Friday, September 13, 2013

Why Even Try?

Many times in life things happen that we just can't explain.    We go through things for no apparent reason.   We experience situations that the outcome seems to be set regardless of how we try or don't try.   You can feel the loneliest when in a room full of people.  You can accomplish the greatest things when no one is watching.   You can escape an accident and never know it simply because you choose to take a different route home.   You can study real hard for a test and barely pass it and blow off the preparation for the next and ace it!   Why do some things happen like they do?  This is what we call a "conundrum".   You know,  those confusing things that happen that you just can't explain.

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn't want to do something so you talked yourself out of doing it and thought that would make you happy?  But it didn't, instead you just felt guilty because you didn't do it.   A lot of good people have set on the sidelines because they couldn't get them selves motivated to try.    Maybe they have tried and been let down in a previous situation.  Or they participated and it seemed like there was no "return" for their effort.    We are wired as  people to love instant gratification.     We like to see something for our trouble.  And when the results don't seem to match the output, we feel like giving up!

That is why it makes it so hard to be faithful and consistent sometimes.   You don't always get a thank you or see a life changed overnight.  You are not always there to see the answer to your long time prayers.  Not everyone gets to be up front and get the "recognition" for a job that was full of hard work.      We can feel like there is no point in trying because we aren't good enough or have what it takes to make a difference.

The enemy knows us and likes to take advantage of this.   He knows what motivates us and is only too happy to step in and stop our progress.   For most of us, we are glad to help people out.   We sign up to serve and give of our time because we want to feel like we are useful and making a difference.   We feel let down and defeated when it seems like what we give is not enough or isn't making any contribution.   I know for me personally that I fight with this because my true heart is to help people.  I don't feel like I am particularly skilled at one specific thing but loving on people.  I have never been the smartest, prettiest or the most talented but I have always been friendly.    I am not motivated by things or money.  Don't get me wrong!!  I'm not saying I don't appreciate having things or money :) but I am more motivated by friendships and relationships.    I get more upset when I feel like I have let someone down than when I see my checking account down to $15.

It's hard to want to try again when your first attempt was a failure.   Anyone feel my pain? :)   For a person who sets the standard for their personal worth by how well they are received by others, something like a failed relationship can cause a major setback.    For someone who is a giver, having their gift rejected or undervalued, can almost kill the heart of sharing in a person.   People who define success by how much people appreciate their efforts can fight the desire to quit when they don't receive any accolades for all that they do.

We all face times of feeling like a failure, of working hard not to want to quit, of being fed up because we don't matter or make a difference.   There is always the chance of being hurt or rejected when you enter into a relationship.  There is always the possibility of being overlooked or under appreciated when you put yourself out there.  But the greatest way to defeat the Devil and to win in your life it to TRY.   If you don't try, you NEVER succeed.  If you don't take the chance and put yourself out there, you WILL be alone.   I don't believe that God ever frowns when we try - succeeding or not.  I believe He experiences sadness when He watches us put ourselves on the bench of life.    The Devil gloats when we quit  on ourselves and others.  We have saved him the trouble.  Even he knows that we draw our strength when we put ourselves "into the game of life" and find a way to contribute.

Why even try?  Because that is all we are called to do.  At least try!  Our life is so much richer for the experiences and the people that are in it.  Don't allow yourself to quit and miss it.     I know that my life is a sum of all of the things that I have gone through - good and bad.    I may not always finish first or even in the top ten but I have vowed that I will cross that finish life.   I don't want life to pass me by and I never even tried to experience anything or connect with anyone.   We are not alone in this.  God is with us.  He is fighting for us.  We are here for each other - here to cheer each other on in our triumphs and pick each other up when we fail.   We have all heard the saying "if at first you don't succeed - try, try again!"     What a simple but brilliant motto to live by.   I plan on doing this - how about you?   Let's do it together! :)

Your Friend in this thing called life! - April

Thursday, June 13, 2013

"Houston We Have A Problem....I'm Out of Control!"

