Hidden Labels

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

You’re the God who sees me!” Genesis 16:13 MSG

I often get frustrated when my daughter is trying to teach me some new technological gizmo that I can’t seem to grasp. I find myself pulling out the dumb label I keep tucked inside my shirt and plastering it across my chest in neon letters.

Wearing this label, I feel justified that I can’t learn anything new; it’s just who I am – “the way God made me.”

But Cricket doesn’t buy it. “Mom,” she says in an unsympathetic tone, “quit playing dumb. I know you’re not. You can get this. Now stop hiding behind the ‘old dog’ mask and concentrate on this ‘new trick.’”

We often rely on labels to clarify our identity. If we’re not sure who we really are – or maybe don’t like who we really are – perhaps we can hide behind a label that reflects who we wish we were.

We look into a mirror and see an image, but not the same image Papa God sees when He looks at us. Our vision and self-perception have been jaded by labels we’ve received our entire lives. We still wear labels that were callously glued onto our backs from childhood, stamps like klutzy, stupid, not good enough, or fatty-fatty-two-by-four, can’t fit through the bathroom door (my personal nemesis).

And then there are other labels we’ve assigned ourselves as we’ve grown up, like airhead, idiot, loser, or damaged goods.

 These negative labels erode our confidence and work subtly, beneath the surface, to make us feel worthless. The internal damage is often reflected externally in our posture or countenance. We may slump our shoulders, hang our heads, or keep our eyes downcast.

We wear these destructive labels so long we eventually get used to them and aren’t even aware of their presence. Or power. Our thinking is shaped by them, which then subconsciously modifies our behavior to fit our label. It becomes a vicious cycle.

As a fashion-conscious teen, I carefully cut the Tommy label off a pair of worn-out, hand-me-down jeans and sewed it onto my Kmart specials. That label kept me in style for several peer-impressing years.

Labels can build us up or tear us down. Some women wear a chic label proudly, or maybe trendy, wealthy, or politically correct. Others work hard to earn labels like professional, successful, efficient, intelligent, or competent. Still others become known by their beliefs as pro-life, godly, activist, or conservative.

 It’s up to us which labels we choose to wear.

I often wonder if the apostle Peter saw himself sporting a Liar label or one that boldly proclaimed: Rock.

Would Rahab’s label say Slut … or Redeemed?

When all was said and done, did Naomi consider herself Bitter… or Restored?

And how about Saul: Christian-killer, whose label flipped to Paul: Greatest Evangelist of All Time?

So tell me, what labels do you have tucked inside your shirt? Do you hide them so well that nobody knows they’re there but you? I’ve got news for you, sister: Someone else knows, and He isn’t buying it either. Matter of fact, I don’t think Papa God puts much stock in our labels. He doesn’t even notice the stickers we’ve plastered all over ourselves.

When we invite Jesus into our hearts and ask Him to fill us with His love, all God sees when He looks at us is the gentle, sweet, and beautiful reflection of His Son.

Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new. 2 Corinthians 5:17 CEV

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Hidden Labels – insight from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: What labels do you choose to wear? Do they reflect the way God sees you?

In the Bag

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord.” Jonah 1:3 NIV

In my role as the preschool Bible Story Lady at church one Sunday, I told the story of Jonah and the big fish to the four-year-olds.

The hard part wasn’t bringing the bit about Jonah deliberately running away from God down to the their level: little people who still get their fannies smacked when they run away from adults. No. They got that all right.

The hard part was how to tell it so they’d understand that some grown-ups are silly enough to think they can hide from an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God. Not even a four-year-old would believe that.

So I asked how many of the children like to play hide-and-seek. Every hand went up.

“Have you ever picked a really bad hiding place like this one?” I put my hands over my eyes and said, “Okay. I’m hidden. I can’t see you so you can’t see me either, right?”

The kids laughed hysterically.

“Or how about this one?” I tried to squeeze my jumbo adult body behind an itty-bitty kiddie chair. “Can you see me now?”

They howled.

“Or maybe you’ve been here.” I returned to center stage, carefully unfolded a paper bag, plopped it over my head, and reached out with both hands – searching, groping, even becoming a little tearful as I fell to my knees.

