▪️PICK YOUR BATTLES

The world needs skilled fighters

The subject line of his email read “People are messy.” Now that’s a a piece of bait almost everyone can relate to. And as I clicked through to see the rest of his content I almost laughed out loud 😆 his video message was entitled, CONFLICT.

Oh how I wish we were all seated on my living room sofa together, cozied up and sharing our war stories of conflict. Why is conflict so especially difficult for women? Whether it’s in your family sphere, your professional sphere, or dare I even say in your friendship sphere – can we all relate that if we had a choice we would never, yes I said never, engage in conflict?

This is the attribute that I have had to work through the most. It’s the attribute that has broken me down and built me up as a person. The attribute that calls me to stick up for myself and others has forced me to learn how to pick my battles and fight right.

And what I’ve learned is, knowing how to fight gives you courage.

Sometimes when I’m on my morning jog I fantasize that I have one of those totally ripped P90X bodies and the kung fu fighting skills to go with it. I think I’ve created an alter ego. She is the physical embodiment of my inner convictions. She emerges when I’m faced with battling the things and people that are wrong and unjust in my life. She belongs in every Marvel movie sticking up for what’s right and fiercely upholds the truth. She is everything I aspire to be.

Alas, when my jog is finished and the endorphins subside, she is gone, and I am left to do the fighting on my own.

I have a deep need to see all things GOOD, RIGHT, and JUST prevail in every way and my fight girl goes into battle mode when I’m faced with these conflicts. However, her superpowers are fiction and the real me, the “please God don’t make me engage in conflict” me is left to strive and sweat for the GOOD, RIGHT, and JUST on her behalf. I’m learning this is the hardest of all the ATTRIBUTES for me to develop. This post is for me.

Here are a few tidbits I’ve gleaned from my battle scars.

#1 – YOU HAVE PERMISSION. I needed permission. If you’re a rule follower like me sometimes you just need permission. You have permission. It’s always OK to stick up for yourself and others.

#2 – KNOW YOUR BOUNDARIES. This one takes time. Decide what you will and won’t tolerate for yourself and others in your care. (which might include strangers at times!) If you can, make a list about words and actions you will and won’t allow in your presence. You need to know your own boundaries before you can protect them.

#3 – PROTECT YOUR BOUNDARIES. This step is where courage needs to kick in. We all operate with a different code of conduct so expect that people will violate your boundaries. You need to decide how to give a “warning” and when you need to load your weapon.

#4 – USE YOUR WORDS. Your words are your ammunition. You need to know how to carefully and confidently address a boundary violation. Most people know how to manipulate, avoid, and use their words in a destructive manner, few know how to fight right.

I’ve learned in most cases you will be leading yourself and the other human through this process. It’s hard. Humans are wired with the fight or flight instinct – learning how to fight in a way that makes someone else feel like flight isn’t their only option is a life skill – a relationship skill.

As I said before, this has been the hardest ATTRIBUTE for me to develop. I’ve got battle stories with both positive and negative endings. Mostly, the relationship has at least ended in mutual respect. Sometimes there wasn’t a need to either deepen or continue the relationship and the discomfort of the conflict just sent each party on their way. No outcome is ever guaranteed that’s why we have to decide early what battles are worth fighting.

The point is this, we don’t know our future and it might just be that the greatest work we are ever led to do will require us to have the courage to fight. The world needs skilled fighters, courageous leaders, and P90X kung fu girls with hearts full of conviction. What about you… do you have an alter ego?

ATTRIBUTE # 5

PICK YOUR BATTLES

If you’ve got tips in this area I’d love for you to share them with the rest of us.

Until next week – be strong and courageous,

▪️PAIN HAS A PURPOSE

Pain is a great teacher

Not again.

As I scrolled through my Facebook feed there it was, another “I did it” post. It’s a double edged sword. They’re excited to share their success and want to encourage the “others” who have yet to win a BIG victory.