There is one word that has caused men to strive for it,  women to act like they are in charge of it, nations to fight over it and even Janet Jackson to sing about it...that is control.   It is the one thing that we love to have in our lives and stress out and worry over when we feel like we lose it.   And if you are like me, you don't just want control over yourself, you want control over every area of your life including your children, your home, your work and so on :)

Webster's defines control as: The power to influence or direct people's behavior or the course of events.   I love this definition because it says so much to me.  How I would love to be able to control other people's behavior.   Especially how I want them to behave towards me!  I am at the age that I can openly admit I like to be in control.   I hate that feeling that I have no "influence" over  how something is going to turn out.  There are those free spirited people who are like hey whatever!  Let's see where the wind will all work out how it's supposed to.  Yeah...I'm not one of those :)  If anything, I err on the opposite side.  I often joke that this is how I pray..."Dear Lord, please take my life and fix this situation.  And if you should need my help, I am available!"

I have been dealing with the issue of control lately because I just walked through a situation that was really out of my control.  I had no "power of influence" over another person and the decision that they made.  Even though that decision affected me, I had no control over it.   That was a hard pill to swallow for me because I have always prided myself in the fact that I was in control.   We would be so shocked to learn how really not in control we are of many things wouldn't we? :)     I have struggled so much lately with wishing I could have a "do over" in my life.   I am sitting here a middle aged person realizing that the way I thought parts of my life would go, did not go that way no matter how hard I tried to make them!  I did not have control.   And life doesn't work that don't get do overs!!  You only get opportunities to learn from past experiences and hopefully make better choices the next time around.

I am learning about the difference in control and influence right now in my life, especially with the help of my teenager!  There was a day and time in his life where I was definitely in control!  He needed me for everything.  I was the constant in his life.   I told him what and when to eat, when and where to sleep, laid out what he should wear, told him when and where he could or could not play, and so on and so forth.  But the older  he has gotten, the more and more I have had to relinquish certain control over certain things to him.  Some of those I was more than happy to give to him.  Yeah...diapers?    Thank God for potty training.   I was glad to give him control over that area of his life.  Having to pick out his clothes everyday?  Was more than happy to let him dress himself and even though some of his choices I raise my eyebrows at today, I am still glad that he takes care of that himself.  But he is coming into his own in what and who he is and that is where mom is having to pry the fingers of control loose and let him discover who he is on his own and that has not been as easy!   

I want to stay "in control" of some things because I have been there, done that and I don't want him to get hurt!  But let's be honest.  That is all part of it.  If you didn't ever fail in life, you wouldn't know what it is to succeed.  If I don't allow him to make a bad choice every now and then, how would he know what a truly good choice is?   We have gone through this little battle of the wills lately because he has decided not to play football anymore.  He is going into his sophomore year in high school.  I am so frustrated, because he is good at it!!  He is the perfect size for it.  I remember loving sports in school and how great it was to be a part of a team and compete!  I loved it.   He has excelled at football up to this point.  But he doesn't have the heart or desire for it anymore.   Here is where my control has had to turn over to influence in his life.  I have expressed my opinion on the subject numerous times. I have offered all of the pros to playing, stated all of the positives that he would gain from the experience.  Even been tempted to bribe him with a "you can have this if you do that" offer.   But he has countered with all of his own opinions and thoughts each time.  Until I have decided that it is HIS decision not mine!  I don't have to live with the consequence of it, he does.  He will have to go to school and watch the guys that play.   He will have to sit in the stands and watch them be on the field, knowing he could be there if he would have chose to be.    And you know what, that is when he will decide if that decision was right for him or not. Me forcing my "control" on him to play would only accomplish frustrating him and me and make him be miserable doing something that he is so sure he doesn't want to do!

I have to allow him to have this control over his own life and know that it is more important for him at this moment to be the decider than it for me to be the boss!   I have to choose to practice being a good influence in his life more than the person that just decides to tell him what to do all of the time.   He is capable of making decisions.  It's hard to accept that for us moms sometimes :)  We have to admit then that our babies have grown up and they don't "need" us in the same ways anymore.  

Working through this with my son has also made me realize that it has become time in my own life to reevaluate some things and decide where I should be myself.  What do I allow to control my time, my thoughts?  Am I allowing God to be in control of my steps or do I try to take that control from Him?   Do I surround my self with good influence and positive reinforcement or do I only put myself around people who will tell me what I want to hear and do what I want them to do?   Yes there are certain things in our life that we should take control over.    Our minds, our thoughts, our prayer life, our devotion to our relationship to God and so on.  But that control should only be a reflection of the greater control in our lives and that is the control that we place into the hands of the One who made us and knows us even better than ourselves.   He will never steer us in the wrong direction.  We may not always understand His timing or His ways, but He knows what is best for us and is always working all things for our good!

