Saturday, March 9, 2013

FYI: Changes & a New Challenge! (+ Book Give-Away)

When I invited women to join me on “31 days of replacing ‘baditude’ with God’s Word and gratitude” almost a year ago, I had no clue.

I had no clue what I was doing.  

I hadn’t developed the materials. I hadn’t written any of the blog posts. I had never been part of an online study. I didn’t know about any of the automated tools available for distributing files. I just put out the word and hoped a few women might join me.

I had no clue what God would do.

He knew that I wasn’t the only woman who struggles with “baditude”.  With an inner Anxiety Girl.  With perfectionism.  With control.  With meddling. With fear. With grief. 

I had no clue that God would bring me you.

Every time I check Feedburner, I think, “All these women are actually opening and reading my blog posts?” I am astonished...and I rejoice. 

Every time I read a comment or e-mail, I think, “She took the time to respond?” I am amazed...and I give thanks.

 A year ago, I had no voice. 

Oh, I had a cacophony of internal dialogue, much of it unhealthy, some downright toxic. My heart swelled with questions and ideas and thoughts, but the words rarely flowed. 

You listened and conversed and challenged until my heart words developed a rhythm.  Sometimes steady, sometimes weak, but I feel the beat. 

Now, I have Post-It pads and pencils on my night stand, bathroom counter, and quiet time table for the Holy Spirit sparks (ideas) that come throughout the day.  (Two in the last five minutes!)  My “future blog posts” binder is bursting with hundreds of seedlings waiting to be written to full bloom. 

I still have no clue.  

When I sat down 20 minutes ago to write this blog post, I thought I was going to tell you all about some upcoming changes and a new challenge.

But clearly, what God wants me to do is say, “Thank you!” 

You will never know, this side of heaven, the blessing you are to me. The privilege it is to hit “publish” and know that you are waiting on the other end of the Internet to receive what God is saying to us both. 

So from a heart of timid but learning-to-trust love: 

Thank you. Thank you!  THANK YOU!!!

In His Delight,

P.S.  Changes:  

1.  I hope this will be the last blog post I send via Feedburner. You should receive the next one via MailChimp.  If you don’t get anything by Tuesday, March 12, drop me an e-mail at or go to Subscribe to Cheri’s Blog to sign up!

2.  I am dropping the name “The PURSE-onality Challenge” because everyone who knows anything about marketing tells me it was the worst idea in the history of the world. Everything will come simply from “Cheri Gregory” from now on. 

3.  I'll be closing my Blogspot blog (www.PURSEonalityChallenge.comin a few weeks, but not until everything is transferred lock-stock-and-barrel to my new sote. In April, I'll be hosting a HUGE "Welcome to My Website" party with tons of great give-aways...but feel free to come on over to any time!  

P.S.S.  A New Challenge:

No dates or details quite yet, but here’s a sneak peak at the video announcement

P.S.S.S.  This Week's Book Give-Away

Sunday night, March 10th, I'm giving away a copy of Holley Gerth's new book You're Made for a God-Sized Dream. To enter, simply leave a comment here on the blog!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

A Last Straw Lesson (+ Book Give-Away!)

I'm working on a blog series about the strengths & struggles of being a "more-sensitive-than-most" Christian woman. I'd LOVE to hear and include your perspective, so I'll be doing some short surveys. If you'd like to be included, sign up here:

“God is concerned with your attitude and your obedience.”
“Become skilled at staying calm and looking for Christ.”

The Letter

Two weeks ago, this was my Facebook status update:

Arrived home to an anonymous letter of complaint written "out of care and concern." Silly me for thinking "care and concern" might involve a face-to-face conversation...and maybe even a hug. Guess true "care and concern" involves kicking someone when they're the dark.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stick around long enough to read the 48 wise, supportive comments that soon followed.

Instead of choosing to Let. It. Go., I opted to “let it all out.”

The Books

The anonymous letter criticized me for having a particular book in my classroom. So I acted on my initial impulse by jumping in my car, driving to my classroom, and loading up every single book.

From all 25 bookshelves.

