well in my heart.

While money can buy most things, it cannot buy love, peace, joy and true soul satisfaction. No matter what one has or does not have, we all can be generous. We can all love and forgive. And in these, the most important of things, we can all be rich beyond reason.

Enough Expectations (#40)

Isn’t it hard Enough? Life, I mean…adulting. There are constant demands, expectations, and the never-ending cycle of bills. Everyone wants something from you. In the last post, #39, I talked about regrets – the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s from our past that we carry around. Today, I want to talk about the present and future woulda, coulda, shoulda’s – in other words: expectations.

In addition to the actual requirements of daily adulting, we are inundated with expectation after expectation. Some of those expectations come from other people – all the ways we don’t measure up in their eyes – yet most of the unrealistic expectations on our lives come from us. And we carry those expectations around like baggage in our minds and on our souls.

I should do this. I could do that. They would like me to do such and such. Do you ever want to say “Enough!”? Even if these things are good or enjoyable, we can easily become drained, stretched too thin, or find ourselves chasing someone else’s ideas of what we ought to do or be. (By the way, I have more on this is post #18, What’s on Your Bucket List?)

Do we really take the time to look at our calendars (or our wallets!) and really think about where we want to spend our precious resources: time, talent, treasure, and energy? Or do we let others dictate it to us? Do we set our priorities or do “they” (whoever “they” are)? How to “they” know what we need anyway?

I was reminded of this today at the bank. I met with a lady banker to open a new account. She was kind, beautiful, and while it was subtle, I noticed that she had not washed her hair today. She had at least day 2 hair. As I sat there, I reflected on how that cultural expectation has changed since I was younger. I notice that a lot of women now are feeling comfortable going out for the day without freshly washed hair. (Hello dry shampoo!) That’s so refreshing!

But I also know that, conversely, showing up to your kid’s soccer game (really any kids activity) is about as much pressure as the 20-year class reunion. The proverbial (and actual) soccer moms show up with hair and makeup all done up meticulously to look like they just rolled out of bed, complete with overpriced designer athletic clothing…and of course the Starbuck’s in hand. A youth sporting event in many cases is akin to a local beauty pageant, with all of the trappings of the regrettable high-school cliques. I have several nieces and nephews and I have been to many a soccer, hockey, baseball, basketball, football, or volleyball game. I would observe this behavior and internally shake my head. Wow, we women really can’t escape the pressure to look a certain way, act a certain way, dress a certain way – even at little league events.

I think we need to give ourselves and each other a break! We women have been competing against one another for too long. Rather than competing against one another we should be competing for one another. Afterall, a rising tide lifts all boats. Can we agree to not put pressure and expectations on one another? Can we just give each other a break? Please.

Let’s be intentional to not give in to the expectations of other people. We have to know what we need and be ok with making our own choices, and we need to be ok with others doing the same. Had a rough week and just want to get an extra half-hour of sleep on Saturday morning before the little league game rather than arriving with freshly washed hair – go for it! Prioritize what gives you margin and allows you to be kind to yourself while still making it to the game. You Rock Mom!

I was super proud of that working mom at the bank. By the pictures on her desk, I could tell she had two kids and she mentioned she was divorced. Life is probably stressful and busy. I’m glad she chose to not wash her hair today; I was proud of her for choosing Enough. And I smiled, because today I did the same.

The next time you have an expectation for someone else, perhaps consider the weight of the load they are already carrying. Rather than heaping expectations upon them, adding guilt and shame to their already burdened back, give them the grace to take that load off instead.

Woulda Coulda Shoulda

Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda (#39)

How much of your mental real estate do you devote to yesterday?

It’s almost second nature for us to dwell on our “I would have”, “I could have”, and our “I should have” thoughts. I call these the “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s.” These thoughts induce shame and include all of our mistakes, regrets, and missed opportunities. Thoughts like:

  • I should have gone to…
  • I could have accomplished that dream if…
  • I would have made a great…
  • I shouldn’t have said that.
  • If only I had taken that leap of faith and…
  • I shouldn’t have done that.
  • I could have been at my goal ____ if only I…
  • I should have told that person how much I loved them.
  • I could have made a difference in this area if…
  • I shouldn’t have wasted so much ___.
  • I would have been better off if I had said/done…
  • I shouldn’t have made that decision.

