Category: Practices (page 1 of 25)

5 Practices to Combat Yard-sticking, Part 2

We all want to feel significant. Am I right??  We want to be -ER or -EST.

But when the only way we get our validation is through “yard-sticking” (being better or best), rather through God’s unconditional delight in us we’re sunk.

I compare, and I think “Ahhhh! I’m better than that!” and pride sneaks in. Or I compare and I think, “Oh, I’ll never be as good as ______” and I forget my worth in Jesus. Pride or Insecurity are the dangers of focusing on -er and -est.

This is an on-going struggle, kind of like whack-a-mole, needing constant attention because the yardstick will pop up over and over.

The other day I wrote about the first 3 practices that I’ve tried in combatting the tendency to yardstick. Here are the final 2. What would you add?

4. Practice gratitude.

Everything God created is good, and to be received with thanks. 1Timothy 4:4 MSG

Stop and make a list of the gifts, talents, and opportunities God has given you, thanking Him for the “good works He planned for you long ago”. Even things that seem like limitations may be used for God’s glory. Think of Peter and Paul in jail and their witness.

5. Embrace the discipline of genuine affirmation that comes from a place of abundance not scarcity.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29

Sometimes, especially when someone else is getting a boatload of attention, it’s hard to be affirming. We can choke on our words because we think “It’s not FAIR!” But when we can be authentic and specific I believe it will strengthen our confidence in God as a God of abundance and not scarcity.


One caveat…I do believe that there are times when we’re called to protect our soul from people who somehow Satan seems to consistently use to reinforce the lie of “not good enough”.  This doesn’t mean they are bad people at all, but I unfollow and unsubscribe those who bring out shame or anxiety in me. Boundaries can be a blessing.

None of this is easy. What thoughts would you add?



5 Practices to Combat Yard-sticking, Part 1

99% of the time I love being a cheerleader! It’s easy for me to get excited about the contributions others are making to the kingdom.

I marvel at those who have gifts that I don’t.

Like anything having to do with math. Or spreadsheets. Or budgets. A poker face. Technology. Patience. The ability to not speak every word that comes to mind.

But then there are other moments.

Especially with folks who have similar gifts and talents to mine, I find myself doing what psychologists call “yard-sticking” – the act of comparing yourself to others, particularly people in your own peer group, in a manner that results in feelings of inadequacy or jealousy.

And let me just say, I know you. I’m not alone. There are certain people who, when you hear someone rave about them, or see them on social media being all shiny and successful with “perfect kids” or a “perfect job”, it triggers something sad and hurtful inside you.  You feel diminished. Discounted. And that is not from Jesus.

Clearly, this is not something I’ve mastered, but there are 5 practices that have been helpful to me. I’ll share the first 3 today:

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What Do Formation and Escape Have to Do With You?

As I write this, I’m sitting in an airport lounge in Seoul, Korea.

We’ve been in the air over 17 hours and have 5 more to go in order to reach Hanoi, Vietnam, our destination.  I have something to drink, and a soft chair, and an internet connection, and I’m blessed to be heading to see the work of God in a new part of the world (to me). This is the best case scenario.

Still, travel represents one of the everyday experiences God can use for transformation. When we travel, so much is out of our control.

Think cancelled flights, lost luggage, crying babies, delays, and slow people who clog the TSA lines.

It doesn’t matter if it’s international travel, or going to Target with two toddlers in tow, our formation often comes in situations we want to escape from.

I think of another “traveler” – Moses – and his “toddlers”, the Israelites. If he had had his choice he probably would have gone it alone, and preferred straight line from Egypt to the Promised Land, bypassing the 40 years in the desert wandering thing.

When the Israelites are being difficult, Moses says, “What am I to do with these people?” Which is exactly the question you may be asking today.

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The Biggest Mistake We Make With One Word

A 10 inch snowfall is pretty norm for Minneapolis in January and for the most part I love it.

It’s beautiful, but as I pull around towards Starbucks early in the dark, post-snowfall morning, the plows are struggling to do their thing, cars are fish-tailing, and I have to dodge people in the street cuz the sidewalks aren’t cleared. GRRR.

