Oh Dear Heavens, I’m Naked! 2009 In Review

There is a near naked woman on my Christmas Cards and it’s me! I’m not totally naked, it’s just that my favorite blouse (the one I’m wearing in our Christmas Card photo) is see through and nobody told me. I want to shoot my family and my overly polite friends who simply thought — “She has to know.” NO I did not know! And I ordered over 50 cards with that photo thank you very much. They’ll tell me I have lipstick on my teeth – but a see through blouse goes unmentioned.

Nice.

I know I said I wanted to be more transparent in 2009 but that is not what I meant. Hence, no cards were mailed this year. 2009 is the year my life turned inside out and upside down. Shaking out the cobwebs, dust and loose change I am not just on the precipice of change but smack center of it all. What an exhilarating ride. My oldest left for college. My youngest is learning how to drive. My husband’s band released their first musical CD and I made a rather drastic career change. I also made new friends, new enemies, and a fool of myself more than once. Good news is, I didn’t die.

Having spent the past 20 years as Jeff’s wife, and Charlie and Dillon’s Mom I began 2009 with very little clue about who Deana really is. I decided that I wanted to know her better and follow God’s path more than my own or anyone else‘s for that matter. Instead of my annual Christmas letter, I thought I’d answer Michael Hyatt’s Seven Questions for Last Year. If you’d like to do that same — see his original post for more information.

 

If the last year were a movie of your life, what would the genre be? Drama, romance, adventure, comedy, tragedy, or a combination?

  • Comedy and Adventure —

What were the two or three major themes that kept recurring? These can be single words or phrases. For me, they were:

  • Giving my family wings
  • Learning to use my own wings
  • Learning to get along with less and enjoying it more

What did you accomplish this past year that you are the most proud of? These can be in any area of your life—spiritual, relational, vocational physical, etc. Be as specific as possible.

  • Going to the Professional Communicator’s Summit as well as DCW with my husband
  • Coming out of the fear closet if you will and admitting I want to do stand up comedy and trying not to worry what people think about that.
  • Performing live comedy in front of some of my greatest heroes at CCA. I was terrified, but did not die.
  • Opening for Dan McGowan
  • Resigning from the Ablaze Church Mission Board – — It was time to move on. Ablaze is now established as a satellite location of our home congregation Our Savior Lutheran Church. I’m very proud of what we accomplished. By next year they will be looking at opening a pre-school and calling a full time pastor. Knowing I played a part in God’s overall plan for that congregation thrills me and humbles me all at once. It was an awesome three years.

 What do you feel you should have been acknowledged for but weren’t?

Leaving this one blank here — but it’s a good question to ask and think about.

What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year? As leaders, we naturally have high expectations of ourselves and others. Where did you let yourself down? Where did you let others down?

  • Booking a retreat for my husband and I without checking out the leader’s qualifications: Turns out he only works with A-List performers and I feel like we probably wasted his time and as a result, ours. I was wanting to do something “really great” for my husband and overshot the runway in the process.
  • Losing focus on my exercise regimen and having to keep re-starting it
  • Picking a fight with someone I admire on his own blog (not the first time I’ve done that, but I kinda called him an overstuffed pig who plays with puppets and can’t keep a day job.. NOT NICE and not me )– when in reality he isn’t who I was mad at. I made an idiot out of myself.
  • Not being as present in the moment with my family as they want and need.
  • Not being as excited about Jeff’s new CD as Jeff was — All I saw was time spent away from home and forgot to cherish and celebrate his hard work and accomplishment with him like he deserved.

What was missing from last year as you look back? Again, look at each major area of your life. Don’t focus now on having to do anything about it. For now, just list each item. Here is my list:

  • More time doing what I feel called to do and less time worrying about what other think.
  • More time reading great literature and not just junk food
  • Time to really unplug and not think about work
  • More time with my husband

What were the major life-lessons you learned this past year? Boil this down to a few short, pithy statements.

  • A life without something to dream and pursue creates bitterness. It is better to pursue a dream and fall short than to hide your heart and fall asleep.
  • I can make a fool out of myself and actually live to tell about it.
  • It’s okay if I don’t like everyone I meet and it’s okay if everyone I meet does not like me.
  • Don’t over-think the outcome; just do the next right thing.

