When Life Hands You…Wigs

 

Yes, I know the saying goes, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” Sometimes there’s not a lemon to be found but a startling abundance of hair pieces. Hang with me and I’ll explain. lemons

Not long ago I ordered a pair of pants from an online store. I was supposed to appear on a television interview and I thought the pants would be cute paired with a top I already owned. The company promised the product would arrive before my interview. You know what’s coming. Interview day came. No pants.

No big deal, I thought. The pants were still extremely inexpensive and fashionable. I would have plenty of places to wear them when they arrived from the company’s warehouse in China. (Are warning bells going off in your head too?) Yeah, I had done a little research on the company after I ordered my too-late pants, which is never the best time to research a company. Ideally, one should research them before buying their product, but I digress.

Two days after my interview, I opened my mailbox to see a very small, very flat package. Return label: China. I frowned. This package was way too small to be my pants, but I’d ordered nothing else.

Intrigued, I slid the package open to discover the company had sent me, not my lovely pants I had dreamed about, but a wig piece instead. Say what?

wig piece

I wouldn’t have even minded that so much if it had been the right color.

I couldn’t help it. I burst into laughter and looked up into the sky.

Thanks, Father. I needed that laugh.

matt with wigShipping that cheap wig piece back to the company would cost more than I initially paid for it so we kept it. You know what? That dumb little scrap of hair has brought our family and friends more laughter in the past few days than I imagined possible.

church signIf you find me on Facebook, you’ll see lots of silly memes, funny church signs, and goofy pictures. It’s intentional on my part. I’m currently taking a stand-up writing course and loving it. God loves laughter. He loves joy. I believe Jesus had a good sense of humor and loved to laugh. Have you ever been around someone who didn’t? Yeah. They can suck the air right out of a room with a single look. But the Bible says Jesus wasn’t like that. People came to Him in droves. They wanted to be with Him, to touch Him, to talk with Him. He is love and goodness and joy.

proverbs 17 22

As I’m typing this blog, the mailman knocked on our door with a package. A larger package. From China. Yep. My pants finally arrived. So where did this goofy wig piece come from? I have no idea, but I’m thankful for the gift of laughter God peppers throughout the journey. It’s a beautiful coping mechanism for the hard days, and makes the good days even brighter.

ralphie with soapA final word: Laugh, but keep it clean. No need to use that wig as a sham-wow.

Just for fun, share your favorite joke with me today. Clean only, please. Let’s do some laughing!

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Lie #2: If my life were different, I would be different.

Welcome back to our blog series “Liar”, a look at the lies Satan tells us and how to defeat them. Lie #2 is a sneaky one, one that I’ve fallen for many times. “If my life were different, I would be different.” 

if only

If my job only paid better…

If my husband treated me like he cared…

If our house wasn’t so small…

If my health was good…

If my kids would listen…

Have you been there? It’s a tempting way to live life. The “If Onlys” provide us with a fantasy world of perfection. A land where all our troubles vanish and then, finally, we can be who we really want to be. Happy. Content. Joyful.

There’s just one problem. That fantasy land does not exist this side of eternity.

Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, this world is a broken, twisted mess. We know there’s a mess, but we mistakenly think the worst of it is around us. It’s our surroundings. Our families. The people we work with. Our houses. Our finances. Our money (or lack thereof.) Our own bodies. The world system. We complain. We scrape and claw, trying to find some way out of the muck and mire but fail to realize the biggest mess isn’t the one around us. It’s the one inside us.

Let me put it another way. Whenever there’s a long period with no rain, what do people do? Complain. Pray. They beg God and search the barren sky for one sign of a coming cloud. They want rain. They can’t live one more minute without it.

grumpy nateAnd finally rain comes. Boy, does it come. So much rain that soon social media is flooded with bitter complaints. “Okay, I know we needed rain, but I didn’t want to build an ark today”. When it’s hot outside, we say we want snow. When it snows, we say we want the beach. We are never satisfied. Satan lies and tells us that we have a circumstance problem, but quite honestly, the majority of the time we have a heart problem.