Unfortunately, in the process their win can be discouraging.

When you’re just getting started and you haven’t achieved the big MO…momentum, you are emotionally fragile. Fragile is a gentle word. What would the word be exactly for something suspended in such a volatile state that it could easily rupture like a bubble? Maybe that’s the right word, volatile?

I wasn’t planning on writing about this today, yet it’s truth caught up with me – or did I find it while I was getting caught up on Facebook?

When we get all caught up in our negative emotions, death creeps in. Our small wins become losses. Our potential gets starved. Our dreams die.

In case you didn’t know the death of a dream can be as emotionally painful for a human as the death of a real person in their life. The loss is real. 💔

Our emotions are strong and unruly and if we don’t keep them in check they can do a devastating amount of damage to our lives. I say this from experience as I’ve looked over my shoulder and personally surveyed their destructive remnants.

My Facebook discouragement is legit. My emotions have a well rehearsed response when someone obtains something that I have yet to possess. We are possessive by nature. God is possessive. We’re made in His image.

My brain says abundance. My emotions say scarcity.

My brain says they’ve been working at it longer. My emotions say I’ll never get there.

My brain speaks words of truth. My emotions pour out a cocktail of lies.

Why do we have emotions anyway if they can reek havoc on us? Jealousy, envy, anger, why are they necessary?

Is it possible that they’re the mirror we must gaze at to discover who we really are and what we really want? I say, yes. More so than any book, podcast, webinar or personality profile, it has been my emotions that have informed me about who God made me to be and the purpose He has for me.

The jealousy and envy reveal to me – that’s what you want. Well then I say…go ahead. Put effort in that same direction.

The anger discloses – you’re not in control of the outcome. Hold everything with an open hand…do your part and let God do His and trust that He has your best interest at heart.

Pain is a great teacher of our hearts.

I don’t need to explain to myself what’s going on when my emotions are positive because my brain and my heart have aligned. Like a slot machine signaling JACKPOT with blinking lights and blaring sirens, my emotions are affirming the YES! YES! YES!

It’s not so with negative emotions. It’s not so with emotional pain.

I do believe God uses the pain to help us on our journey, it serves a purpose. All we have to do is discover that purpose. Physical pain and emotional pain are both opportunities for self discovery. Pain can change us for the better.

Taking the journey toward our pain takes courage.

It’s this deep dive into our emotions where we can find the desires of hearts, hold them carefully in all their fragility as we carry them to surface of our lives.

It takes oxygen to make this journey. Breathe.

I intended to write today about a recent reflection I’d had while getting a therapeutic message. However, today’s pain was real enough to share, I’ll get to that story another time. Just keepin it real friends.

ATTRIBUTE #3 : PAIN HAS A PURPOSE

This is our conversation starter for this week.

Where’s your pain point? Share what you’ve learned from pain with us – you’ll encourage someone along the way.

As always, be strong and courageous,

▪️FACE YOUR FEAR

I was done being vulnerable

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a year since I was up on that mountain. The weather was unexpectedly cold for our Spring Break trip. I’m not a fan of the cold, actually that’s a gross understatement.

I hate the cold – there I said it. I can handle the judgement.

I was born in the Florida Keys, island is my natural habitat. My cold belongs in calendar images and Instagram feeds, it’s not meant to be felt.

I think that’s what’s so hard about fear – we feel it.

My mix of irrational feelings and rational thoughts that day was embarrassing.

I insisted on leading our trail of family members, each mounted on ATV’s, as we lined up with the other riders behind our guide. It’s nearly impossible to keep your own fear at bay when your momma bear instincts are at full throttle. Thus it was I who led our little pack up the mountain.

The sky was bright and clear. The trees were a mix of barrenness and evergreen. It was an unfortunate opportunity to be alone with my inner self, thoughts and feelings of a crazy girl would have been an appropriate conversation bubble 💬 doodled over my head.

