To Be Filled In Later

I used to think that God chose painful circumstances to transform me because it was the only language I understood. It turns out it’s not the only language I understand, it’s the only language I seem to acknowledge. Happiness doesn’t seem real, contentment seems fleeting, and hope fluctuates. But pain? That seems real. Almost tangible in the way it overwhelms my life at times. So it’s no wonder I comprehend it above anything else. Whether through death or disappointment I can count on it’s presence. In some form or another pain creeps into the air ducts of my life silently permeating the rooms of my heart with its toxic invisibility. Armor, spiritual or no, doesn’t feel like a very formidable defense against the gaseous pain leaking into my spirit. No matter what I do the effects of pain are present. 

Pain is present because sin is present, and although Christ has liberated us from sin, it’s affects still linger. And I feel like although sin is defeated in my own life and it is no longer my master, it hangs in the air like poisonous gas in a chemical warfare zone. I wish the armor of God came with a gas mask. But unfortunately I breathe the same air as the rest of the world and I often enter the sanctuary of my bedroom covered in the residue of this sinful world. The residue that comes from mine, and others, judgement, anger, harshness, unforgiveness, criticism, pride, heartbreak, anxiety, depression, rejection, confusion, doubt, guilt, all make it hard for me to breathe and leave me feeling filthy.    

Maybe this is another reason for Jesus’ reference to being living water. He’s not just for drinking, but also for bathing. What His armor doesn’t ward off, He washes off Himself. As I rest in Him, presenting my soul to Him through confession and transparency He gently and calmly washes away the dust and grime of the day. My time in prayer is becoming not just a battle field, but also my soul’s bath time. When I take off the armor of the Spirit and get really intimate with the Holy Spirit Himself. It is during these alone times I hear the Spirit best because when I strip everything away I see I was never going to be strong enough alone to handle the burdens of my day, let alone my entire life. For heaven sake I can’t even walk through the atmosphere of this world for one day without feeling it’s affects!

But, alone with the very Embodiment of Strength, I see myself correctly. Weak, needy, desperate for the help of a Savior. This acknowledgement of weakness can only come from struggle, hardship, desperation, and this is good news. Because it means our suffering has always been about our transformation. God, like always, took what the enemy meant for evil and made it a part of our salvation. Our good. Evil has now become a catalyst into deeper intimacy with the Creator of the universe. The sand transformed into pearl over time. The pressure that creates a diamond to be mined from the depths of our souls. The miracle that allows our once blind eyes to see again. The class room where we learn patience, understanding, humility, gratitude, and steadfast love. Only when we embrace the process can it truly work out the good God has planned.  

I am convinced that I often reject the idea of need and discomfort in my life because I am convinced God must have better plans for my life. After all He is goodness, love, joy, abundance. So how could He ever allow me to walk through seasons of deep need, discouragement, seeming unfavorable conditions, anxiety, chronic illness, if He loved me? But this idea of God’s goodness is a misconception of Who God is and what His eternal purposes are for my life. His eternal good for my life is not to give me a thriving career, money in the bank, and a healthy body till I’m a hundred. He doesn’t care if I have a new car, a spouse, a house, a 401K, or even if I have a great ministry. What He cares about is the condition of the invisible soul that resides somewhere inside this sack of blood, muscle, and bone. And He is beyond zealous to see me transformed into my eternal self.  

We are concerned with time and deadlines, but He isn’t worried about time and He isn’t impatient. God does not grow bored with returning again and again to get a portion of a painting just right. He doesn’t care if it takes forty-five coats of paint to get us just the right shade or texture. In fact He knew exactly how much “paint” it was going to take, the number of strokes, and He just keeps painting. WE are the ones who think that we should be finished after three coats, and we definitely hope there’s no preparation needed for the canvas. Some of us think we should be masterpieces by now. I know I do. But I often wonder if the last decade of my life has only been Him prepping the canvas. All the painting has only been the Lord applying a base coat. What if I could look at the canvas of my life and all I saw was a thick white coat and a pencil sketch that said, “To be filled in later”?  

To be honest that’s exactly where I find myself right now. Staring at a huge portion of my life that says, “To be filled in later.” But I know that the Father hasn’t been idle. He has been meticulously mixing every color using every season of my life to get the hues just right. So when He begins to paint He will say, “Remember when you thought I was doing nothing? The seasons of waiting, loneliness, anxiety, sickness, doubt? I took all those circumstances and emotions and created the most beautiful colors to paint your life. And suffering is the activator to all these colors, without it these shades would be dull and flat. Painful seasons help you to look upon the picture of your life and see the hidden beauty untold.”  