As I packed up my books, I sobbed my heart out about

  • Anonymous’s insensitivity.
  • The injustice of such a thing happening to me. Now, of all times.
  • The relentless barrage of criticisms I hear as a teacher. And the scarcity of “atta girl”s.

The next morning, when I told Daniel what I'd done, he was peeved. “You let them win! What did you do that for?”

“It made me feel better!” was my only defense.

After he left for work, I added, “Unsupportive husband” to my list of woes.

The Justifications

Yes, I was exhausted when I read the letter. I’d just come home from spending the weekend with my family, making end-of-life decisions about my mother.

And yes, to some degree, the books were symbolic of my mother. A reading specialist, she taught me and my children how to read. And only hours before, my brother and father and I had discussed inviting guests to bring favorite children’s books to Mother’s memorial service.

So yes, Anonymous’s “love note” was the proverbial last straw.

The Choices

But in the days that followed, I felt dismayed by my rash response to a piece of paper with a bit of ink.

Over the last few years, God’s been teaching me how to be less of an Anxiety Girl and more of a peace-and-contentment kinda gal.

I was disconcerted by quickly Anxiety Girl had shown up and taken over.

So I finally asked Him how I’d contributed to that last straw. And He lovingly but accurately reminded me that

  • I’d pre-determined to skip the airplane snacks. But once aboard, when the honey-roasted peanuts were offered, I suddenly said, “Sure!”
  • I’d planned to content myself with hotel coffee. But after landing at ONT, my first stop was Starbucks for a tall extra whipped cream mocha and a slice of lemon pound cake (which I don’t even like, but they were out of cranberry scones.)
  • I’d checked our family budget and discovered that my next new clothes purchase would be late July. But before arriving at my parents’ house, I’d stopped at not one, not two, but three Dress Barn stores.

The Issue

Stay with me, now.

The issue here is neither food nor funds.

The issue is that I said “yes” to a self-ish desire when I’d already been convicted to say “no.”

I’d planned to say “no.”

But when the test of character came, I said, “Yes!” without hesitation.

The Lesson

My rash response to Anonymous’s letter was the direct result of all the little yes-to-self choices I’d made in the days prior.

Had I obeyed God instead of my own cravings, I would have increased my skill at “staying calm and looking for Christ.”

Instead, I increased my skill at staying self-ish and looking for excuses to match my baditude.

I say this not to beat myself up but to cement the cause-and-effect relationship between seemingly unrelated choices.

The best defense against circumstances outside of my control is a healthy dose of self-control.

Even–or perhaps especially!–when it comes to the seemingly small choices.

This week, I'm giving away a copy of Holley Gerth's new book You're Made for a God-Sized Dream. To enter, simply leave a comment here on the blog!

Your Turn!

  • What have you learned from a "let it all out" (vs. Let. It. Go.) experience?
  • How important do "small choices" seem in your daily life?
  • When you feel like losing control, how do you stay calm and exercise self-control?
  • Anything else on your heart!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

One Word Wednesday: Month 2 (+ Book Give-Away)

I'm working on a blog series about the strengths & struggles of being a "more-sensitive-than-most" Christian woman. I'd LOVE to hear and include your perspective, so I'll be doing some short surveys.  e-mail me if you'd like to be includedOr sign up here

So, I've now spent 60 days using the word "cherished" as a very specific lens through which to see the year and, more importantly, each individual day.

As I pause to look back, I once again see a common theme running through the month.  For January, the theme was "yes."  For February, it was "receiving."

1.  I received wise counsel.

Early in the month, I told my life coach that it was time for us to come up with a solid plan for next school year. Or at least a plan for how to make the plan. I was tired of loose ends, frustrated by the plethora of possibilities, and I was ready for some certainty!

Andrea suggested trusting and waiting. You know, my two spiritual gifts. (NOT!)

2.  I received support.

In light of #1, it's ironic that I've been participating in the Online Bible Study of Karen Ehman's book Let. It. Go. How to Stop Running the Show and Start Walking in Faith.

The small group I'm in, led by Beth Anderson, has been such a source of support.