Walking through thing called life with you my friends! :)


Monday, May 20, 2013

Forgiveness is a Beautiful Thing

Forgiveness is a funny thing.  It is something that we all crave for ourselves but have a hard time extending to others.   I think back to when I was a kid and my siblings and I would fight.  We would get in trouble and then our mom would make us say sorry to each other.   You know that half hearted "I'm sorry"?    And then being the gracious kids we were... "well I don't except your apology!" :)    It sounds so funny to look back on it now.    We always did end up accepting the apology and moving on.  But every once in awhile we would bring it back up with those "remember that one time when you did that to me" stories :)  Little did we know that we were learning what would be one of the hardest lessons to learn as an adult.  Learning how to accept an apology, truly forgive and move on.

A friend and I were talking the other day and we were discussing some things going on in our lives and with our children.  Like me, she is a single mom and she was having a hard time with forgiving.    She said to me "every time something goes wrong with me, I get mad all over again and blame my ex husband.  None of what I am going through would be happening if he did not do what he did".   There is some truth to that statement.    She had no choice in the fact that he decided to walk away and leave her with her children.   Now the financial hardships, the loneliness, the single parenting are all things that she has to contend with.   Life has a way of making us "rehash" things over and over again. And our finger is sure to point back to what we feel is the "source" of our problems.

The familiar quote we have all heard comes to my mind.  "To err is human, to forgive is divine!"  The author knew what he was talking about here!  It is hard to forgive!   We as humans look for places to assign blame and when we have a just cause it is so easy to hold that up and use it for an excuse for everything that is not right in life.     We are often convinced that we are justified because we were done wrong.  But there is a major problem with unforgiveness.   It is a disease and it is deadly.   It never attacks the intended victim, but usually eats away at the wrong person.

I have watched many people, including myself, hold unforgiveness in their heart.  And I have also seen the person that they were harboring the offense against move right on with their life often not even knowing or acknowledging that they were the "perpetrator" of an offense.    Unforgiveness is a disease because it attacks the wrong person.  It eats away joy, happiness, vision and clarity.   The longer you hold the offense the more skewed your memory becomes of what really happened in the first  place.    The bondage that comes with harboring unforgiveness is so strong.    When you allow the process of harboring unforgiveness to start in your heart, it's like the visual of someone handing you the end of a rope.  That offense begins to wind itself around you and the longer you hold onto it the longer that rope gets.   It just keeps wrapping itself around you until you can no longer see!   You are robbed of your future, your joy and your potential all because you choose to hold on for that apology that may never come in this lifetime or to see that person get what they had coming to them.

It is a hard thing to do to really forgive someone but it is also very liberating!  Life is full of ups and downs.  You will have things happen to you that are not fair, that you did not ask for nor do you deserve!  You will have people speak ill of you, treat you unfairly and take advantage of you.  If you choose in your heart to not forgive these people, then you are sentencing yourself to a lifetime of being their prisoner!   But when you find the courage to move past the offense, to forgive and let are freeing yourself instantly from their control.     The irony with unforgiveness is that we hand the people we feel "powerless" against all the power!    I choose today to forgive because I declare the right to choose who has the power in my life.  Only God has the place in my life to hold the control.    I will not be held back or held down by the people that I feel have betrayed or offended me.   I will let go of that pain and that hurt and forgive so I can move on into the true future and destiny that God has set aside just for me!   

Ask yourself today...who or what is worth giving up all you have for?  Was it wrong...yes.   Are you justified in feeling hurt...yes.   Does that person truly owe you an apology...more than likely.   But are you going to let the would of, could of, should of's hold you back any longer....NO!    Practice the fine art of forgiveness to others!  You will find such a freedom and peace when you do and you will also be sowing good seeds into your future.  You just never know when you may need a little mercy and grace thrown your way!

In this thing called life with you my friends! :)  Love you all - April

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mirror Mirror on the Wall!