So, if you’re in a “mixing” season, just hold on. The colors you will see hereafter will take your breath away. You will find yourself looking on a palate full of colors you never dreamed existed. And when you see those colors, before they even hit the canvas, you will know whatever the Lord is about to paint, it’s going to be a masterpiece such as no eye has ever seen.  

No Promises, No Apologies

 

I work with a young man who has “no promises” tattooed on the outside of one forearm. On his opposite forearm in big black lettering he has “no apologies.”  Both arms bold, both meant to make a statement of this guys beliefs.  On one hand, or arm, this co-worker is correct.  He is almost Biblical is his ideology.  I mean the Scriptures do say to let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no”.  So it would follow if you make no promises you have nothing to break, you’re being true to your word, right?  But perhaps promises are not something any human being has a right to make in the first place. Maybe making promises is in fact something purely divine. For there is only one Who can make as many promises as He chooses and will never fail to perform or fulfill each and every one.

2 Corinthians 1:20
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

If we take the time to root ourselves in this truth than we know the strength and surety of the rock upon which we stand.  With this confidence we are then able to extend forgiveness to others.  For we know that it is humanly impossible for others to keep their promises.  It changes our expectations. This knowledge that only God is the keeper of promises and the fulfilled of our expectations.  I am not saying we have no standard of living and or have no expectations for others.  I am simply proposing that with those expectations and standards we leave room for human error.  Knowing in that in our futures we too will need the same grade we are extending right now.  For just as others are not perfect, neither are we.  So perhaps seeing ourselves rightly is the first step towards forgiving another, as well as accepting God’s grace for our own lives.

Grace is something I have been learning a lot about recently.  It seems to be the subject of the my holy classroom.  God is indeed the best of all teachers. In this class, I am currently reading What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey.  Mr. Yancey’s thoughts have me pondering forgiveness more than any other season of my life.  Especially as I look at why I may be harboring unforgivness in my own heart.  I believe unmet promises, and broken expectations are at the core of most human hurt. My own hurt.   A certain expectation or promise is set.  One or more is cracked and then a seed of unforgivness is planted.  We as the one offended then have to answer this question, ” to forgive or not to forgive?”  This is the question that holds the key to peace, contentment, and love.  Each day in a thousand little ways I have to answer this question.  When someone cuts me off in traffic, when I have to cover a co-workers laziness again, when I get over looked for a promotion, when my loved ones offend me, knowingly or unknowingly, when someone steals “my” parking space.  The list grows from the mundane to the inhumane.  Some have bitter betrayals to overcome, or heinous crimes that have been committed against them or their family.  The truth remains.  The only thing strong enough to bring freedom from pain and bondage is forgiveness.  For forgiveness is just another word for grace.

Grace is something My work place needs desperately.  I don’t believe the guy I work with is right in thinking no promises will equal no apologies.  Because the reality is with or without promises we have to ask for forgiveness almost every single day.  We are all human constantly entering into other people’s worlds. We are daily stepping on another’s toes, trampling their proverbial grass, and knocking their perfectly aligned “stuff” around.  Although we do all these things unwittingly, it is then up to us to simply say “sorry.”  And maybe it’s not for them, it’s for us.  To breed the kind of humility which enables us to accurately self asses ourselves.  To see that yesterday we trampled on someone’s grass, so today we are able to forgive the trampling of our own.  Because all unforgiveness really does is create fissures between us and others, even the ones we love.  But forgiveness, true forgiveness, divine forgiveness, builds bridges. Bridges over which we may cross and enter into territory likened to Heaven on Earth.

 

An Expression of Gratitude

I am a lover of things done well. No matter how small the task, if it is done well it is admirable. I think this love for the small things is why I love Chick-Fil-A. They do everything well. They are one of the only restaurants I know who place fresh flowers on every table, train their employees thoroughly, and have found a way to pass on their pleasant culture to every employee. For these reasons alone I would eat at their establishment, but their food is amazing too. Who doesn’t love waffle fries dipped in their signature sauce? And I can’t get their Polynesian sauce anywhere else.

So for this love of chicken, and black and white cow suits, I found myself at Chick-Fil-a’s grand opening in Branson, Missouri. I was not disappointed. All the things I love about chick-Fil-a had found their way to Branson. I ate two rounds of waffle fries and drank a large sweet tea to celebrate. But in the midst of my eating enjoyment, I ran into an old college professor. A man who has impacted my life in a way I struggle to express. Maybe his impact stems from the felt absence of true men in my life. Having all sisters, and a “laissez faire” father, I craved a male role model. I do believe this is why Dr. Hayden Head watered so many thirsty areas in my life.

