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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Putting on Skates

I have realized something, lately. The fear of failure is one of my biggest fears. It may be why I avoid doing. Not because I'm afraid of the actual task or project, but because I'm afraid that I won't be able to to it. That my efforts will be rejected or unappreciated or that what I've thought was right was completely wrong.

My girls are nine and eleven and just recently learned how to ride a bicycle without training wheels. As I watched them fall with frustration, count their bruises and continue going back for more, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Why hadn't we taught them sooner? Would they become adults who couldn't ride? Soon, they were riding without fear and even inspired their brother to do the same. 

Around that same time that they were learning to ride, my nine-year old was invited to a roller skating party for choir. Both girls wanted to go. They had never skated before and were eager - and anxious - to learn. I watched my oldest fall multiple times in her first attempt around the rink. That was all it took for her to quit. No more skating for her that night. However, E's story was different...because, she kept going. No matter how times she fell, it seemed as if she had something to prove. She was slow and mostly held onto the wall for support, but she persevered.

I am both of them. They are both me. There are some times when my fear of failure is so strong that it paralyzes me. Then, there are other times, when I count my bruises, grab onto the wall and risk failure because it makes the victory even more sweet.

Sometimes the fear of failure steals the beauty we were meant to create.
 If what we are called to do is in God's will for us, we truly can't fail...
we simply may not have the same meaning as God for the word "failure." 
To me, failure means it doesn't turn out the way I wanted it to. To God, it means I didn't pick up the brush.
-Angie Smith, What Women Fear

Several months ago, I felt God was calling me to pursue opportunities to write and speak outside my current sphere of influence and the boundaries I set had set for myself. I knew this idea was from God simply because it was risky and it was something I never would have thought of doing. Ever.

So, I sent an email to a local Christian camp, introducing myself and my calling. The first response was encouraging, but not exactly what I expected. I sent the required follow up documentation and then I waited. And, waited. Finally, at the beginning of July I sent a follow up email. Then, I waited some more. Yesterday, I received my answer. Thanks, but no thanks. That wasn't exactly what the email said - it was much more kind and eloquently written - but that's what I read. 

It is still fresh and I'm not exactly sure what I'm feeling. It was something I really didn't want to do, but felt God pushing me. Why? Was it because He wanted me to do it or because He just wanted to see if I was willing to try? Obviously, at this point I believe it was the latter. There is disappointment, but also relief. There is a sense of failure, but also of success.

Walking with God, following his lead, does not guarantee success. At least by the world's standards. There will be rejection. There will be failure. There may even be times when He asks you to put on your skates and then sit outside the rink, watching everyone else skate by. 

Your job, then is not to feel sorry for yourself, because you're not in the rink, but to support and cheer on your friends and fellow believers in their quest to make it around.

Because...that's right where God wants you.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sometimes it's Good to be Crazy

I am afraid that if I don't write this post, my reflection on the book, 7, by Jen Hatmaker, I will forget all the wonderful insights into the spiritual discipline of fasting this book provided, and will also lose my motivation to participate in a life which removes the excess.

I tweeted this on Monday, "Reading @JenHatmaker makes me feel a little less crazy, yet leaves me wanting to be a little more crazy!"

Right now, I am extremely enthusiastic about some pretty crazy plans. Plans to start a garden - growing all of my own vegetables - pray at least seven times every day, reduce my food and media intake, give away many of my possessions, and spend less. I know I will not do all of these things. But, I do desire to live a more disciplined life. One that involves less stress, less consumerism and more time spent focusing on people and things that mean something, not just in this life, but for eternity, as well.

I have had 7 on my bookshelf for awhile. Honestly, I was avoiding it. I didn't want to feel convicted. I didn't want to want to make radical changes to my life. So, I waited. Until I had nothing else to read. Finally, the local library and my monthly budget conspired against me. None of the books I had requested from the library were available for check-out and I purchased two swimsuits this month, which left me no more spending money for books. A conspiracy, I tell you.

There 7 sat, waiting for me. I was afraid of it. Afraid of what I might do to my heart and afraid that it would cause me to make promises I couldn't keep. But, I couldn't just leave it there, unread.

Essentially, this book is about fasting. It's about making room for God by removing and simplifying. It is not a prescription for life, it is an example of discipline and humanness, daily renewal and success for eternity.

"I approach this project in the spirit of a fast:  an intentional reduction, a deliberate abstinence to summon God's movement in my life. A fast creates margin for God to move...A fast is not necessarily something we offer God, but it assists us in offering ourselves." (p.4)

As evidenced by previous posts related to fasting from food and/or drink and from blogging for a period of time, I have a growing love and appreciation for fasting. 7 was the perfect way for me to learn more. To get another woman's perspective. A woman who is also nearly forty, who is married and raising children. A woman who, for 30-days, only wore seven items of clothing. Now, that's discipline. In fact, when I told my 11-year old, she was shocked. "You mean, seven outfits?" she said. Nope, seven items of clothing, which included two pairs of shoes!

What will I do? How will I offer myself more completely to God? I'm not sure yet.

Currently, I have set seven alarms on my phone, so that I may attempt to observe the Seven Sacred Pauses, remembering to pray specifically for the oppressed, for a daily resurrection of my soul, for peace, and in gratitude and praise.

I would also really love to grow my own fruit and vegetables, in a garden. But, seeing that I cannot keep any plant alive, no matter how much I try, I don't know how realistic this is.

The success or failure of any of this is dependent on what God wants for me. I expect that more will be revealed to me as time passes. 

What I know now, is that I'm interested in mastering the art of less stress, less spending, less waste, which will make room for more of Him.

What about you? What's keeping you from hearing the voice of God?