“Did you leave me?” I called out in faux panic. “Oh no! I’m all alone in this cold, dark, horrible place. And I’m so scared! Won’t someone help me?”

No laughter this time. Something had resonated with those little people.

I hadn’t expected this. Silence, so thick you could cut it with a knife. I wasn’t sure what to do next.

The kids apparently identified with my aloneness, with Jonah in his disobedience. With all humankind when we choose to dig a hole of disrespect to our Creator, then lie in it, isolated … frightened … confused.

Suddenly a little voice piped up. A warm voice heavy with empathy. “It’s okay, Miss Debbie. We’re still here. Don’t be afraid. You’re not alone.”

And then I heard footsteps mounting the stage and felt a tiny hand take mine. Then dozens of small hands found me, surrounding me with comfort and hope.

There I was, kneeling on a stage with a brown paper bag over my head and a huge lump in my throat, swarmed by a horde of uninhibited children who understood what it felt like to be alone and afraid – and didn’t want it to happen to me.

I was incredibly moved.

Running from God is something we silly grown-ups do, isn’t it? We actually think that secret sin of ours is secret and an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful God somehow doesn’t know about our hidden shame.

So we isolate that part of ourselves and try to hide it in a cold, dark spiritual place that reeks like the innards of a gutted fish. We feel alone. And scared. Because our heavenly Father isn’t there.

But He is. He is. Like Jonah, we only have to call for help to be heard. “Then Jonah prayed to his God from the belly of the fish” (Jonah 2:1 MSG).

Then Papa God’s warm, comforting hands will reach out from the darkness, enveloping us in forgiveness, redemption, second chances … hope.

That flash of blindness with the preschoolers truly opened my eyes. It was one of those rare teachable moments of adulthood that knocks your well-ordered world off its axis and cracks open the door for a glimpse into a higher realm.

Maybe I should carry a head bag around with me all the time.

Now let your unfailing love comfort me, just as you promised me, your servant. Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live, for your instructions are my delight.” Psalm 119:76-77 NLT

TWEETABLE
In the Bag – encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

debora-coty-250x250About the author: Debora Coty is a speaker, columnist and award-winning author of 200+ articles and over 40 books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with over 1.2 million copies sold in multiple languages worldwide. Besides donning her floppy flowered hat as the Bible Story Lady, she enjoys teaching piano, mountain hiking, choco-scarfing, and playing tennis. Debora lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband and five feisty grands living nearby. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BBFFs (Blessed Blog Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Have you had a rare teachable moment with God lately? Please share!

 

Us Loves You

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior.” Psalm 25:5a NIV

My family attended a Baptist church while I was growing up and no excuse was good enough to get out of going, barring coma or gushing blood. As a preteen, I was quite annoyed to be stuck in Sunday night “Training Union” class. I did not wish to be either trained or unified with the other unfortunates, like me, who were forced to be there.

So many more important things to do – bike paths to forge; Lost in Space to watch on TV, homework to ignore.

Instead, I was held captive week after week by Mr. and Mrs. Buford, a childless, elderly couple, neither of whom had completed eighth grade in order to help their families scratch a living on farms during the depression. They owned no television, nor microwave, and had never been on an airplane. Why, they had no idea what a video game was. Unfathomable.

Yet there they were, week after week, month after month, faithful as the springtime rain. I and my know-it-all cronies scoffed at their country bumpkin speech. So uncool.

“Us loves you.”

It was the phrase with which Mrs. Buford started every class. An occasional snicker would burst from one of us enlightened scholars, but the Buford’s never seemed to notice.

Soon they’d have us racing to look up Scriptures, learn the books of the Bible, and win candy for answering Bible story questions. Of course, we acted as if none of this was the least bit fun. Yawn.

“Us loves you.”

Mrs. Buford would close the hour with the same ridiculous phrase, a warm smile crinkling her careworn face. Somehow, I remember like it was yesterday.

Fast-forward thirty years.

