Fix Your Face, part 2 (when you fall on your face)

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“Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward.”  Victor Kiam

“Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.”
Victor Kiam

When the deal fell through, I fell also.

On my face.

Literally.

Which is why in my last blog post I talked about the mom who told her young son, “Fix your face.” Her words reminded me that I couldn’t fix mine, and neither could anyone else except God, and, so far, he hasn’t.

It’s also why I wasn’t sure there would be a part two to “Fix Your Face” – I wasn’t sure I was willing to share the emotional pain of the fall.

When the accident happened, I was out to dinner the next evening in sunglasses and laughing with friends about tripping over the cement block in the coffee shop parking lot in Wilmington, N.C. I fell moments after finalizing details for a contract to franchise a dog magazine. Since the contract didn’t align with our talks, I was almost certain the deal was off. Even with evidence in writing, I didn’t love and respect myself enough to confront the discrepancies.

The fall represented that attitude – “not enough love and respect for myself.” So did the next year of my life that I spent hating the bump left in the fall’s aftermath. Knowing I struggled daily, my husband encouraged me to talk with a plastic surgeon about scraping my nose down to size.

“Not until I love myself the way I am, then I’ll consider it,” I said.

The bump wasn’t my nemesis; self-contempt was. I got up from the gravel knowing I needed a fix for how I let others treat me, as well as a fix for how I treated myself. In light of that reality, I began calling my nose the “love bump.”

The fall prompted changes that were, in hindsight, necessary to bolster enough love and respect like …  

  • Practicing gratitude (despite the bump on my nose) because my teeth were in my mouth instead of on the pavement.
  • Speaking up to people I didn’t like and people I did like and people. Any people.
  • Warming up to the idea that I was worth standing up one more time than I fell down.

The accident happened in 2007. Because of an invitation in 2013 from a friend (orchestrated by God, I’m sure), I had the opportunity to consult at no charge with a respected plastic surgeon. She said my nose was an easy fix. She also said there was a chance the bump would callous after surgery the same as it did after the fall, and it may possibly grow back and possibly grow bigger.

Our appointment ended, but not before I reflected on my commitment, “Not until I love myself the way I am, …” Instead of reconstructing my outsides, God had worked inside. I wish he had opted for both, but the inside job was most important, for sure.

When I left the surgeon’s office, I knew I was closer to being fixed than if I had signed up for surgery.

How often do we opt for a quick fix instead of lasting results? What’s manifesting outside of you that really needs fixing on the inside?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I am more and more receptive to God’s reconstruction, and, no, not of my nose.

Fix Your Face, part 1 (and maybe the only part)

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"Every man over forty is responsible for his face." Abraham Lincoln (Image from iStock)

“Every man over forty is responsible for his face.”
Abraham Lincoln
(Image from iStock)

“You better fix your face, young man, and you better fix it now,” said Mom to her son who looked to be about four years old.

I turned from the clothes rack where I was shopping to see a little boy shuffling behind his mother. He pulled his hood over his head, crossed his arms, and pouted out his lips like I do mine when life isn’t going my way.

His face tickled me and so did his mom’s orders. But I also understood his pain, especially when his mother threatened to take away the next day’s fun activities. Her warning reminded me of the pity trap I fall into when my own face needs fixing, but I’d rather feel sorry for myself.

The little boy’s scene looked a lot like God and me when I talked with him last October about relocating closer to our kids and our first grandbaby. Circumstances made it obvious the answer was “no.”  

I pouted. I cried. I accused God of taking away my fun.

The scene also looked similar to the day, just a few weeks later, when I heard the news that our son and future daughter-in-law were moving for two years to Oklahoma City.

Again I pouted. Again I cried.  Again I accused God of taking away my fun.

And when __________  (I can fill in the blank with any number of situations when God’s will hasn’t aligned with my own, and I’ve pouted and I’ve cried and I’ve accused).

But those times are a changin’ because I am a changin’. I’m fixing my face and I’m fixing it now.

Here is my “powder room” list:

  • I’m practicing being satisfied with God’s answers in light of choosing “content” as my word for 2014, knowing that he always knows best. Yes, always … trust me, I’m going on 56 years of hindsight.
  • I’m recapturing my faith. Thanks to friend, Lis Morgan, and her word “recapture,” I’m focusing on and praying for the restoration of the faith that I once lived by (but lost) for at least a portion of those 56 years.
  • I’m saying grateful things more than griping, and I’m again daily making a 13-item gratitude list.

Does your face need fixing? Are you fixing it now? Care to share tips from your “powder room”?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I believe the quote from Abe Lincoln and I’m working on my makeover now.

My Word for 2014 – Content

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But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Timothy 6:6 (NIV)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 1Timothy 6:6 (NIV)

Even though I wasn’t especially content with it, a sermon about equations hit a nerve so deep that I was convinced my word for 2014 had to be contentment.

Instead of making resolutions, I choose to focus throughout the year on one word.

In 2012, my word was incremental. Living incrementally changed my life. I broke down big tasks and overwhelming emotions into manageable proportions. It was a more productive year than I thought possible.