I remember planning my semester class schedules and knowing whatever electives I had were going to be filled with his literature classes. I never worked so hard to honor and respect a professor in my life. I not only loved his class content, but knew that he was teaching me things I should treasure and ponder my whole life. I was sick one class and had taken some medicine that made me drowsy. I struggled the whole class not to doze off. After class I immediately explained my situation for fear that I had offended him. This is my admiration for him .

I am now, still part philosopher and lover of classic literature because of this man. He taught me how to ask questions and use all of the mind the good Lord gave me. He valued every opinion in his classroom. Effortlessly and kindly redirecting students who might have been off track, he engaged his students as equals. He encouraged them to write well, but to never lose their unique voice while rearranging their essays to abide by good writing standards.

Dr. Head always offered to pre-edit our papers before we turned them in. In a way there was no reason a student should ever fail as long as they asked for help. In a way it seemed too easy, but asking for help was part of the education I received. Learning to ask for help was a lesson I never really learned at home. I always feared rejection. Dr. Head was a safe person to ask for help, no matter the topic. Those editing sessions were like private tutoring sessions. His tutoring gave me a chance to not only learn, but to be affirmed by a man who I greatly admired. His presence, in and of tiler was healing. His patience, kindness, and mutual respect unlocked parts of my soul I didn’t even know existed. I would love to say I am a grammar expert now, but I cannot claim to be even close. I can, however, say I am a grammar aficionado and over all better human being for having sat under his gracious tutelage.

Heck, If it weren’t for his presence I wouldn’t be blogging with the hopes of someday writing a published work. In Chick-Fil-A yesterday, I was able to express a minutia of these sentiments to this man. As usual, he was gracious, humble, and slightly uncomfortable to receive such accolades. His wife whispered to me, “Thank you, sometimes he wonders if what he is doing is making a difference.” Well it made a world of difference to this soul, an eternal difference. As usual his humble reply was encouraging to me. His response reminded me of what I often wonder, does my life make a difference? Do my efforts count? In that moment I realized no matter who we are, no matter what difference we are making, we all need to be reminded from time to time lest we lose heart.

So today I challenge you to take time to think of people who have impacted you. Then take some time to thank them. Even if you think they know, chances are they don’t know. I was challenged yesterday to get my eyes off of myself and remember to think of others first. Especially the ones who have helped form my very soul with their iron clad words, soft gestures of kindness, and challenging lessons. So here’s to you Dr.Head. Thank you for the gift of your time and knowledge. I am eternally grateful. I hope one day, The Lord will project the depth of my emotion and gratitude for your life onto your own mind and heart, so you may see the depth of my sincerity. Until then, I hope this simple thank you will suffice.

Another Relationship Blog

It’s almost March. March means another day of birth is soon to be celebrated. Mine to be exact. I have never had qualms with sharing my age as I have always believed that age is just a number. 31. That’s the magic number this year. At least that’s the correct math from the 1984 to 2015. But my soul feels 22 and my body feels like 70 some days. I have accumulated the experiences of a 40 year old on one hand, and on the other hand, I can only claim to know as much as a 19 year old. Which leads to the problem of how to accurately guesstimate my age. But I didn’t start blogging today to talk about my age or date of birth. What I felt in my heart was the nudge to continue the never ending litany of relationship thoughts.

So it goes…When I was in my early, post college years, I felt like I was blessed with two sets of friends. The college friends who are all married and now have children, and the younger friends who were dating and still had a few years until their wedding adventures would begin. Now, in my thirties, I feel like I have three sets of friends. Married, unmarried, and soon to be married. Although I have a handleful of sweet, sweet friends who are still ladies in waiting with me, time seems to be passing. And with its passing, time seems to be tying knots all around me.

 I can honestly say these unions make me happy. They are hopeful and beautiful and inspiring. But with each couple’s smiling face staring back at me from the pages of social media I wonder. That haunting question lingering in the back of my mind. “Does a suitable match exist for me?” I have said “no” to a handful of really good guys. But each “no” I was saying now, was supposed to mean I could say, “yes” with all my soul later. But the question lingers, does this person even exist? I mean it’s hard to be hopeful is it not? Hard to trust that The Creator of Adam and Eve made an “Adam” for me too?