My husband Chuck and I are surrounded by a group of 12- to-14-year-olds, all of whom wish they were elsewhere. We are trying to teach them scriptural principles and bring God’s Word to life.

They’re only interested in who got busted Saturday night.

Chuck asks a boy with a purple Mohawk whose father is in prison to read a specific passage of Scripture aloud in answer to his question about how we know the Bible is true. The boy reads haltingly, unsure of what some of the words mean.

We explain it in terms he can understand. He’s still unconvinced. Skeptical. Mistrusting. But for some reason, he keeps coming back. I notice that he listens, really listens, when one of the other boys asks, “Miz Coty, why do you meet with us every week, when all we do is eat your food, wreck your house, and give you one big headache?”

The answer travels through time and registers in my mind as if I’m hearing it for the first time.

“Us loves you.”

Faithfulness has a resonating voice, doesn’t it? In this world of casual abandonment, when we choose to faithfully serve God by using our gifts and abilities to help others in His name, His love shines through like a lantern piercing the darkness.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you” (Proverbs 3:3 NIV).

We may not preach globally, or teach from an elevated platform, or have more than a handful of Facebook friends, but if we show up day after day, week after week, faithfully glorifying our Savior in the ministry He has custom-designed for us, He’ll be there too.

Whether we’re riding herd on a passel of squirming preschoolers, sweeping up crumbs after a home Bible Study, or invisibly running the worship service sound system, Papa God promises to bless us and keep teaching us the eternal truth of His ways.

And that’s the way I want to go. How about you, my friend?

TWEETABLE
Us Loves You – insight and encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Have you ever felt frustration that your ministry is too small? How has/is God using your efforts for His kingdom?

Defusing Rage

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 NASB

I love my man, Chuck. I do. But sometimes he baffles me.

Like the time he noticed the philodendron in my flowerbed had grown so big it blocked the sprinkler. So Chuck, with his logical, fix-it left brain, hacked it off at its base. He’d somehow missed that the whole point of the sprinkler was to grow the plant big.

Now you have to understand that the flowerbeds are my domain. I carefully nurture every plant, talking and sometimes even singing to them. Don’t laugh. They’re my little green babies. So imagine my horror when I found my gorgeous six-foot philodendron stretched out like a dead body beside the garbage can.

I was so devastated I could barely breathe. I turned to stare at the gaping hole in the row of seven enormous, wondrously healthy philodendrons I had planted and lovingly coaxed to adulthood during the past three years. The one in the middle was missing like a six-year-old’s front tooth. The one by the sprinkler head.

I wept. Then I got mad. I was ready to blast the cold-blooded murderer.

But then I remembered the funeral I’d recently attended, during the heart-melting eulogy, the husband of the deceased praised the way she’d held their marriage together for 58 years and said in a grief-choked voice, “She never looked down on me in all those years – she always looked up at me in respect …even when I didn’t deserve it.”

Whoa. Those words hit me hard. I was so convicted about criticizing my husband – sometimes in my own mind, sometimes out loud – that I vowed to try harder to curb my sharp critique tendencies. My husband didn’t need a finger wagging in his face; he needed respect.

“Lord,” I prayed, “help me understand, not criticize him. I know he was only trying to help. Glue my mouth shut. Morph my wrath into gentleness. Help me appreciate, not blast him.”

So as hard as it was, I swallowed my harsh words. And recited my verse of the month: “Keep your mouth shut, and you will stay out of trouble” (Proverbs 21:23 NLT).

Later that afternoon, I went back out to the flowerbed to attempt some damage control. To my surprise, there in the gap next to the stark green stump, stood my listing, drooping philodendron. Chuck had dug a hole and tried to replant the poor rootless thing. He’d even watered it.

I burst into tears again, but this time they were warm tears of gratitude mingled with salty tears of joy. Oh, I knew there was no hope for the philodendron, but the point was that by me not blowing up and instead allowing the Holy Spirit to calm me down, what could have been a marital Mt. Vesuvius … wasn’t.

And because of the Helper’s intervention, Chuck got it. Without feeling criticized or belittled, he got that he’d unwittingly broken my heart and was doing his best to redeem the situation. How can you not love a guy like that?