Four cars have taken up five parking spaces, using precious real estate, landing haphazardly without yellow lines visible. GRRR.

One car has it’s lights on, looking ready to relinquish his spot, but he doesn’t move. GRRRR.

I give up and drive by only to have him decide NOW is the time to move, and another car swoops in to take his place. GRRR.

I find a remote parking place (read 50 yards away) and slippy slide towards the coffee shop, but realize halfway there, I’ve forgotten my purse. GRRRR.


I am cranky and impatient and totally ashamed of myself.

Many of us have chosen One Word, this year or in the past. If you’re new to it look here.

My One Word this year is Fruit, as in “The fruit of the Spirit is…PATIENCE!” And it’s been a whole month for Pete’s sake! Why am I not transformed into a person with the Jesus-y glow of patience yet?

One Word is a catchy idea, and as with New Year’s resolutions we often start off with a BANG! This word will CHANGE MY LIFE! But unlike the Darling children in Peter Pan, we need to do more than “think lovely thoughts” in order to get off the ground.

The biggest mistake we make with One Word is to just choose it. 

Last year, I wrote about buying a special (oh so pretty) journal for my One Word reflections. That was a good step (highly recommend!), and so was the reminder on my calendar once a month to review my One Word, but mostly I ignored those prompts.

I’m thinking we may all need a little accountability.  I’m going to commit to posting once a One Word Challenge each month along with an easy prompt that we can all reflect on and respond to. I hope you’ll join me because we’re better together!

So this month, here are 2 simple action steps you can take to move beyond just choosing One Word. 

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One (Boring) Word

Have you guys chosen One Word this year?  I know it’s halfway through January and I’m late to the party, but give me a break…It’s been, well…complicated.

First, I asked my family members what word they would choose for me. Big mistake. I asked so I needed to listen, but not only did I get a bit of variety, but they weren’t words like “joy” or “adventure” – you know, the kind I wanted to hear. Ahem.  My daughters gave me “perseverance”, and “patience”. REALLY?? That’s the last time I play THIS game!

Next, I prayed and reflected, but the word the Lord seemed to impress on me was also not one I was crazy about.

BO-RING! Right?

It made sense because I’ve been working hard on some different things and I need to not lose sight of the eternal purpose of each, but I thought (again), “REALLY? Blah.” So I tried to think of more exciting alternatives that wouldn’t violate the intent, but I came up empty.

And then the Lord did that thing where He kind of freaks me out. I could almost see Him rolling His eyes, saying “This daughter of mine is a little slow. I’d better connect the dots for her.”

Here are a few of the verses He put in front of me to stumble over…

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruitfruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. John 15:16

 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge;  and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness;  and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 2 Peter 1:5-7

Maybe part of the fruit He wants to produce in me is patience and perseverance?

But there’s more.

My husband, John,  (before I ever landed on “fruit”) said, “I’m not sure which one word it would be, but I want you to be able to celebrate the fruit God is already producing through you and enjoy it.”

Soooo maybe God uses a village? If you’ve chosen One Word for the year, what is it and what led you to choose it? If you’re commenting for the first time, don’t freak when it doesn’t show up immediately (it will, soon)

If you don’t have One Word yet, consider praying and asking your family.

P.S. This isn’t about working harder…not about doing more. It’s about paying attention and cooperating with the work God desires to do in your life to make you more like Him.




Thriving in a Plan B Life

The other day I wanted to throw something.  Or have a pity party that would involve eating lots of Patticake (from YUM!) with Cookie Dough ice cream.

And I couldn’t figure out why.

Until the late afternoon when it hit me.  I was cranky because I felt out of control.

Can you relate?  Maybe just a little bit?

You’ve had days like this when you were planning an outside activity and it’s minus seventy billion degrees,

and a friend who’s made a commitment to be somewhere backs out,

and a kid gets sick, and that thing that was promised is late,

and people don’t realize how lucky they are to have you around.

Big stuff and little stuff can throw us.

A lost job.

A freak accident.

Public criticism

Bottom line?  You feel powerless and you feel like you’re living a Plan B life, and you don’t like it.

Not one bit.