Last year, in 2013, I ended up with the word ponder, almost like it chose me. I’m still pondering why. Because of that word, I sat still more than I wanted to and kept my mouth shut more than I wanted to and waited for results more than I wanted to, which led to my concern over this year’s word.

Contentment (shortened to content, which I’ll explain next) could easily have turned out the same as ponder – unwanted. It’s again not a get-up-and-go word, but another that sounds like a call to be still. I have no idea how to practice it unless I purchase a mountaintop and some chants. Plus, not one person has said, “Oooh, that’s a good word for this year.” In fact, I called it boring until a friend convinced me it was my perfect word.

My friend said that if I shorten contentment to content, it has two significant meanings … to be content (as in being right where I’m supposed to be and grateful about it) and to produce content (as in finishing the book I’ve talked about for a decade).

“Hopefully you won’t be content until you write more than your table of contents,” she said.

What’s your word for 2014? Are you happy about it or stuck with it? Sometimes the latter is a good thing.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Throughout 2014, my aim is to be content enough to sit still and write content.

On the side: Thank you, Nancy. Not in a million years would I have come up with the double meaning of content, not for my word anyway.

The Gift of Darkness (the bright side of depression)

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“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (Photo by Jeff Watkins Photography)

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (Photo by Jeff Watkins Photography)

I recently (in the last four years or so) went through the darkest and most painful depression I’ve experienced. I knew a lot about why, but not much about how to stop it. Since very little of the advice helped from friends or from articles and books they suggested, the best I could do was ride the lows until they passed.

I hoped the experience would somehow prove worth it, that I would learn and change and grow, and I did. What I didn’t expect, though, was to feel gratitude except that I was through the worst of it. It wasn’t until I said it out loud to a friend last week that I realized how thankful I am for those dark moments.

My friend talked about her family’s circumstances. She said, “I broke my number one rule. I talked with a family member about a problem that wasn’t mine to discuss.”

Next thing I knew, I was admitting my thankfulness, “That’s one of the reasons I’m grateful for the depression I went through. For the most part, it kept me out of others’ lives and out of their business.”

Since I said “… one of the reasons,” I’m guessing I have more, but, for now, I’m happy to identify one. Who knew darkness would be a backdrop for gratitude?

My third grade teacher may have known a thing or two about it when she showed us how to melt crayon shavings in between wax paper. The most memorable artwork for me was when we melted black crayons on top of the colored ones and then etched scenes with our pencils – memorable because we made sense out of what had been abstract and dark. I etched a sidewalk up to a bright house and a colorful tree.

Have you found gratitude, or at least a bit of brightness, in your darkest moments? I’d like to hear your stories.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I’m sure it saddens you when we live in dark and painful places, even though darkness and pain serve a purpose. Help us etch paths toward gratitude and brightness.

On the side: During this season of family, holiday meals and a gift buying frenzy or two, I’m practicing renewed faith, the faith stated in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks …”

Click here for more photography by Jeff Watkins.

Is It a Proclamation or a Clubbing?

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Then he told them, "As you go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” Mark 16:15 (Image from iStock)

Then he told them, “As you go into all the world, proclaim the gospel to everyone.” Mark 16:15
(Image from iStock)

The woman knocked five or six times before she gave up and left a tract in the door. Until she was out of sight, our dog barked (unusual for her) like she was terrified.

“Our visitor came to proclaim the gospel while our dog sounds like she’s encountered a demon” was all I could think.

That’s my skewed vision of in-your-face proclamation, but that’s because I’ve never known it to turn out well.

Like the time I told our neighbor’s girlfriend I’d pray for her when she was struggling through a difficult pregnancy. In spite of the fact that I didn’t follow through, the following week she thanked me after getting a good report from her doctor. I said, “That’s the power of prayer for you.” The next day, she miscarried.

Another time, my aunt turned down my invitation in front of the family when I invited her to church. I said, “Don’t blame me if the result of that decision isn’t a good one.” A close family member commended me for being bold in my faith, which was exactly why I spoke up – to impress him. It’s been at least a decade and I still cringe when I think about how I spoke to my aunt.

Then there was the summer of walking the beach alongside Campus Crusade for Christ members who witnessed to addicts and prostitutes. When our youth group got the hang of it, we were sent out in pairs to do the same. I’m sure our youth director had good intentions, but he had no business encouraging teenaged girls to wander up to strangers, however, I did it because I wanted to impress him in the same way I wanted to impress my family.

Although I’m sure God can use these circumstances and he may have, it seems our egos cause him extra work.

I’d like to say I’m not knocking “proclaiming the gospel,” especially since it’s in the Bible, but I sort of am if we’re talking about clubbing innocent bystanders over the head with what we decide they need to hear. I can’t recall a single time this strategy worked, whether I’ve been the one clubbing or the one being clubbed. I have, however, been transformed by people’s actions, which I happen to think is the harder “proclamation” because doing is harder than talking.

What does “proclaiming the gospel” mean to you? When is it most effective?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I’m not questioning what you’ve told us to do. I’m questioning how we’ve interpreted it and how we carry it out. Help us know your way.