These days, a rocky marriage is far more common than a marriage that rocks. Discerning intent is crucial when we’re tempted to blast Spouse for something he did that we found hurtful. Perhaps the results of his action turned out badly, but what was his true intention?

Replacing harsh words with gentleness is not something that comes naturally to most of us. Sometimes we need a glue stick instead of lipstick. Thankfully the Lord of rage diffusion is well-stocked.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  (1 Peter 4:8 NIV)

TWEETABLE
Defusing Rage – encouragement from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release is Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms addresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: When was the last time the Holy Spirit prompted you to keep your mouth closed?

The Cave

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1, NIV

I don’t like this cave I’m in. Not one bit.

It’s dark. It’s uncomfortably damp. And it smells like rancid mushrooms.

I feel terribly alone one minute, and the next, I’m not sure I’m alone at all. I think I can hear someone – or something – breathing. If I strain hard enough in the darkness, I can make out the shape of a man on the far side of the cave.

Still. Silent. Facing me.

I feel my skin crawl. But I’ve no one to blame but myself. I chose to come in here. I slipped into the cave of disappointment on my own volition. No one chased me here or forced me to enter.  It just seemed the only place to go under the circumstances I was facing. Hard times. Heartache. Uncertainty.

So here I am. Hating the darkness and wishing I could find a way to escape this cave of disappointment. Disappointment over people I thought I knew and trusted. Disappointment in witnessing injustice and helplessly watching those I love suffer.

Disappointment with life itself.

I’m reminded of a biblical shepherd-king named David. He spent a lot of time in caves too. He was running from a man (Saul) he once trusted and even revered; a hand-picked-by-God king whom David had been honored to serve and comfort with music during his deepest emotional struggles.

A man who then turned on David and sought to take his life.

And so David fled to caves (documented in the Old Testament book of 1 Samuel). Many different caves over the years. Many different disappointments. David was forced to live life on the run.

A cave-dwelling fugitive.

And there he must’ve shivered like me in the cold blackness, feeling the deep disappointments of life to the marrow of his bones.

The Cave is an awful place. It sucks light, joy, and hope right out of us. Drains us dry. Because it makes us overlook all the things we have to be grateful for, all the blessings of life that our Papa God has lavished upon us. Things we forget to notice when times get hard. When things don’t turn out the way we envisioned; when dear ones betray us and God seems silent. When we’ve lost jobs, security, mentors, friends, health, or the dreams we secretly nurtured.

And we cannot fathom the why of it.

We all spend time in The Cave. It’s where Papa God does some of His finest character-sculpting. The Cave is where He keeps his sharpest chisels and coarsest sanders. Where He meets us one-on-one, to shape and mold us into the beloved son or daughter He’s had in mind for us to be from the very beginning.

“Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love” (Ephesians 1:4, MSG).

Mother Teresa, who spent quite a few of her precious years here on earth in The Cave, said, “You’ll never know Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you’ve got.” In her own barren cave of disappointment, she learned that when all else seems lost, He is enough. And He was.

You know, the more I stare through the murkiness of this cave, I can begin to make out the identity of the shape over there, patiently biding time, watching me.

It’s … why, it’s Jesus.

I get the feeling He’s been waiting there a long time for me to notice that I’m not alone. And now He’s drawing nearer. There’s a warm light radiating from His eyes. I think He’s got something in His hand. And He’s smiling.

TWEETABLE
The Cave – insight from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: Tell me, dear friend, when did you last spent time in The Cave?

Singing to Sarah

by Debora M. Coty @deboracoty

Encourage one another and build each other up.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

I recently attended a reunion at the small church in which Spouse and I raised our kids. It felt like a passage back into time. Very little had changed in the twenty-five years we’d been away – and whadayaknow? There was the same off-brand spinet piano that taught me to share my Jesus-joy songs in front of an audience without wetting my pants.

Well, most of the time, anyway.

It was all I could do not to rush up front and hug that sweet old piano. I remembered Sunday after Sunday, quivering like a leaf in a hurricane, standing before the same long-suffering group of believers, sharing the myriad of songs that Papa God popped like praise popcorn in my head.