3.  I received new opportunities.

Early in February, I received daily inquiries about speaking for two weeks straight.

Of course, not all have booked. Some I responded to and have heard nothing. (But one that has confirmed is in England!)

4.  I received my very first book contract.

A few weeks ago, the eagerly-anticipated contract for The Good Girls' Guide to Breaking Bad Rules arrived!

5.  I received an e-mail from an old friend.

The day before I left for southern California to visit my family, I got an e-mail from my former massage therapist, who I hadn't seen in five years. She'd written to tell me that I'd been on her mind for the previous two weeks.

Long story short, I was able to schedule a wonderful massage shortly after I landed in Ontario, before the difficult conversations with family began.

6.  I received kindness.

The day after I returned from southern California, one of my students handed me a hand-written note that said, "Mrs. G, I am so sorry your mother is not doing well. I see you are not doing the best today, and I am praying for you."

7.  I received love.

This last weekend, I received the blessing of my husband's time, attention, and laughter after missing them for two months.

We went out to dinner, hung out by the fireplace, spent time in our "prayer chairs" having quiet was heavenly!

While telling my father about all my February "receivings," he commented, "I have a hard time receiving."

Which got me wondering:  What is the relationship between receiving and giving?  I know scripture says that it is more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). 

But I'll confess that all this receiving made me feel so blessed last month.  Incredibly cherished.

And I'm wondering if sometimes, I need to receive–fully receive–in order to learn how to unreservedly give.

Otherwise, I don't really give.  I just do.  I "give" out of do-ty.  I get things done.

Receiving in such abundance last month not only helped me experience being "cherished" but it also awakened a desire to give out of my abundance.

I feel like I have been gifted with so much I can't possibly keep it all to myself.

(And I suspect I'll have more to share about this next month!)

This week, I'm giving away a copy of Holley Gerth's new book You're Made for a God-Sized Dream. To enter, simply leave a comment here on the blog!

Your Turn!
  • How are you at receiving?  What do you see as the relationship between receiving and giving?
  • If you've chosen a "One Word" for 2013, how was February in light of your one word?
  • If you've not chosen one, it's not too late!  If you were to choose one, what might it be?  Why?  (My husband told me last night:  "The word 'integrity' keeps coming to my mind..."
  • Anything else on your heart!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dear God-Sized Dreamers (+ Book Give-Away)!

I'm working on a blog series about the strengths & struggles of being a "more-sensitive-than-most" Christian woman. I'd LOVE to hear and include your perspective, so I'll be doing some short surveys.  e-mail me if you'd like to be included. Or sign up here

Dear God-sized Dreamers:

I know what it’s like to dream.

I also know what it’s like to decide that the dream will never ever come true.
  • To think I dreamed too big.
  • To conclude that God must be teaching me humility.
  • To stop trying so the disappointment will quit hurting (...quite so much.)

I wrote my first book when I was 2 years old!

Okay, so I dictated it to my “publisher” (my mom) and provided the illustrations. But I dreamed, deep down, of someday writing a real book.

During my elementary years, I wrote dozens of stories and “novels.”  During high school, I kept dozens of detailed journals.

When I was 23, I attended my very first writer’s conference.  I returned home and got to work, sending out queries which led to requests which turned into my first published (and paid for!) articles!

Then, life got hard.
  • Jonathon came early.
  • Daniel’s father passed away suddenly.
  • Marriage required more than either of us had to give.
  • Teaching consumed our lives.

I quit writing.

Oh, I still attended occasional writers’ conferences, but all I took with me was the dream that someday, I would write a real book.

No query or one-sheet or business card. I still couldn’t bring myself to write. In fact, I became convinced that I had no right to write.

I knew the truth about me: that I was a lousy mother, a rotten wife, and a terrible teacher. Nobody would ever read what I wrote, even if I did write it down. And even if they did, they would mock me for thinking I had anything worth saying.

Then came the breaking point when I gave up and told God I couldn’t do it any more and offered Him a year to do whatever He wanted with me.