One thing that I have found that I have dealt with my entire life, from childhood until even now, is comparisons.   Comparing myself to other people comes like second nature to me.  I can't help it.  I know it is not what God would have me to do, it just happens.  And then I begin the journey of reminding myself of who I am in Christ.  

When I was a little girl I had many aspirations to be many things.   Like most children, my dream of what I would become when I grew up changed from week to week even day to day :)  I fancied myself an astronaut, then a doctor.   Oh yeah, a great female firefighter and then of course the most famous of all TV reporters!   I believed that I could be any of these things simply because I wanted to be them.  

Then real life kicked in and I started to grow up.  When I quit growing (height wise anyways) in about six grade, I realized that my firefighting, fighter pilot, astronaut flying days were probably a no go.  Then when pre-teen acne hit, I figured my days gracing the front of a magazine were probably limited at best.  Unless I wanted to be the "before" picture for a Clearasil ad.   As I got even older, the social-economical limits of my situation began to hit me.   I had a wonderful, fun loving, total middle class family.   What we lacked in monetary things, we made up for in relationships.  But we know that love doesn't pay a college bill :)   I began to see myself more limited by what I perceived I didn't have, than believing that I could make it happen with what I did have!!  Does that make sense?

The other day I was talking to a friend about a prayer request and I began to realize that this mentality had bled over into my perception of what I felt I deserved from God as well!  I had the faith of a mountain to pray for other people and believe that God would answer that prayer.   It has never occurred to me that God couldn't or wouldn't when it came to praying and believing for other people!!  But when it came to me, I have often found myself wondering will He?  does He want to?  do I deserve it?   What a hypocritcal way of thinking!!

I had to correct myself because God revealed something even greater to me!!  It is so EASY to believe for someone else and to pray with great faith for another because I personally do not have to deal with the aftermath of the results of those prayers.   I can pray and walk away.  I don't have to deal with their doubt, their struggle, their consequence.    The feeling that God did not hear or did not answer.

God is no respecter of persons.  The Word states that plain and simple.  If it is good for one, it is good for all!   He doesn't love me more or less than others.  We are ALL His children and His ultimate goal is for us to have life and to have it more abundantly!!  Just because He doesn't answer the way I think He should, doesn't mean He didn't answer.  He sees the bigger picture of my life.  He is not just walking in my present, He is ever working to make the way for my future.   Sometimes His seeming silence is His way to tell me not to get ahead of myself because the best is yet to come!

I have come to know that I have no right to pray and believe for someone else UNLESS I believe that God can do it for me!!    I would never want to give my son something that I did not feel was good for me!   That is how God views us!  He is so wise in all His ways.  He is ever in tune with the season of our life and He is making the way to answer our prayers and to build our faith.

So I stand corrected!!!  I will look into the mirror and realize that the lady staring back at me is valuable and worthy of what God has for her!!  When I bow my head and connect my faith with others, I will remind myself that the lady I look at every morning is as deserving as the people I love and care for the most!!  Do you believe this for yourself?  I am tired of buying the lie of the devil!  God made me and He isn't finished with me.  The devil and his tricks are just a tired, second hand imitation of what my God is able to do!!!

Believe in the faith of your prayers for others....and believe that God is just as interested in meeting your needs as He is in meeting the needs of those you love!!  Your friend in this thing called life!

April Phipps

Friday, March 29, 2013

"It is Finished"

This will probably be one of the most honest blogs that I have ever written!  If you know me at all, you know I don't write a blog to write a blog.  I only post something when I feel inspired too.   And in all truthfulness, this is one that I would really rather not share.  But I felt the Lord tell me that you can not choose when to help people.   Hiding behind something will keep it hidden, exposing it will reveal so much more!

I woke up like almost everyone else reflecting on the fact that it is Good Friday.   The sacrifices that the Lord made for us on that day are too many to count.  He took stripes for our healing, sins, pain, grief and more.   He choose us above Himself.   He could have called down 10,000 Angels and escaped his plight.  Even to the last minute, He felt that abandonment, the shame and rejection.  It all led to a moment when He uttered what has to be three of the most important words ever spoken..."It Is Finished!"   At that moment, His mission was set into full motion.  There was no looking back, no waiting to be saved.  That was the moment that changed history for all of us to come!   He fulfilled His promise.  He didn't quit on us.   He said "So Be It!"