Some were good, some not so good, but all were from my heart. They were my best attempt to intimately worship my Creator through the creative outlets He provided me.

I learned so much there: I learned how to perform in front of a crowd (which I now know was training in becoming the professional public speaker I am today). I learned not to attempt to liberate your wedgie while on a platform. I learned how to worship Papa God with the gifts and abilities He’d given me.

And I learned to watch Sarah.

Sarah was a dear, soft-spoken woman a decade my elder. Sarah was an encourager. And she took on a ministry of encouraging me in a very special way.

When I mustered every shred of courage to share one of my newly written songs with that small congregation, Sarah’s was the face I sought. I could count on Sarah’s smile beaming at me, her head nodding, her shoulders swaying to the beat of the music. She was right there alongside me – my biggest (and sometimes only) supporter. At least that was my perception, gazing out at all the stern, serious faces of the frozen chosen staring back at me.

When I feared I would faint, I sang to Sarah.

When I couldn’t remember the words to the song I had written, I made up words for Sarah.

When I made epic blunders and felt judged and choked with tears and thought I’d never make it to the end of the song, I sang to Sarah.

My experience on that platform taught me to always react when someone is putting themselves on the line, sharing something meaningful from their heart.

“Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today’” (Hebrews 3:13 NASB). Encouragement via engagement is such a small thing. It doesn’t hurt to smile; it only helps. Them. You. It costs us nothing to give but may mean the world to the person receiving it. It might even change their life.

It did mine.

To this day, I make it a point to emulate Sarah’s smile whenever someone is sharing from their heart – whether it be preaching, singing, sharing their testimony, or juggling pot-bellied pigs. If they are trying to honor Papa God by it, I’m right there alongside them, and I make sure they know it by my body language.

I wouldn’t have had the guts to pursue a public speaking career (and occasional singing too!) if it hadn’t been for those broad smiles of encouragement from Sarah. Little bits of sincere encouragement at the right time can help someone more than any sermon, Bible Study, or well-meaning self-help book.

Everyone can have a ministry of countenance encouragement. Even you. It’s such a small thing but truly an ENORMOUS impact. Won’t you join me as a smile minister?

“The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped” (Proverbs 11:25 MSG).

TWEETABLE
Singing to Sarah – thoughts on #FollowingGod from @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

About the author: Debora M. Coty is an inspirational speaker, columnist, and award-winning author of over 40 books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series, with over one million books sold in three languages around the world. Debora lives, loves, and laughs in central Florida where she tries to encourage via engagement every single day. Join Deb and her fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com

deboracotyDebora’s newest release, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Momsaddresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: How can you offer someone encouragement via engagement today?

Woman Interrupted

by Debora M. Coty @deboracoty

Interruptions. We hate ‘em. Let’s be honest and call them what they really are: a pain in the royal rumpus.

That’s how we react to interruptions, isn’t it? With teeth gnashed and face grimaced. Because we don’t like unexpected, unpredictable, unwelcome surprises. We want to do things our way, no muss, no fuss; we want to follow our carefully laid plans to predetermined outcomes.

When our plans are thwarted, our attitude drifts toward that of a two-year-old whose lollipop was hijacked by the Rottweiler.

I’ll admit I’m not a happy girl when my plans are impeded. I praise Jesus and stomp my foot at the same time. Why, oh why, can’t I adapt to change with more grace? A scripture passage that’s helping me handle interruptions better is the story Jesus told in Luke 10:33-35, NASB (emphasis mine):

“But a Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him [the traveler beaten by robbers]; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn and took care of him.

And on the next day, he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you.