To quote Nancy Leigh DeMoss, “Circumstances do not make us what we are. They merely reveal what we are.”

If we aren’t content in our current situation, it’s doubtful we will be content in any other situation. Here’s why: contentment has nothing to do with our surroundings. It’s 100% about the condition of our hearts.

Truly content people aren’t content because they are living in a perfect situation. They are content despite the adversary they live in. Look at what Paul penned in Philippians 4.

I have learned to be content [and self-sufficient through Christ, satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or uneasy] regardless of my circumstances.  I know how to get along and live humbly [in difficult times], and I also know how to enjoy abundance and live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret [of facing life], whether well-fed or going hungry, whether having an abundance or being in need.  I can do all things [which He has called me to do] through Him who strengthens and empowers me [to fulfill His purpose—I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency; I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses me with inner strength and confident peace.]” (verses 11-13 AMP)

horse tied to chairFalling for the lie that “If my circumstances were different, I would be different” enslaves us. It locks our minds into the mentality of a victim with no hope of breaking free. Trapped, empty, hopeless…that’s exactly where Satan wants you.

You don’t have to live in discontent. You have a choice. We have very little control over our circumstances, but we don’t have to let our circumstances control us or our attitudes. The best way to combat a lie is with the truth.

Truth:

Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials. Be assured that the testing of your faith [through experience] produces endurance [leading to spiritual maturity, and inner peace]. And let endurance have its perfect result and do a thorough work, so that you may be perfect and completely developed [in your faith], lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom [to guide him through a decision or circumstance], he is to ask of [our benevolent] God, who gives to everyone generously and without rebuke or blame, and it will be given to him.” ~James 1:2-5 can cross

God may not remove you from an uncomfortable circumstance because He’s working to shape you more and more into the image of His Son. Lean into Him. Embrace the uncomfortable. Give thanks in all things…even those rough circumstances. He’s making you complete.

Have you ever been in the middle of a circumstance you couldn’t wait to get out of only to find it wasn’t easy street on the other side? Have you found ways to challenge yourself to be content, like a 7 day no-complaining challenge? What have you learned in the middle of difficult circumstances? I would love to hear!

 

 

 

The Little White Pill

Some days I loathe it. Other days I nearly weep with gratitude for it. Strange dichotomy.

Every time I look at that little white pill in my palm, I am overcome with an odd mix of emotions. pillWhen I was diagnosed with depression in 2002, I was desperate for relief from the dark shroud that had blanketed my mind and heart. A shroud I had brought on myself as I lived year after year stuck in the vicious cycle of people-pleasing and perfectionism. I had exhausted every resource to try to keep others happy, to win their approval and what I hoped would be their love. I was wrong. (This is not to say all depression stems from these issues. Depression is multi-faceted and has a wide array of causes and triggers. Check out my book Hollow Victory for a more in-depth look at depression.) hollow victory

When my doctor suggested medication to ease my physical symptoms, I balked. I was a Christian. Wasn’t medication a sign of weakness for a girl who claims to trust God? Perhaps I was still in denial. Maybe taking a pill would make the diagnosis much more real than I cared to admit. Confusion battered my mind and heart. I had heard well-meaning believers condemning others who sought medical help for their depression, throwing out their careless barbs and accusations with frightening speed.

“You should just trust God more.”

“You shouldn’t get down.”

“If you’ll read this scripture, you should feel better.

All those ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ wreaked havoc with my peace of mind. That is, until God revealed this beautiful truth to my heart: grace is greater than all the times I fall short of the ‘shoulds’. I’m a mess but I don’t have to pretend to be something other than who I am. God knew I would fail in and of myself. That’s why He sent a Savior.

god's grace is bigger

Depression is just as physical as it is emotional and spiritual. Would we dare accuse a person with bad eyesight of “not trusting God” if he chose to wear glasses before slipping behind the driver’s wheel? Do we shun and disparage the diabetic for taking insulin? Or the heart patient for using beta blockers? Depression is no different. Serotonin and other chemicals are out of whack and need to be replaced.