My fear of heights is deeply rooted in my lack of trust in people. If I fall will there be someone there to catch me? This is the source of my fear.

The people who should have been there from the beginning weren’t, aren’t, and won’t be – people can’t give what they don’t have.

Some of our soul damage will always be there – and we must be content that the awareness of our scars can help us appreciate brokenness and mending without the discouraging expectation of perfection.

Perfection remains in glory and is not planning on visiting our chaos.

Chaos would be a great adjective for my mix of wrestlings.

“Melissa, you can trust that the people who made this vehicle understand the physics of the incline and what is required for all four tires to support you without tipping over.”

“But how do I know I can trust those people.”

“Don’t you trust the people who’ve built the airplanes you’ve flown in?”

“I guess I never thought about that.”

“Do you trust God?”

“Yes… just not through people.”

“Well, how exactly do you think God works in the world.”

“Through people.”

“Then how do you explain why this is any different?”

“I can’t” … ” I’m done talking now. End of conversation.”

I was done being vulnerable – even if it was only with myself.

It takes courage to be vulnerable about your fears and trust that people won’t take advantage of you. It takes courage to ask for help.

Because I’ve been deeply wounded by the people who I should have been able to trust, I have a hard time being vulnerable enough to ask for help.

This year one of the areas I’ve challenged myself to be more courageous in is asking for help.

I’ve been aware of this underlying reason for my fear of falling for many years. I know it’s there – but I don’t let it bully me around. I’ve been to the top of the Eiffel Tower, Sistene Chapel, Jupiter Lighthouse… been zip lining, cave diving, and mountain climbing on an ATV…all to keep this fear in its place.

That’s our conversation starter for this week.

Attribute #3: FACE YOUR FEAR

This week I want you to grab that FEAR by the neck and give it a good shake.

Tell us what you did to put your FEAR in its place.

Be strong and courageous… you’ve got this!

▪️DON'T QUIT

And there it was

As I gently slowed the car while approaching the stop light God was already responding to my gritty prayer.

This year I have inadvertently committed to read through The One Year Bible – again. Some of you feel intimidated by that statement, well don’t, anything I do with consistency is a miraculous act of God. Give Him the glory.

This particular morning’s reading included Genesis, shamefully detailing the hot mess that was the family of Jacob. If you are unfamiliar I highly recommend you read from… oh let’s say Genesis, Chapters 28-35. You will definitely come away as I did, encouraged, whatever state your family is in – there is hope. 😂

In a gracious response to my prayer God reminded me of what I had just read hours earlier. Why? I needed the encouragement.

The drive to school felt more like being a soldier stationed in enemy territory than it did being a mom. Locked in the confines of my Honda Pilot I was exposed to hostel sibling infighting – it had almost brought me to tears. It wasn’t even 8 a.m.

Even though this was not an encouraging parenting moment, God in His immeasurable kindness reminded me of Jacob and his brood. And as He did I thought to myself, “at least we’re not that bad.”

And there it was.

A tiny rep to give me strength, because courage is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you lose it.

ATTRIBUTE #2 : DON’T QUIT, Persevere when things get tough, make ‘finish what you start’ a personal mantra.

Parenting has made me stronger that any other adversity I’ve ever faced. It causes me the most pain and begs every cell in my body to scream “Uncle” – or “I give up”, “I quit”, “I can’t”, “I won’t”, “I’m throwing in the towel”. It’s my kryptonite.

On this day I needed to be encouraged that there would be better days.

Truthfully, sibling infighting is normal and I need to realize that it’s more likely than not that I will have much harder days than this one. Day’s that want to break me – days that will require more COURAGE.

So today… I #cultivatemorecourage one tiny rep at a time.

That’s our conversation starter for this week friends,

ATTRIBUTE #2 : Don’t Quit.

What in your life requires the most perseverance and how are you going to make ‘finish what you start’ a personal mantra?

Can’t wait to hear from you…and as always, be strong and courageous.