Okay, let’s look a little closer at the parts related to interruptions:

  • He saw him. Compassion usually begins with the eyes; you can’t care until you’re aware. You must see – and often personally experience – a problem before your heart is engaged. Papa God has a way of using unscheduled, divine appointments (we call ‘em interruptions) to divert our eyes from our relentless to-do list to what’s really important.
  • He came to him. It’s easier NOT to help someone when you keep your distance. But once you open your mind to possibilities you haven’t yet considered, you’ll begin to feel the Holy Spirit’s elbow jab of guidance. When He keeps poking, it’s time to step up to the plate, even if you left your best bat at another ballpark.
  • He took care of him. The odds are slim that this dude was a career health care professional galloping off to a medical convention; he very likely had no more emergency wound care training than you or me, but he did the best he could with what he had. He probably ripped up his own perfectly good clothing for bandages, used up his personal stash of wine for wound sterilization, drained his essential oils for healing, and trudged the dusty road on foot so that the wounded man could have the choice seat atop his donkey, the ancient version of EMS.
  • I will repay you. There’s always a cost for kindness – are we willing to pay it? Might be money, time, energy, or worse yet, falling hopelessly behind on our tyrannical to-dos. The ultimate sacrifice.

Although he was hastening down the road with his own pressing agenda, the Samaritan stopped. He saw. He felt. He allowed himself to be interrupted for a greater cause.

You know, despite our meticulous planning (Ha!), we never know when Papa God has scheduled a divine appointment. We must expect the unexpected. Don’t resent interruptions; they’re part of your Creator’s to-do list for your life. Try to view them as opportunities to serve others.

And believe it or not, Papa God is standing by to bless your mess.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9, NLT

*Adapted from Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms with permission from Barbour Publishing.

TWEETABLE
Woman Interrupted – insight on how to cope with interruptions from author @deborahcoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release is Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms addresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: When has God interrupted you lately?

Guilted by the Shoulds

by Debora M. Coty @deboracoty

The dental hygienist fixed her accusing stare on me after a not-so-stellar appointment. “You should floss more,” she leveled. “What are you doing to clean your teeth daily besides brushing?”

“Um …” I groped for something. Anything. “I use the doggie biscuit technique; I chew on extra crunchy chocolate chip cookies.”

She was right. I really should floss more. But sometimes should is a dangerous word. It’s a stress-filled, pressure-packed slave driver. It ruthlessly inflates the bulk of a woman’s to-do list, often crowding out healthy sanity-essentials with guilt-induced clutter.

  • I should go to that meeting; they really need my help.
  • I should cook a big dinner every night like my mother did.
  • I should clean my house so the kids won’t write notes in the dust.

Seems there’s always something more we should be doing.

But as every woman struggling to squeeze into last year’s skinny jeans knows, more isn’t always better; sometimes it’s simply overwhelming. You know, my friend, we can be whelmed without being overwhelmed. Whelmed is livable; overwhelmed is strangling.

So how do we shush that should guilt threatening to overwhelm us? Here are four suggestions that work for me:

Be stress-smart. When you’re slammed into a stress mess, sit yourself down with a calming cup of your fave hot beverage. I’m talking five mere minutes here, not five hours. You can afford it. Close your eyes. Tune in to Papa God’s loving presence … His heartbeat … His peace. “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul” (Psalm 94:19 NIV).

Avoid BOOP (Boiling Oatmeal Overflow Phenomenon). BOOP is one of my Coty Near-Facts of Science (theories not yet proven by actual scientific studies but nevertheless known by women to be true). I postulate that women are like pots of oatmeal; at the beginning of the day we simmer – little manageable bubbles of stress rise to the surface and harmlessly pop. But as the day progresses, the heat escalates and the oatmeal boils higher and wilder and meaner until it overflows and spoils everything around it with a nasty, ugly, sticky mess. The key to avoiding BOOP is to know when to remove the pot from the heat. And speaking of burners …

Promote yourself off the back burner. Don’t argue girl, just do it. You may sacrificially place yourself there routinely, but your Creator doesn’t. You’re a front-burner person to him. He wants you to enjoy this marvelous gift of life He’s given you, not sludge through it. So it’s time to add a little fun to your day.

Write yourself into your schedule for an hour of something you really enjoy a minimum of twice a week. Walk in the sunshine, bike a woodsy trail, sing opera, join a roller derby team, boogie your bad self down, get your nails done – hey, whatever tingles your toes. Put the beautiful smile back on your face. Your fam will be ever so grateful.