I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for that moment.   And on this day, I felt the Lord speaking to my heart about my life.   It is no hidden secret that I have had a few rough years.   I have dealt with more loneliness and rejection than most would know.    Betrayal is an understatement :)   I have watched friends go, people that I served in the ministry with vanish, and those people who didn't know what to say just stay silent.  So silent it has been deafening.    That is not to say I haven't had as many step up.  I am eternally grateful for all of the love and support that I and CJ have been shown.  I am just making a point today :)

The last few days have been lonely days.  I will never ever regret or feel that I made a wrong decision 19 years ago.  If I know anything, I know when I hear the voice of God.   I heard Him speak to me clearly about who I would share my life with.  I followed that voice and I will never wish I had not.   I look at the blessing that is my son everyday and I can not regret it.   I also realize that you can make all of the right choices but you can't control the choices of others!  This has been particularly hard for me because I like control :)  Yes, I am admitting it.  That has been one of the hardest things about these last few years.  Just the complete feeling that I had no control over my life.     I have been amazed at the actions and justifications of people.    How areas that should be so black and white have been turned gray and no one seemed to care or notice.  How people watched wrong happen and just accepted it.  How quickly people moved on as if my presence or participation had never happened.   There have been times that I wanted to scream it has seemed so unfair!!   I have complained to God.  Why?   How could you? What sense does this make?

Then I had a great epiphany.  Grace and Mercy are not contingent upon the person.  They don't weigh out the fairness of a situation.  They are not extended to only the most deserving.  When Jesus went on the cross, He didn't do it with conditions.  He didn't ask God to make His sacrifice count for only those who did what others would think was right.  He didn't ask God to judge us and weigh our "worthiness".  He went on that cross KNOWING that we were not worthy.  That if we were judged, we would be found lacking.   And He did it freely, without strings attached, for all who would call upon His name.   I realized that if I was to receive the grace and mercy that I so longed for and needed, I had to be willing for God to extend that grace and mercy to anyone who asked it of Him, regardless of what they had done.   

By believing that God's mercy and grace were free to anyone who asked it, I was freeing myself to receive all that I needed!   Paybacks and vengeance only last for a brief moment, but the grace of God is eternal.  That feeling you feel when you feel like someone "gets what they deserve" fades fast, but the realization that you are living a life based upon the mercy that was shown to you lasts a lifetime.
It dawned on me that whether I wanted to admit it or not, I was looking back to much.  Back to what had been.   Reflecting on the would have, should have, could have's.   That is such a fruitless and pointless exercise.    It's ok to wonder what you could have done differently to change for the future.  But if you dwell in the wonder to long, you get lost.    You can't change what has been done.  You can't rewrite something when someone else is holding the pen!   All you can do is move on and UP!

Lot's wife made the mistake of looking back.  The things of the past had been like a chain around her, pulling her down.  I honestly believe God told her not to look back because He was trying to free her once and for all of the things that were holding her back.    The same goes for us.   As long as you look back, you are tied to the past.  The past should be a reflection of what has been not a blueprint for where you are going!!  So I say today.   "It is finished!"    The last two years, they are over.    I have looked back for the last time.   The events that have transpired will always be a part of my life.  They are the chapters of my book titled "history".  I am more interested in the ones called my "future".  Jesus sacrificed so I could live!!  And live my life to the fullest and for His glory is what I fully intend to do! 

What are you tied to today?  What is holding you back?  What experience in your past are you allowing to overshadow all that was done at the cross for you?   My friend, there is nothing worth it.  I can promise you that!   Let today be your day.    Accept the grace and mercy of Jesus freely in your life.   Don't let the pain and hurt of another cause you to miss out on what God has intended for each of us...a great life!! :)

Walking in this with you!


Friday, February 22, 2013

"What's In It For Me?"