During that year, more than a decade ago, healing began.
  • I started writing again, this time to reflect on what God was teaching me. To record, in permanent ink, His goodness and faithfulness.
  • wrote out my testimony for the very first time, drawing from my high school journals as I shared my inner thoughts as a teenager sinking in the depths of an eating disorder.
  • As my mother’s Alzheimer’s progressed, I began exploring our relationship through poetry.
One year ago, I attended a women’s retreat where I met Andrea Coli, our MC for the weekend, whose book about what improv taught her about God led to my first solo performance.

That solo performance sparked a book title which turned into a book proposal which became a book contract.
After half my lifetime, my dream of writing a real book is actually coming true!

But the book isn’t the best part.

The best part is looking back and seeing oh-so-clearly that none of the time has been wasted.

That this book would not have been possible 23 years ago...or even 3 years ago.

That God has led, dragged, and carried me through all the challenging years so that I am ready to write this book at this time.

Yes, I know what it’s like to dream.


And I now know that the book (or whatever your dream happens to be) isn’t the best part of having the dream come true.

The best part is the work God is currently doing-–right now, today, this very minute!–-in your life to ready you for the fulfillment of His dream.

His dream for you and through you.

And when that dream comes true, as wonderful as it may be, the best part will be the God-sized story that comes with it!

This week, I'm giving away a copy of Holley Gerth's new book You're Made for a God-Sized Dream. To enter, simply leave a comment here on the blog!

Your Turn:
  • What dream(s) have you had that have come true?
  • What dreams are you still waiting and working on?
  • What has God taught you in the God-sized dream process?

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Finger of Blame and a Hand to Hold

I'm working on a blog series about the strengths & struggles of being a "more-sensitive-than-most" Christian woman. I'd LOVE to hear and include your perspective, so I'll be doing some short surveys.  e-mail me if you'd like to be included. Or sign up here

I'll be switching from Feedburner to MailChimp for blog delivery soon. e-Mails will come from Cheri Gregory. 

My mother and daughter in 1991.
Mother got lost two weeks ago.

Inside her own home.

The house she designed forty-five years ago.

Lost inside her own home.

To me, this feels worse than the day she did not recognize me.

Far worse.

You see, Mother’s always been a "home body." Decorated and redecorated with impeccable taste. Dressed to match her decor. Spread beautiful tables for family and friends.

So we've comforted ourselves with our commitment to keep her at home, in her favorite place.

But now, so abruptly, her safe haven has vanished.

She is lost inside her own home.

Molten anger simmers within as I ponder the inventor of a disease such as Alzheimer's.

Who would perpetrate such a masochistic cruelty on such a gentle giver?

And why?

The answers come tucked in a long-forgotten memory.

* * * * *

It’s my third year of teaching, and I’m staying after school to catch up on grading.

I’ve spread out a quilt so my 6-month-old daughter can have some “tummy time” while I work.

Suddenly, the classroom door slams open. The 16-year-old who earned a conduct slip for disrespect that morning saunters in.

Then stops.

Right at the edge of the quilt.

He looks at me.

A sneer curls his upper lip.

He looks at my baby.

A fierce gleam flickers in his eyes.

He stares straight at me and lifts his size 13 shoe over my daughter’s fragile head.

His eyes narrow, and his wordless message thunders in the silence:

I hate you.  I want to hurt you.  So I will hurt her while you are helpless to do anything but watch. Hurting her will hurt you far more than anything I could possibly do to you.

* * * * *

I flew to southern California last Thursday. Over the weekend, my father, brother, and I had the kinds of conversations we were never meant to have.

By the time I flew home Sunday night, we’d planned Mother’s funeral. Now, we await the date.

As the lump in my throat makes each breath a battle, I picture that heavy foot above that precious head.

I remember the unleashing of my “mama bear” instincts as I drove those astonished boys from the room and scooped my baby girl into my arms.

I anticipate the day when God will stop this bully once and for all.

Until then, He feels all our hurt plus the protective “Papa Bear” pain of watching when He’d rather be rescuing.

Until then, I will point the finger of blame away from us.

And cling, in mutual comfort, to His scarred hand.