Be a dipstick. The Lord puts only enough fuel in your daily tank for you to arrive safely at the destination He’s routed out for you. All the detours you add will either run you out of gas or land you in a ditch. Check your tank, review your destination, and then engage in the Three Ps: Prioritize, Plan, and Pace yourself.

Achk, I know. So many things we must do. A few things we want to do. And countless things we should do. We just have to recognize that we have the power to choose which shoulds are potential coulds … and then unapologetically embrace the woman our choices make us.

I will strengthen you, surely I will help you.Isaiah 41:10 NASB

*Adapted from Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms by Debora M. Coty. Used with permission from Barbour Publishing.

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Guilted by the Shoulds – tips for coping from @deboracoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora Coty lives, loves and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck, two grown children and four energetic grandbuddies. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Debora’s newest release is Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms addresses the heart needs of moms drowning in the churning stress-pool of busyness. In her beloved mom-to-mom, grin-provoking style, Coty offers empathy, laughs, real-life stories, practical parenting survival tips, and fresh biblical insights to help you hear Papa God’s still, small voice through life’s chaos.

Join the conversation: What stresses you out? How do you give yourself a break?

Quagmires

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

On our anniversary tour of the Scottish highlands, Spouse and I were fascinated by tranquil green moors that disguised deadly secrets.

Quagmires, they were called.

Our guide explained that you could be hiking along, enjoying a peaceful moorland stroll, and suddenly come upon a wee sodden patch of mud camouflaged by brush. Another step, and your boot would be sucked right off your foot. If you’re a bit more unfortunate, your entire leg might sink into the hidden quagmire, followed shortly by the rest of you, never to be seen again.

We women have hidden quagmires too – stressors not visible to others: festering wounds camouflaged by our everyday “game face,” unresolved relationship rifts, consequences of poor choices, leftover childhood damage, gouges hacked by hurtful words, lingering pain, or emotional scars testifying to previous bloody encounters.

Hidden wounds are tough to heal because we tend to keep them covered rather than exposing them to light and air.

But in order for healing to take place, debris must be cleared away, the wound cleaned, healing balm applied, and sufficient time allowed for the protective scab to form and do its restorative work. If a wound is left unattended, the risk of infection increases, and it may become septic. Even more painful. Crippling. Possibly deadly.

So how do we go about ripping off nasty old bandages to expose our hidden wounds to light and air?

Nail it. Identify the real problem. Are any of your current behaviors driving you nuts? Do they seem out of control and you’ve no idea why you act this way? You’re in good company. Even the apostle Paul, lamented, “When I want to do good, I don’t. And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway” (Romans 7:19 NLT). Examine your past for clues to the source. Ask Papa God to guide you in sleuthing out and confronting the cause of your perplexing behavior (which, by the way, is merely a symptom of the underlying real problem). Unearth and expose your wound. It might be buried layers deep.

Air it. Admit your secret to Papa God; wait for His response. “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall” (Psalm 55:22 NIV). Then confide in one or two trusted friends … not your entire women’s roller derby team.  Allow these soul sisters to help tug off that filthy, embedded bandage bit by bit. The act of uncovering (confessing) your hidden problem is the first step toward healing.

Bathe it in light.  Invest in a good Bible concordance/reference book and several different Bible translations. Look up words or phrases related to your specific wound and do a personal Bible study (taking notes on passages and journaling your thoughts about what you’re reading) on all related Scripture. Ask Jesus to reveal His perspective to you (it will likely be quite different than yours) and to initiate rehab from the inside out. “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all” (Psalm 34:19 NIV).

If you’re in a quagmire now, be assured that your heavenly Father’s mighty hand is extended, waiting to pull you out. Despite your deepest, grossest, most putrefied hidden wounds, His “power is strongest when you are weak” (2 Corinthians 12:9, CEV).

In the lovely, lilting words of our Scottish guide regarding the hidden perils of quagmires, “Larn what treach’rous terrain looks like. If ye know what t’look fer, ye need fear n’moor.”

And on the moors of life, we need fear no more either. As long as we know what to look for and follow our ultimate Guide, we won’t be sucked under.