 

“This year is over. I declare it complete!”

Notso Wordless Wednesdays

Ken Davis teaching at the Professional Communicator's Summit
Ken Davis teaching at the Professional Communicator's Summit

I’m breaking all rules of blogging today. This is wordless Wed, and yet, I have words. Lots of them. I’m relaying a story and not engaging in a dialog, and I’m very self indulgently using the word “I” more than “you.”  Even so, I want you to read this. I’m trying to be careful how I write what I want to write today. Even though I opened with a picture of Ken Davis, this blog isn’t about a person – it isn’t even really about me, it’s about God.

If you walk away from this post with nothing but one thought – I hope it’s this – God meets our needs before we know we have them and if our remember-er breaks, he will make it new.

Have you ever had a dream? I do. This year, I’ve chosen to invest in myself and those dreams that can only come of God. I want to be a professional speaker. You my friends, went with me on the neurotic ride when I stepped out on faith and went to the Professional Communicator’s Summit a few months ago, and I appreciate that.

I was scared spitless traveling to Nashville by myself. I used to travel all the time, but that was before I became MOM. I felt guilty about spending money on a class that could have been used towards the boys.  I felt a lot of things. I also felt joy in following something I knew God had placed before me and trusting him with the results. Today’s wordless Wednesday photo is in part a reminder to keep your dreams alive, no matter how you feel on the inside, it is also a reminder to me about the faithfulness of God.

I loved being there, and I’m still digesting everything they taught. I worked up the courage for that by going to Speak Up with Confidence in 2008. The success from that gave me enough personal confidence to take more classes this year.

It’s been a few years since I chosen to invest in myself. The last time I did that was when I joined the Christian Writers Guild writing classes six years ago. We didn’t have the money to pay for it ($2,000) and after much prayer I submitted my application before the funds were available. Not how I typically roll. The following Sunday, I saw an ad in my church bulletin for a church receptionist opening across town. I applied for the job and was hired two weeks later. My classes were now paid for. I acted on faith – not foolish faith – but prayerful faith, and He responded. What I did not expect was the all out spiritual warfare that ensued. I fell on my butt pretty hard and it took me a long time to get over that. I never finished the classes even though I had paid for them.

Choosing to pick that dream back up, and start taking classes again, is scary. Knowing the God is in the middle of it makes it all worth it.

When Jeff told me he was being demoted at work and we needed to cut back on all financial expenditures, I questioned the wisdom of my dream and the money it would take to fulfill it. I also fell into a small pity party, but I’ll spare you those details for today. Today, I want to relay something else.

I have been speaking publicly since Spring of 1979. A family member had joined AA  the summer before and I was dragged into Alateen the following Spring, ungrateful and less than willing but present. Strangely enough, I stayed and they stuck me behind a podium to tell my story the following year. Shy as I was, I learned that I have natural talent for speaking and I’ve been speaking nationally at conferences, retreats, and groups since then.  Feeling bored with the “adult child” stories, I stopped giving 12 step talks five years ago. They just don’t seem relevant anymore. I do, however, still speak and want to pursue that as a profession today.

I have spent the last five years, learning how to bring my recovery story into church and rework my 12 step talk into my Christian testimony. I’ve had a few false starts, stumbling on words and making people laugh hysterically without meaning to. (Classic testimony gone bad: I have a few catch phrases, one of them being referring to revelations from God as “Burning Bush Moments.” – perfectly acceptable phrase, UNLESS it is paired with a story about how I accidentally set my dress on fire trying to hide the fact that I was smoking from a pastor. I learned what “mortified” really means that day.)

With the financial uncertainties of today’s economy and Jeff’s current demotion, I really started to question myself and doubted that I was really called to do this. I thought that maybe I should find something else. And I know that’s Satan and not God speaking. How I face obstacles speaks volumes of my character. Do I cave at the first sign of difficulty or do I persevere? Do I trust God to provide the means necessary? I’ve learned I do a little bit of both, and that I pray a lot like King David in the process. “How Long, Oh Lord…” (Wrist on forehead for effect.)