Do I believe in gobbling down pills as the end all and be all? No, absolutely not. Taking medication allows me to deal with the physical symptoms as I lean on the Holy Spirit to reveal any emotional or spiritual issues that have become roots of trouble. And for some, there is no discernible cause for their depression. Bodies just don’t work like they are supposed to. We are living in a broken world with frail bodies. Eyesight fails. Thyroid levels fluctuate. Skin looses its elasticity. And yes, even Christians can get depressed. (Look at Elijah, David and Job if you don’t believe me.) depression not a terrible christian

Speaking for myself, I’m glad I listened and took the medication. My husband and children needed me at my best, not mere shadows of myself. It was a God-given tool to help ease physical symptoms and replenish my body of the chemicals it needed so I could focus on the work of discovering why I was depressed. Thanks to God’s gentle love, He tenderly revealed the wounds I carried inside and healed me in profound ways. He’s healing me still.

Fast forward to the present. I am in a much better place these days. My walk with God is vibrant. I know the warning signs of depression and have a proactive plan in place to combat the cycles that once pulled me down. So why can’t I function without that little white pill?

Last week, as I was bemoaning my dependency on it, I cried out to God in frustration. “Why? Why do I still need this? Why can’t I live and laugh without it? Must I forever carry the scars of 2002 with me?”

He spoke to me swiftly, His voice a gentle whisper as He impressed this thought into my heart. What if you no longer needed this medicine? Would you forget? Would you forget what I’ve brought you through? Would you forget what that black place feels like? Would you be able to help others struggling with the same issues if your heart grows numb to the pain you once suffered? Little One, this reminds you to be dependent on me. It keeps you from repeating the mistakes you once made, living to please people instead of seeking My heart. My grace is sufficient for you. My strength is made perfect in your weakness. weak and strong

I’m trying not to look at that little white pill as a chain any longer. It’s a tool, a reminder of the compassionate way He led me through the darkness to find hope and joy in Him again. Kind of like Jonah and his fish. Being swallowed by a fish wasn’t Jonah’s punishment for running away. No, that fish was grace. From the dark, sour confines of its belly, God captured Jonah’s attention and redirected his life into victory. Depression was my fish of grace.

Thank you, God, for Your mercy. For Your love. For being with me, even when I can’t feel You. I know You’re there—guiding, revealing and loving me, despite myself.

Sometimes, I still need reminding.

Have you battled a time of depression? What ‘shoulds’ have you heard about depressed Christians? How has God used something traumatic to catch your attention? What did you learn?

 

Buddy the Elf Hits Walmart

This past week I was making my usual ‘it’s about to storm so I must stock up on bread, milk and eggs’ run…oh yes, and chocolate. (Don’t judge me.) As I perused through the shoe aisle (did I mention shoes?), I suddenly became aware of a burst of Christmas cheer coming from the aisle next to mine.

A group of female voices were singing “Deck the Halls” with giggling abandon. They weren’t quiet about it. Oh no. They were downright jubilant! They finished their concert and then burst into song again when “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” came over the loudspeaker. Their joy was infectious! I thought of Buddy the Elf’s favorite phrase, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear“. I smiled to myself and just stood quietly in place, soaking in the rare treat.

buddy the elf

I tried to go on my merry way but just couldn’t help myself. Their breathless laughter tugged my curiosity. I wheeled my cart around and peeked around the corner. Six lovely young teenage girls were dancing, laughing and singing as Brenda Lee belted out the classic tune. Not that anyone could hear old Brenda. These girls weren’t just singing…they were sangin‘!

I watched them for a few minutes, a big goofy grin plastered on my face. They finally noticed me and happily waved me in. “Come on and join us!”

I laughed and teased them. “Y’all are having way too much fun.”