*Adapted from Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms by Debora M. Coty with permission from Barbour Publishing.

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Thoughts on Navigating the Quagmires of Life – @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

deboracotyAbout the author: Debora M. Coty lives, loves, and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Her newest release is, Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Join the conversation: Have you ever had a hidden wound exposed to the light? Tell us your story!

Secondhand Forgiveness

by Debora M. Coty @DeboraCoty

“Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. ‘I’ll do the judging,’ says God. ‘I’ll take care of it.’” Romans 12:19 MSG

My daughter Cricket came home from second grade in tears. Again. Her teacher had rebuked her in front of the class for asking another girl for help with a math problem. Cricket felt humiliated and stupid. And it wasn’t the first time.

Because of a learning disability, Cricket had difficulty with some subjects, particularly math. I’d already spoken to the teacher – new to the school and extremely harsh in her control tactics – about Cricket’s special needs.

Cricket began tearfully wrapping herself around my leg at school drop-off. I had to pry my sobbing child off my leg and force her into the classroom. My fury flared toward this insensitive teacher. I simply could not forgive what she’d done to my previously happy little girl.

I knew that secondhand forgiveness is important to Papa God, but my angry heart balked.

Like secondhand smoke afflicts innocent bystanders, secondhand forgiveness is necessary when somebody hurts someone you love. The injured person may forgive the offender, but you continue to harbor resentment indefinitely. And like cigarette smoke, unforgiveness pollutes and corrodes internally.

Secondhand forgiveness is especially hard for us mama bears when somebody messes with our cubs. Our protective instincts kick into overdrive. And we tend to hold grudges far too long.

We forget that that how we feel has nothing to do with forgiveness. We forgive as an act of the will, because Papa God asks us to, not because we feel forgiving. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32 NKJV). 

But in the throes of furious indignation, how do we carry out this biblical mandate? Let’s unpack this verse:

  • Be kind to one another. Our kindness as Christ-followers isn’t dependent on anyone else’s behavior. We don’t wait for someone to be kind to us; we show them how it’s done. Kindness is similar to forgiveness in that we don’t necessarily have to like someone to be kind to them. Writer Samuel Johnson said, “Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.” Likewise, we can forgive someone whether we like them or not. But we might end up feeling quite differently when we’re on our knees.
  • Be tenderhearted. Heart tenderness is the willingness to enter someone else’s world and share in their suffering; it’s the step beyond kindness, usually motivated by compassion.
  • Forgive one another. Forgiveness is the element essential to finding inner peace. Resentment is poisonous; the poison gradually spreads and chokes out the Son-light within you, leaving dark bitterness in its place. Forgiveness isn’t about changing someone else; you don’t have the power to do that. It’s about changing something within you. You don’t have the power to do that either, but Papa God does.
  • Even as God in Christ forgave you. To truly forgive others as the Lord forgives us, we must tap into our Savior’s vast supply of supernatural grace (undeserved favor). He specializes in grace – He proved that at Calvary, when Jesus willingly paid the price for our sins and died in our place. He forgives you for your wrongs and wants you to do the same for those who wrong you.

Through much prayer and Papa God’s grace, both Cricket and I forgave the insensitive teacher, although she left the school after three months due to extensive personal problems.

Forgiveness becomes a little easier when we realize there’s always something going on beneath the surface of other people’s lives that we can’t see.

Say, my friend, is there someone who needs your secondhand forgiveness today?

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Offering Secondhand Forgiveness When Someone We Love is Hurt – @DeboraCoty on @AriseDailyDevo (Click to Tweet)

*Adapted from Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms by Debora M. Coty with permission from Barbour Publishing.

deboracoty

About the author: Debora M. Coty lives, loves, and laughs in central Florida with her longsuffering husband, Chuck. Debora is a popular speaker and award-winning author of over 40 inspirational books, including the bestselling Too Blessed to be Stressed series. Her newest release is Too Blessed to be Stressed for Moms. Join Deb’s fun-loving community of BFFs (Blessed Friends Forever) at www.DeboraCoty.com.

Join the conversation: When have you had to offer second-hand forgiveness?