And then God, in a way only God can… spoke to my heart when I least expected it. He reminded me of something this Sunday while I was teaching a class.

I went to my very first women’s retreat in 1995ish (I can’t remember the actual year.) My former pastor’s wife was a huge Ken Davis fan and showed his videos a lot. At one of those retreats, the leader showed a video called Healer of the Wounded Heart. It was one of those stories that really touches my heart. It has a great message about how much God loves us and how we should love others, and yet there was a hidden story that I’d forgotten. I really do not remember the story as his, but it must be as it really is in the video- and I have no idea why it’s in his talk – other than as an example of a father’s love.

I own his videos today, and like Lisa, I show them when appropriate. What thrills me about teaching, is how much God teaches me in the process. In my “where are you in this God?” questions over the past two weeks – He chose to remind me of a time he was there before I knew of the need. I showed Wounded Heart in my Sunday School class this week. It’s been years since I’ve watched that video, and I only chose to show it this week because we are in a gap between classes. We just finished one series and do not start the new one until May 10. I brought it because it fit pastor’s sermon for the day:  “God Heals a Broken Heart.” I thought the video fit perfectly.

In Wounded Heart, Ken relays a very short story about a time he saw a speaker and while this man was delivering his message a child comes on stage to speak him. Ken was surprised to see the man stop speaking, turn to the child, whisper in his ear and kiss his cheek. Ken asked him about it later – and turns out the child was his son and this was routine. No matter what, at bed time, the child would find his dad and the man would stop what he was doing whisper in his ear, tell him he loves him, and pray over him that God would send his angels to watch over him and protect him while he sleeps. For the sake of the video – it’s really just a nice little story that gives a picture of a Father’s Love.  In the grand scheme of the whole video -I thought it was kind of a throw away story. It’s not a key point that one would keep with them or so I thought. It’s not one he stayed on for very long anyway. And it’s not one I recalled hearing, ever.

And yet…

I first saw that video in February of 2000. Lisa had moved away and Zeal was now doing the retreats. This was her keynote video for the retreat. I remember the whole “Love Monster” thing as that is what she pulled out. The whole retreat was about God being the Passionate Pursuer of our Hearts. Christianity isn’t a list of dos and do nots, rather it is about loving one another. It’s about that God Shaped hole in our hearts that needs to be filled. It’s about a lot of things. The over all message was not about praying for angels to watch over a child and yet there it was – a word for me that I apparently received and put into action without realizing it.

I speak at times on the Eyes of Angels – and how when Dillon was first diagnosed with Epilepsy, (Summer of 2000) we would pray for God to send his angels to watch over him while he slept and keep him safe. Up until Sunday, people ask me where I learned to pray that and I would say had no idea, I must have have heard it somewhere. It’s not a normal prayer. It’s not a prayer I’d ever read about or learned about, I just remember I heard it somewhere and thought I’d try it. It is also scripturally accurate. I didn’t know that until I studied it.

I don’ t remember learning that from Wounded Heart, but I must have. The timing fits perfectly.

And so, here God speaks to my heart. “I was there for you then before you knew you had a need, and I’m there for you still. I won’t leave you hanging, I promise.”

God used a video at a retreat, to teach me a new prayer before I even knew I was going to need it. And he used that same video almost ten years later to remind me that he was there for me then, and he is there for me now.

One of the greatest gifts about teaching and about speaking, is how much He teaches me  about love, about himself, and about us in the process.

I’ve closed with this in my talks many times, and it is as true for me today as it ever was.

We are at times those eyes of angels sent by God to watch out for one another. Whether it is upfront and personal, or in a talk where we allow him to speak through us. We are also that God with skin on (or the “Love Monster” as Ken calls it in his video)whether it is  for that person hiding in the back corners of our churches or someone who may be sitting next to us who is walking through something they have never had to walk through before: Cancer, a divorce, the loss of a job, or maybe the death of a child or spouse.  And we know, either for the first time in our lives, or as reminder yet again, that we are never alone.

God is not only in the middle of all that is happening right now, he’s already written the ending. All we have to do is step out the day to day and remember that we are not alone.