Cleaning Up a Ridiculous Habit

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photo 4

“Every behavior serves a purpose. ” Dr. Hal Heidt

A customer I’ve never met asked me for the third time if I’d clean her house for less than I quoted her in our ongoing Facebook conversation. She ended her request saying, “Will you clean it for the price we agreed on a while back?”

I received her message the same day I answered a question on my last blog post about my greatest weakness. It has always been self-doubt.

If the customer or I have any doubt about the price, we only need to scroll up the message. The amount I stated and restated is in black and white, and it is not the same sum she keeps mentioning. I’m almost (okay, absolutely) sure of this because I‘ve triple checked it since last week. I even had my husband read through our messages and I asked him, “Is my pricing not clear?”

He’s dumbfounded when I question the obvious.

What’s not as obvious, though, is why I continue doubting myself when an answer is as evident as proof on paper. I’m wondering what I might be gaining from continuing to doubt myself. I mean, really, engaging in self-doubt at this point is ridiculous, but I’ve been known to engage anyway. In fact, this kind of thing has often times been enough to trigger days, maybe even weeks, of self-doubt.

Instead of reverting to the same reaction as usual, the ridiculousness roused a change. I’ve been sensible enough not to respond to the potential customer, mostly because I don’t know what else to say. Do I let her know once again that I’m unwilling to clean her house for the price I didn’t quote?

Also, I’m speculating less on what might be going on with her, I’m focusing more on trusting myself, and I’m questioning the payoff of my self-doubt.

What ridiculous habit is keeping you from living your best life?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – There will be another habit after self-doubt, I’m sure, but for now, I’m cleaning up this one.

Answering the Questions

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Susannah and her husband ... told you she's sassy.

Susannah and her husband … told you she’s sassy.

Susannah Friis, how did we hook up anyway? However it happened, I couldn’t be happier to share blogging space with you, my special (and sassy) Aussie friend and encourager. Check out Susannah’s blog at Personally Speaking.

Susannah sent 10 questions to be answered (I figured what better day to post than on my birthday … yep, it’s my birthday!), as well as sending the challenge to pass along the same to other bloggers.

My list of friends who have bolstered, comforted and entertained me along my scribbling path is too long to choose from, so I’m asking any of you who want to answer these questions to do so here or leave a link to your blog where you’ve posted. Thank you all for your friendship and thank you, Susannah, for this opportunity.

Best decision you ever made?

The best decisions I ever made were to have our son and daughter. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without their examples for living and loving.

Worst decision you ever made?

Even though I’ve made lots of mistakes, I have few regrets because I know I couldn’t have done anything different until I knew better. All that said, I do wish I had stayed home with my kids while they were young, especially now that I’m watching our daughter with her daughter. It’s bittersweet.

My husband taking me out for my birthday. Yes, we're older now so we need good directions.

My husband taking me out for my birthday. Yes, we’re older now so we need good directions.

Your greatest weakness?

My greatest weakness has always been self-doubt.

Your greatest strength?

Out of our weakness comes strength, so I’d say compassion for those who struggle is likely my greatest strength because of how much I’ve struggled with self-doubt.

Most influential person you’ve had in your life?

I can’t choose only one person. Mine come as a group since I wouldn’t have had one without the others. The most influential people in my life are my husband, my kids and Betty, an older woman who saved our marriage and mentored me through raising our kids and helped keep them alive (kind of a joke, kind of not). I know, a pretty amazing tribute to her, right?

Most influential person you’ve never met?

My husband and I ate dinner with Jerry B. Jenkins and his wife (just the four of us) at a writing conference when someone forgot to set the table for Jerry as the keynote speaker.

And now to answer the actual question since my husband/editor pointed out I answered the wrong one. Julia Cameron, author of The Artist’s Way, comes to mind as the most influential person I’ve never met Her book has had a profound effect on my life. I’d love for someone to say the same thing one day about a book I write. Thanks for writing well, Julia.

Your greatest passion (and you can’t say your spouse – that’s given!)?

Spending time with family is also a given, so I’d say my greatest passion is writing. Amazingly, I’m also thinking I might want to explore a career in speaking, but, for now, that is only a thought … nothing in the works.

Here's the stream we bought.

Here’s the stream we bought.

Best purchase you ever made?

The best purchase we ever made was our mountain house that is located right beside a mountain stream. It’s the most peaceful place on the planet and we got it for a bargain. My husband said “No way” we’d ever find a place on water for anywhere near $100,000, the limit I set on our spending. We bought our fixer upper for $65,000.

Worst purchase you ever made?

The worst purchase was probably our 1971 TR6 because we never drove it, although, I have to say, it looked good sitting out in front of our house. We smelled like gas every time we got out of it since fumes backed into the car. However, we didn’t lose a dime on it. We sold it for more than we paid for it even though the buyer knew it was stinky.

What does success look like to you?

Being content where I am and with what I have. Contentment is my word for 2014, so I’ll know more about it in a year from now. Until then, I’m practicing being happy right where I am.

Thanks again, Susannah.