Tuesday, August 12, 2014

To the One Who is Restless

To the One Who is Restless,

Do you know who you are? You are the child of God - chosen, freed, forgiven, equipped. You have gifts, which have been given to you by your father in Heaven, so that you may run in his race. He's got the path set, the course laid out and in the end there is victory. All you have to do is move. 

Isn't that exciting? Isn't it scary. Yes and yes. But, if you never take that first step, you will always feel like this - restless - like there is more to life than this.

"God's story changes every one of our stories, every one of our lives." 
- Jennie Allen

You were made for more. It's time to accept it. There are people and places who need you. There are passions, birthed through suffering, that are unique burdens for you. Why? The mission is clear. God wants you to move with him. He wants your story to be aligned with his.

God is alive. He is active. So, we must be too. Although we may not be able to see the finish line, or even the next mile marker, we must step out with confidence, as if what we believe about God - his faithfulness and unfailing love - is true. Because, God always gives us enough to sustain us for this day, for this task, and this moment of obedience. He wants us to be dependent on him, every day. And, tomorrow he will provide again. 

Like Joseph, you must obey God's call on your life, even when it doesn't make sense. May you also be like Abraham and Isaiah, saying, "Here I am" while offering yourself and your service to the Lord.

Unfortunately, in life, there are many things that can weigh us down, make us weary and create a breeding ground for discouragement. That is not what God wants. These things paralyze. He wants you to move freely - to run without those things entangling you. So, stop comparing yourself with others. Stop worrying about what others think of you. Instead, keep your eyes on Jesus, who has initiated and perfected our faith. With him all things are possible.

My friends, I believe you will do great things. I am excited to see what God had planned for you and for me. If you do not yet know what it is, ask him. He will show you. It may not be today or tomorrow but the answer will come. In the meantime, explore your passions, embrace your people and places, continue to dream, and...do something.

"God doesn't change the world through grand visions; he changes the world through surrendered people hungry for his glory." 
- Jennie Allen, Restless

Note:  I wrote this letter to the ladies who completed the Restless Bible Study with me this summer. 
I wanted to share it with you, with the hope that it would encourage you, as well. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Being Brave

I'm not a how-to writer. There are times when I wish is was. When I scroll through Facebook or my blog feed and see dozens of how-to articles, I think, I wish I could do that. Maybe more people would read if I could just simplify life, faith, fear or motherhood, marriage or writing into five to ten easy steps.

But, that's not life, at least the way I see it. And, that's not me. I'm a storyteller. I write my story with the hope that other people will be inspired to create their own how-to's. If you can connect with my stories and learn from them, if they make an impact in even one moment of your day, then I will be satisfied.

Whether I like it or not - and most of the time I don't - fear is a part of my story. As a result, I read a lot about what other people think about fear and their perception of bravery.

One of my recent favorites is Let's All Be Brave, by Annie Downs. I finished this book within 24-hours and was so sad for it to come to an end. Although there are many differences between Annie and me - she is single, younger, lives in Nashville, was a missionary in Scotland, and has published several books - she, like me, understands the importance of being brave, of saying yes even when you're scared and of saying no despite the fear you might be missing that one important thing.

"You want to change the world? Be brave. Be you. 
Don't try to be someone else or do someone else's brave thing." (p.175)

If you follow me on Instagram you will know that most of my summer has been spent driving my daughters to and from play practice, listening to them practicing their songs endlessly  and then finally watching them perform on the stage, numerous times, in our local children's musical theater production of Willy Wonka Jr

The day of their first real performance, as I drove them to the theater, my 11-year old, who has done theater before, was giving her 9-year old sister, who has never been a part of a production, this advice, 

"Okay, E. Even if you feel like you're going to throw up right before the play starts, don't worry. Once you step onto the stage, it's like you went through a portal...because you won't be nervous anymore. It's great."

I'm not sure where the word "portal" came from. (Possibly The Lego Movie, but the lessons we have learned from that movie I will save for another post.) However, her perspective is right on. Once you step onto the stage, once you send that email or take that first step, you feel brave. And, that changes everything. It doesn't mean the fear is gone. It just means that you've done something about it, instead of letting it paralyze you.

"That's why we have to start. It's why we have to go first. It's why we have to be brave - 
so that others will be inspired to be brave as well.
...the real joy is when we get to be the ones who lead others to a new level of bravery." (p.171)

There are several things, personally and professionally, that I desire related to telling my story:
I want to get my book published.
I want to tell my story in front of people.
I want to be quoted.
I want others to learn how to be brave from me.