Sound familiar? So much time and energy is spent on these kinds of thoughts which have no ability to change yesterday, only to distract us from today. We focus on this regret rather than learning from our mistakes, letting them go, and using them as training ground for better decisions ahead.

For most people, the woulda, coulda, shoulda’s occupy valuable real estate in their thought lives and energy capacity. Regret is draining.  As time passes, these thoughts become heavier and heavier to carry around. It burdens our minds, our spirits, and our souls. When we give our thought life over to our woulda, coulda, shoulda’s it robs us from living in and enjoying the here and now. Viewing life from the rear-view mirror causes us to miss what’s in front of us – people in our lives now, upcoming obstacles to navigate, beautiful scenery to enjoy, and milestones up ahead to achieve.

Let me get personal for a moment. You can’t live in the past. You can’t change your past. We can mourn our tragedies and mistakes for a season, but then it is time to dust ourselves off and try again. You must realize that you can only change your future by making the best possible decisions today.

You can determine right now to take that space in your mind back. No more woulda, coulda, shoulda. You can decide not to spend 2022 wishing and regretting. I’m not talking about making a new year’s resolution. I’m talking about breaking free of the past and living for today and your future. I’m talking about taking every woulda, coulda, shoulda thought captive. I’m talking about being intentional this new year and for the rest of your days to examine your thoughts and let the past (regrets and all) reside in the past.

Resolve to build a future with no regrets. A future focused on that which you truly love. Let go of other people’s expectations – let them carry their own baggage – and be who YOU were created to be. The “others” don’t get to decide what gives you joy and peace. You don’t have to fit into their mold.

If you need professional help, seek it. If you have hurt someone, apologize and make amends. If you have been wronged, forgive. If you are in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), go boldly into the throne room of God (Hebrews 4:16), confess your sins, and walk away sure of your forgiveness (1 John 1:9).

Let this be the year you accept who you are, past and all. Then move forward with intention to find your place of Enough. The place of perfect abundance and genuine satisfaction. Do it now. Don’t waste another minute on yesterday when you have precious tomorrows to steward well.

Heartache for the Holidays (#38)

During this time of year, I often think back to one of the first posts I wrote (Enough for “the Holidays”). That post speaks to the dichotomy around so many of us this time of the year – scarcity (time, resources, sanity) and excess (spending, eating, commitments). That post encourages us to think deeply about what really matters and not to waste our time, energy, and resources on activities that don’t really add joy to our lives.

This Christmas season the dichotomy has struck me in another way. Amid the joy and celebrations there are many who also experience much heartache.

In the past few months, I have lost three people who were important to me. One to suicide, one to a tragic accident, and one just this week to unexpected illness. All so young and vibrant, with so much life yet to be lived. Two of them left little ones behind. All three made the world a better place just by being in it.

As I look at the gifts yet to be wrapped, the sting of loss pierces my heart. I would gladly give up all of the holiday trappings to have any one of those lives back with us. It has been a hard week; a hard few months. It seems so surreal to watch the world go on around me while my heartache is so very real.

For some of us, “the holidays” will never be the same again. We join countless others of you who grieve in the shadows this time of year. So, to those who grieve I say, “pace yourself, be kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to hold unapologetically to your Enough point – the place where you find your least amount of pain and your greatest amount of joy at this time of year, whatever that may be. As one of those I lost this fall would say, friend, “you do you”. Let go of unrealistic and unhealthy expectations. Drop  “woulda, coulda, shoulda” from your vocabulary. Take a deep breath. Cry when you need to and rest when your body or soul says to rest.

And, to everyone else, I ask that you please have grace and compassion for all who have heartache for the holidays.