It feels like everyone else in the universe has power and they’re using it to wreck your day.  Can I get an “Amen!”?

But what if…

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Words Matter

I sit at a table with my mocha looking out on an icy blue sky and pristine fresh snow on Lake Calhoun. It’s a perfect in-between day with nothing scheduled except prayer, reflection, and creation. Those of you with littles around don’t hate me. Your day will come.

As many people like to remind us, WORDS MATTER. Aspirational words, quotes, affirmation, words of self-awareness…They have power to form, inspire, discourage, challenge…

In our family we write a lot of words, read a lot of words, and speak a lot of words. And this can be dangerous if left unexamined!

At the end of each year, my husband John and I have the tradition of taking time to read back over our journals (our words) from the year, noting what lessons God has been trying to teach us. We highlight quotes and key learnings.

This year, additionally, I asked our family what One Word they think characterized or summed up something important for them in 2017. 

“Perspective and priorities” from our son-in-law, and “modis vivendi” (literally “an arrangement or agreement allowing conflicting parties to coexist peacefully” – a way through) from our D.C. daughter were among those shared.

It’s hard for me to accept and celebrate “wins”, so it was reluctantly that I admitted I think “Brave” would be my word for 2017. As I look back I took some steps that felt scary to me. I created more. I put myself out there more. I stood firm more. I’m trying to celebrate that.

I also usually choose One Word for the coming year, but I’m doing things a little differently. I chose One Word for each of my family members that I’m committing to pray for them. 

Then, I asked each of them if they would share a word they think I should embrace this coming year. It might be a quality they think I need to grow in, or a stretch area or goal focus…It’s been good to hear their perceptions of what I need!

Lastly, I was inspired by Emily Quinton and want to write a letter to myself to be opened next New Year’s Eve about what I’m hoping to do and where I’m hoping to grow in this coming year. Words matter. And so I pray that I will speak and write and think words that are more like Jesus.

That’s what I’m up to this New Year’s Eve Eve day! What about you?

5 Mistakes I Made as a Hostess Last Night

I love gathering people – around our table, in our yard, throughout our house…whatever…

I do it a lot, but I’m a lifelong learner who still makes LOTS of mistakes!  Entertaining may not be your jam, but most people have to host something sometime.

Last night we had a small open house for some leaders in our church. I thought it might help if I shared some mistakes I made that you can avoid.

Things I did wrong last night:

  1. I tried too many new recipes. I love trying new recipes! With a large group of guests is not always the best time. I usually try to make sure I have at least one sure-fire winner and let myself try one new recipe. Last night there were 3. Not good.


2. I had too many hot things that needed to come out of the oven at the same time – last minute. The goal is PEOPLE time – “There you are!” time.


3. I put drink station in too congested area.  This is hard in our house – it’s an ongoing challenge, but I’ll keep experimenting.


4. Forgot to pray for guests. This is one of my absolute go-to’s – to stop and think about who is coming and their specific gifts and needs and pray for them. But yesterday I forgot. #fail.


5. Missed personal conversations with two guests. It’s hard to balance meaningful conversations with guests which may go long and keep you from circulating, and fly-by conversations that feel obligatory and too surfacy. I try really hard to engage meaningfully, but last night after folks left, I realized there were two people I hadn’t talked to at all! Ugh.


Things I did right:

1. Asked for help (people – especially introverts – love to be put to work!) Have people take plastic off plates, pull cider out of fridge…


2. Did as much as possible the day before. Labled serving pieces. Get out what you need, and think through how much room is needed for each option.


3. Made one easy, no-fail option. And here it is: Cut bacon slices into thirds. Wrap one piece of bacon around a “Lil Smokie” sausage and secure it with a toothpick. Dump all in a heavy plastic freezer bag. Shake in a bunch of brown sugar. Shake bag to coat and leave in fridge til ready to cook. Bake at 450 for 15-20 minutes. Can keep warm and serve in batches.

I’d love to hear from YOU!! What have you done as a host that we all can learn from?


What Does a “Sacrifice of Praise” Look Like on Thanksgiving?

It’s Thanksgiving morning and I have much to be grateful for. We are surrounded by extended family and daughter Katy from D.C. showed up to surprise us yesterday.