At times all of these things seem selfish to me. That's when I hesitate. When I wonder if I should pursue any of these things. I get anxious and overwhelmed by these thoughts, wondering if any of these are really in God's will for my life or if I'm just searching for recognition. If you've known me for any length of time, you know that I tend not to be selfish and the last thing I want is to be noticed or applauded. It's just embarrassing. But, writing my wants here, seeing them in print, still makes me wonder.

"The road to courage is lit by God's wisdom" (p.120)

It is only when I am still and listen to the only voice that truly matters that I am able to hear the truth. God's voice says,
Tell the story I have given you.
Encourage and disciple other women with your voice.
Speak and write truth, so that others may know me.

I may never get the exact things I want. I know that God can give me all these things. I just don't know if he will. That has to be okay. I still have to trust him. God has me on this journey for a reason. 

I just have to be brave. Then, my story can be a part of his story.

GOD made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him. 
When I cleaned up my act, he gave me a fresh start. 
Indeed, I’ve kept alert to GOD ’s ways; I haven’t taken God for granted. 
Every day I review the ways he works, I try not to miss a trick. 
I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step. 
GOD rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes. 
- 2 Samuel 22:21-25 (MSG) -

Monday, July 28, 2014

My People

This Summer I've been leading a group of women through Jennie Allen's Restless Bible Study. It has been an tremendous experience! It is my first time leading a group like this, yet I have felt the movement of the Spirit each time I prepare for a session and during each meeting. These women have truly been a blessing to me and to each other.

Last week's lesson was related to the people in our lives. The questions we were prompted to ask ourselves were - Who are the people you need? Who are the one's that need you? One of my favorite Jennie Allen quotes was in this lesson...

It is easier to survive this life on the surface, bumping up against people gently, than do the mess of intentionally loving them. 
-Jennie Allen-

When I began to notice a transformation in myself and realized that God had me not only on a path to use my gifts, but on a spiritual journey as well, I was a little frustrated, wondering who in my life could support me in this place. There were probably many, although I was afraid to ask. It wasn't until I started telling my story and sharing the ways God has changed me that I found my people. And, I have found myself wanting to hold on tight - no more casual chit-chat - this is the real deal.

Two women that helped me become aware that I am not alone in this spiritual journey, I met online, through blogging. Tiffany and Julie are two of the writers for the blog Girls of God's Heart and Tiffany has her own blog, His Constant Grace

I remember the excitement I felt when I first connected the dots and discovered that both Tiffany and Julie lived in my area. It has been such an incredible blessing to study the Bible with them, to share in their lives, and even travel with them - we went to see Beth Moore together in June...amazing!

Part of the people study this past week was to create a list, by name, of the five people you need and the five people that need you. Tiffany and Julie are definitely on the first list, along with my husband. After that, I struggled to come up with more names. There are so many people who I would feel lost without. How could I only name five? Who are those people that I trust with my ideas and my most precious spiritual thoughts? Those are my people.

But, they're not the only ones that I need. I also need the ones who send me thank-you cards or speak words of encouragement at just the right times. I also need the ones who invite me to use my gifts in different ways. And, the ones who take walks with me, mostly because it's an hour of uninterrupted conversation, not because it's particularly strenuous exercise. Or, the ones who come to see my girls in their play. I need them all.

There have been times in my life when I've let friends walk away or I walked away myself - because they weren't the right people or it wasn't the right time. There have also been those unlikely friends and the ones I need because they needed me first. 

I've written before about the social struggles of my past. My shyness and awkwardness. What I've been learning recently is that I don't do small talk well. But, get me talking about my passions - the Lord, the Bible, my kids, my job, etc. - and I can't stop talking. The problem for me has always been that most people want to live life on the surface. They don't want to go deep. Enter in my awkwardness.

There have been many times in my life when I have wondered why I have to feel so deeply. Why I have to care so much. Why certain experiences hit me and reach me at my core. Things that may seem insignificant to others. I think it scares people sometimes. They worry about my deep feelings, extreme self-doubt and seemingly over the top reactions and fears.

But, the psalmist says...

We need deep in order to experience the Holy Spirit in it’s fullness. Without the ability to go deep, I would never have started writing again, began sharing my story and meaningfully connected with so many women in my life. I would have stayed shallow and there is only so much that can be accomplished there.

Although there can be great hurt and pain in the deep, there is also great power. There is an ability to connect with God, with myself and with others.

We have to be willing to accept it all. Otherwise, we won’t have any of it. We’ll stay shallow. And, our feet will never leave the ground.

Deep begets deep. Love begets love. Faith begets faith.

So, be intentional. Dive into the deep waters with your people. You won't regret it.