Over my various years in ministry, I have learned a few lessons. I would love to be able to say that I learned them all the easy way, but if you know me at all, you know that is just not possible :) I tend to have to learn things the hard way so I actually get the lesson hahaha! I know that no one else out there is like that :) But I will say, once I learn something the hard way, I learn it. Does this prayer sound familiar at all to anyone else...."Dear God, if you will just help me get out of this situation, I promise you I will never do this again!" :)

One "pearl of wisdom" I have gained through the years is learning to have the right motives behind the things that you do. I have been guilty of doing things for approval, recognition and more. I have wallowed in the sea of self pity when I didn't get "recognized" for the job that I did. I have fought to not swallow the seed of bitterness when I did not receive appreciation for hard work. That is all a part of life and happens whether you work in the ministry or not. It is built in our DNA to want to be appreciated and respected. I would like to say that it is always easy to respond like Christ when you are in those thankless situations, but let's be honest! God has heard more than one earful from me on the subject!!

But being down the road a little (oh Dear Lord! I am admitting I am old!), I have learned one thing. I can never ask the question "What's In It For Me!" when working in the ministry or helping other people. That is a sure way to sign yourself up for failure and disappointment. I have learned to approach each day of ministry with the knowledge that I am doing what I do because that is what God has called me to do. If at the end of each day, I can lay my head down and feel secure in the knowledge that I have done my best to fulfill what was laid before me that day, then I have been a success in the eyes of God. Notice I said the eyes of God and not people. Another thing I have learned is that people are fickle. What is great one day, may not be the next. What is the happening thing this year is sure to change by next. So if you do what you do to please man, you will be on a nonstop roller coaster ride of change. If you work hard and do your job to find the approval of people, then you will always feel like you are a "day late and a dollar short!".

Looking back over my journey thus far, I have experienced many great moments. I can't say that I have never been appreciated for my job. I have received many pats on the back, accolades from the stage, letters of appreciation and so much more! And I have been so grateful for each and every experience like that. I am just saying that does not happen all the time. The "gas in your tank" would run bone dry if you counted on those moments to get you by day to day. One example I can share from my own experience... I dedicated about 18 years of my life to a particular ministry. I experienced many great moments of "success" in this job. I met wonderful people, made what I thought were lasting life long relationships and made what I felt was a difference in the lives of many young people. Then a big life moment happened to me and it was one day in and the next day out. There is a lot of truth to "out of sight, out of mind". There was no "going away party", no gift to celebrate your 18 years of service, no "induction into the ministry hall of fame" :) There was just nothing. That particular ministry is still up and going and I can pretty much guarantee that all those involved for the most part, don't even have a clue who I am! Much less talk about what I contributed to the ministry :) Those lifelong relationships? Haven't really heard from very many of those people! I just walked through what was single handedly the most devastating, hardest thing I have ever faced in my entire life and with the exception of a few, the lines of communication have stayed silent! You may say, you sound bitter. I really am not! I am just pointing out a very simple life goes on for people. I truly don't feel like people purposely ignored me or dropped me, they were just busy in their own lives. I have been guilty of this myself!! Many times I have had good intentions..I will make that call, or send that letter, or give a little money to this missions trip..and have completely gotten caught up and have forgotten. It's called life and it happens. Which is why you will constantly fight a feeling of disappointment if you do what you do for man. Only God is able to keep a real record of our lives! And He is..

I know that I helped to make a difference in the lives of young people over the years, I know that I was able to contribute to a worthy ministry and that I fulfilled my purpose in being a part of it. I know that good seeds were planted and those who were a part of that ministry "under my watch" have in turned started doing what it is God has called them to do and they are making a difference in their world. I find GREAT SATISFACTION in that and I have worked to move on to my next! God has opened a new door of ministry for me at a local church and I would do them a great disservice to allow any bitterness or disappointment to be in me from a past experience. I am taking my past "experiences" and using them to help me to do the best job for God that I can in my present. "What's in it for me?" The opportunity to do what I love for some great people, all the while, serving the one that I God. Don't let your work be done in vain. Don't find your approval in a certificate, an award or a promotion. Those things are all great but in the grand scope of your life...just a blip. Do things because you want your life to be a witness to those who don't know Christ. Your want your job performance to reflect His excellence. You want your personality to draw people who otherwise feel unloved. Every day is a new day to do something great for God. There will always be a person ready to step up and sing better than you or speak with more eloquence or broker a better business deal. BUT there will never be another you! YOLO they say these days! They are right..You Only Live Once! Make it count for Christ and He will make sure you receive the greatest blessings!
In this thing called life with you my friends!