But part of a verse has been running through my head this Thanksgiving week.

“offer a sacrifice of praise”

Like I’m watching an unsteady toddler, tipsy and bumping an ottoman then lurching into a chair, I feel like I want to catch this verse and make it safer.

Last night as we sang worship hymns I thought of friends and family for whom praise may be difficult. If I read this verse in other circumstances I would be decidedly ticked off at God.

I think of…

Friends in a rocky marriage

Those mourning loss of loved ones

A dear one with ALS

I would be like, “SACRIFICE?? MORE SACRIFICE??”

How are they praising God this Thanksgiving? I don’t believe “a sacrifice of praise” means inauthenticity. Not a “fake it til you make it” deal. So what is the genuine response of “a sacrifice of praise”

Here’s the context.

For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

Hebrews 13:14-16

Although “fake it til you make it” doesn’t seem Jesus-y, it does seem there’s a call to move past our gut emotional response to circumstances, and instead choose the discipline of “in spite of”.

  • In spite of these circumstances I praise God because I can look forward to eternity with Him. (it is through Jesus we can do this)
  • In spite of these circumstances I praise God for His past faithfulness.
  • In spite of these circumstances I praise God for His character daily – He will never leave me. He redeems my sin. He loves me no matter what.

Here’s the thing, though… It’s not just my friends in challenging situations who may struggle with a “sacrifice of praise.” Maybe it’s you or me, in a season when things are pretty hunky dory.

One definition of sacrifice is: an act of offering to a deity something precious.

One thing that is precious to us is our sense of self-sufficiency, our autonomy. It’s the root of our sin, right? Like the lurching toddler above, we want to declare “I do it myself!”

Especially when things are going well, for some of us, “a sacrifice of praise” may be laying aside our pride and admitting “All that I am and all that I have come from You Lord. I praise You because You alone are worthy.” 

In the service last night we sang the hymn that has become our family’s. I pictured many friends and family as I sang the last stanza:

Pardon for sin, and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide’

Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, 

Blessings all mine with ten-thousand beside!

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! 

Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy had hath provided –

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Important Questions to Ask About Boundaries

“I often can’t get away from work til around 8:00.”

“I make work calls on my 45 minute commute to the office.”

“I’m a stay-at-home mom because I want to invest time in my kids while they are young, but I’m in so many important volunteer positions that I’m exhausted and pre-occupied with all I have to do even when I’m with my kids.”

“I’ve been up til midnight the past few nights trying to get my work load under control.”

“If I go out of town or take a break on the weekend, I’m swamped when I get back. It’s not worth it.”

These are all statements I’ve heard recently.

So many of my millennial friends are in seasons of high stress, high demand, and long work hours. The discipline of setting boundaries while trying to establish a career is tough, and scary.

I know there is no silver bullet, but this ties into my post from Monday on your “The Hardest ‘Yes’ of Your Day”.

What do you have the courage to say “no” to?

Before anything, maybe journal about what values are most important to you.

Family? Faith Community? Spiritual Growth? Balance? Volunteerism? Peace?

Is it possible to prioritize these values within the career you have? Do you have clear expectations and boundaries built into your job description?

“You get what you tolerate.” Henry Cloud

Here are a few questions to consider asking yourself as you are making decisions:

  1. If I say “yes” to this request, what will I need to say “no” to? What will I need to sacrifice? Who will I be cheating?

2. Does saying yes to this (deadline, project, staying late..) tap into an unhealthy sense of “need to be needed” or pride? (Ouch! I know this is an important one from experience!)

3.  Who might benefit from me sharing this opportunity or delegating this task?

4. Am I letting urgent things crowd out the important things in my life?


5. Who am I coaching or mentoring on a daily basis so that not everything will be dependent on me? 

Whether you’re a boss or not, there are some great strategies here:

The One Thing All Great Bosses Do Well

Remember, your true self will never change. You are beloved child of God with nothing to prove. Your false self is based on titles, paychecks, and awards that will come and go.

At the end of the day may we, like Jesus, be able to say:

 I brought glory to you here on earth by doing everything you told me to. John 17:4

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