What about you? Now that I’ve shared this story with you. Are you willing to share a story about God’s provision in your life? Leave me a comment. Let’s talk about.

Owning my insecurities

Written March 13, 2009

I have my days were admitting this is hard, but the truth is, I am my own problem. I am not your problem. Nobody, and I don’t care who you are, is responsible for my self-esteem. I keep telling myself that in spite of the fact, that I do at times try to make others responsible.

Yes, there are times and people who can take chinks out of it, or even add to it with a well timed compliment, but in the end – I stand alone. And so do you.

We all do.

And yet we don’t.

As believers, we stand in Christ. Filled to the measure with His Holy Spirit. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us – but sometimes, I’ll let false shame, push him away.

I’m presently in a place that I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would be. I chose to take a risk, step out on faith, and come to the Professional Communicator’s Summit in Franklin Tennessee taught by Ken Davis and his staff at DCW. I am having a blast. I’m meeting people from all walks of life and from all places in ministry and I am learning things I could have never – ever learned anywhere else.

What blows my mind is how easily I could have talked myself out of coming. How easily – as recent as last night, the voices can start with how I don’t fit in, I’m out of my league, these people will never accept me. I haven’t done anything yet to warrent their approval or acceptance. There is no way I can earn that respect in just a couple of hours. I’m asking stupid questions, they are going to figure out that I’m the banana on the peach tree pretty quickly.

Now I have to tell you, it’s not just things like the Summit that can do that to me. It can be any thing, anywhere. And I have to know that about myself – repent of that kind of egotistical thinking. And yes, low self worth is still self obession and it’s pure EGO – I’m Edging God Out of my life when I get like that. And when I want to be liked, respected, fit in and approved of by people I’ve placed on a higher plane than myself, I’ve made them gods. Idolotry in it’s most basest form.

I did not invest the money I invested in this weekend to hide behind a frail ego, to be coddled and nurtured by anyone here, to simply hide in my room and feel sorry for myself for having a badly focused mirror. I am investing in the future that only God knows.

I have to let go of the fact that I did indeed have a ministry six years ago called Redemption’s Heart – it was growing and active. It had a focus and some direction and I threw it all away over hurt feelings, and anger. My being here, to learn how to improve is my active repentance. Carrying false shame over that – is not. God has not only forgiven me for that, He has opened new doors, new possibilities and new avenues for me to learn that I never had before.

I’ve made some really cool friends this weekend. I’ve learned amazing things from excellent professionals that I could not have learned, would not have learned otherwise. This summit has been 100% top quality professional work all the way. There were speakers and professionals that told me things I could not have known otherwise. Talk about your inside track, my gosh.

And to get the most out of it, I cannot just sit back and expect to be fed or taught or whatever. I cannot just sit there and think I don’t belong here and isolate myself. If I had continued to flow with my feelings when I first got here, I would have fulfilled that false belief. I would have been miserable. Instead, I have to act first and let the feelings follow. I have to step out, talk to people, listen to them, find out what they are doing that works, what they are doing that doesn’t work, and trust God with the rest of it. That means to keep talking until the stuttering and fear stops. If I stare at the floor the first time I talk to someone because of fear, so be it. Just be sure to speak to them a second time and not stare at the floor.

To get the most of out this and anything else, we all have to actively choose to be a willing, breathing, moving, and interested person in living life. And truly truly believing that God is a God of second chances, He will not bail on me if I do not get it right the first time and he won’t bail on you either.

That is a promise you can sleep on.

Deana’s Not so Wordless Wednesday

I am going to be offline for the rest of this week as I’m leaving for Nashville on Wednesday. Through an awesome set of recent experiences, I am attending the Professional Communicators Summit and won’t be back until Saturday, March 14.

I know this is supposed to be a wordless Wednesday post, and wordless I’m not. I’m truly bouncing off the walls excited and freaking out all at once. And of course – I can find N-O-T-H-I-N-G to wear. I presently hate every single piece of clothing I own. To keep things simple it is casual dress; I don’t even like my jeans today. I have 24 hours to find three acceptable outfits. Think I can do it?