A pretty brunette never broke her stride as she replied, “Of course…it’s Christmas! Time to celebrate!” Before I knew it, I was dancing and singing right along with them. And although I felt a bit conspicuous at first, my reserve melted away in the presence of such pure, childlike joy. Shoppers passed us smiling at the slightly insane performers making their debut. We parted minutes later, waving goodbye to each and smiling like children in a candy store.

buddy the elf dancing

Most of us have seen the ‘flash mob’ videos on Youtube. One or two people start singing and before long the entire mall is rattling the windows as they lift up their voices. As I stood motionless in front of the rows of shoes that day in Walmart, I realized that I hadn’t felt as free as they sounded in a long time.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I’m joyful and happy. Most days I have a pep in my step that Barney the dinosaur envies, but I don’t feel free. Free to express myself as if no one is watching. Free to live with no thought of what someone might think, what is considered acceptable. And, sadly, sometimes I don’t even feel free enough to rejoice. (Unless it’s in a well-monitored and structured environment, of course. Heaven forbid we break through stuffy traditions and actually just express our joy.)

Those sweet girls reminded me of the gift I have in Christ, a gift that I often allow to become dusty and dry, locking it into a people-approved box and shoving on a shelf. I am really and truly free! Squelching that joy is like a bird who refuses to fly out of the open cage door.

And those girls also reminded me that joy, pure and uninhibited joy, is one of the most attractive blessings God has given. I couldn’t help but respond to their enthusiasm. And they happily pulled me right into their party. If you wanted to celebrate, you were welcome. Your social station, age, appearance or abilities didn’t matter.

freedom buddy the elf blog

Freedom found in Christ is like that. Irresistible. It calls. It draws. It moves. It changes and transforms.

So during this Christmas season, in your scurrying to check off your to-do lists, preparing food, buying gifts, braving insane malls don’t forget to enjoy your gifts of freedom and joy. After all, Jesus was born (and died) to give us both. celebrate the savior ornament

 

Tell me…have you been unintentionally squelching your freedom in Christ? How do you ‘let loose’ to breathe in joy?

The Obscure Thanksgiving List: Banana Pudding, Spanx and Tweezers…Oh my!

attitude of gratitude board

This is my girls’ attitude of gratitude board. Every month we have a new theme and each day they put a new sticky note on the board. November’s theme is, you guessed it, thankfulness.

Their first sticky notes were broad things, like their gratitude for God, family and friends. Lately though, they are starting to get a little more specific…hair, turkey, movies. My two-year old said, “Buzz.” (As in Buzz Lightyear.)

Several days ago, I polled my Facebook friends, asking them what they were thankful for. (If you aren’t part of our Facebook group, hop on over! www.facebook.com/tara.johnson.1401) Most gave the expected answers: family, children, grandchildren, their salvation through Jesus Christ and the like. Beautiful and blessed things for certain.

little thingsToday, I switched things up and asked them to list the most obscure, funny or seemingly small things they give thanks for. The list made me smile. Here’s a sample of their responses…

“My memory.”

“The camera on my phone.”

“My curly hair that requires no fixing.”

“Banana pudding.”

“Fried tators.”

One anonymous friend told me she was extremely grateful for the ‘end call’ button on her phone. We all have those days….

“My Dustbuster hand vac thingy…and Cinnabon coffee creamer!”

“Chocolate and toilet paper.” (This particular set was mentioned many times.) low fuel light

“The low fuel light in my car.”

“Good cat litter.”

“Running water.”

“Doughnuts and spanx…in that order!” (Preach it, sista.) Donuts

“The ability to bend my knee.”

“Mascara.”

“Advil.”

“The older I get—tweezers.”

“The ability to get up and work.”

I’m just scratching the surface with their responses. I love this list of seemingly ‘small’ things. Those little things really are BIG things—things that tell us our Father sees us, knows us and He doesn’t just give us sprinkles of grace. No, He lavishes us with it, letting His children wallow around in His goodness. Aren’t you glad?

If you’re having trouble feeling grateful today, grab a pen and a piece of paper and scribble down an obscure Thanksgiving list. It has a way of changing your perspective. (And, consequently, allows some giggles to bubble up in the process.) giggles

Today, I want to hear from you. What ‘small’ or obscure things are you thankful for? Count your blessings, name them one by one…

Find more content at www.TaraJohnsonMinistries.com