What if He only made me? What if the faint ache in my heart for a match, is really just the residual aftermath of being a sinful being, and my match has, and always will be, God? Most days my heart sings “yes” to that answer. But some days, my “single days”, that answer doesn’t seem to be enough. And this is when I can sense, as right now, The Lord is asking for a renewed sense of trust in His goodness. A renewed commitment to believe in His promises. To know it is not about whether or not He created someone for me or not, marriage is not the point of my existence. The reason I was formed in my mother’s womb was to be united with my Creator, not a man. His promise was not marriage, it was that HE would never leave me nor forsake me.

And to this point, my 31 years of age, He has not left me for a single breath. Not for one moment, one daydream, one heartache, one lonely night or puffy eyed morning. Not in my questions, doubts, fears, angry moments, ugly moments or curses. He has never said, “I quit. Figure it out yourself. You ungrateful girl.” No, in these moments He seems to draw nearer, even though I may be a bigger mess than I have ever been before. And at 31 I have begun to see that through all of these seasons of singleness He has been showing me what true covenant truly looks like between a husband and wife. He has been demonstrating what a true Father does for the daughter He adores. He protects her from unworthy pursuers and invites her into a story that only strengthens her identity. So she knows what Her daddy says is true. That this is not a punishment, this isn’t a season for me to get my act together, this isn’t even a season of me learning how to trust more. This is a season in which He is showing me my value, my worth in the eyes of the Universe’s Greatest Dad

And I think, finally, at 31, I am starting to agree with His evaluation of me. I am beginning to see myself through the eyes of my perfect Maker. My God. My Father. My Eternal Husband. And I believe the best part of knowing my identity, is now I can assure you of yours. I can honestly say without blinking, or doubting, or wondering, or hoping it’s really true, that you are the priceless, protected, beloved of the God of the universe. I can say with all confidence that you are seen, not forgotten, your life has purpose, and there is a map for your life even if you can’t read it at all times. You really are on the road to something beautiful. I can plead with you, because I know the impact in my own life, to let Him lead. To never stop praying, pressing in, or pleading with the lover of your soul. Don’t hide anything from Him. He already knows anyway, but if you hide something you are only allowing parts of His character to be obscured from your eyes and heart.

After all, as I said, this is all about us getting to know Him. One season, frustration, heart ache, and question at a time. I still don’t have answers to all my questions. However, I have the only answer I really need, to the question we are all truly asking when we talk to God about future relationships, “Am I gonna be alone?” The answer? “Absolutely never. Not even on your worst day. This is a forever kind of love.”

Being the Best You

We all need encouragement. Encouragement feeds a weary soul. It puts fuel in our endlessly tapped engines. My heart and soul constantly need filling. So I follow multiple motivational people on Instagram. People who daily post words of vision, encouragement, hope, food for my deepest recesses. However, I noticed the other day a difference the posts I was reading. Some where filled with pure motivation. The kind that left me feeling empowered and energized. Energy to dream and believe what I was dreaming would become a reality.

Other posts left me feeling inadequate, wondering if I had enough to accomplish all my little heart was eager to see accomplished in life.  These later posts got me thinking. How is convincing everyone to compete with their peers a good form of motivation?  Competition causes anxiety, anger, pushing and shoving, degrading comments, and pride. It stirs up everything ugly and insecure in us. And those ugly and insecure things do not produce beauty, positivity, or growth, they brd something dark and stagnate.

I understand competition can bring out the best in some.  But I would question whether this is called competition or something altogether different.  Something more noble, more worthy, more character related.   I , for one, want to live in the cool refreshing light of day. Where a breeze stirs up the beauty in my soul and challenges me to unleash my inner beauty for the benefit of all those around me. If I am competing with humanity then the last thing I want is to share myself with them. Because they may steal my good idea or step on my dream right? I am tempted to hoard my gifts for myself and leave others in the dark. I don’t want to be encouraged by things which stir up my competitive nature. I want to be inspired by challenging words.  To hear words calling me to be the best me, words which remind me of truth.  Like I am unique, gifted, loved, and have seeds to plant.  On this path I don’t have time to compete because I realize my path is not anyone else’s. Here I only have room for companions not competitors.

What if it truly was less about competing and more about simply being the best you? Be you today and accept the challenge to be better tomorrow.  Not because you need to prove yourself to your competitors, but because deep down you know you have more to offer.  Let the best of you permeate everything you engage, this is what will truly motivate others to do the same.

 

You Were Made to SHINE.

It’s not an ostentatious thing to stand out. There isn’t something the person next to you has that entitles them to be more amazing than you. You and your neighbor are equally incredible, incredibly equal.

The question is:

“Do you believe you’re amazing? “

Our culture says amazing is in, but when we hear the word amazing we doubt it describes us. We don’t feel amazing enough to do any of the things people expect when they hear the word amazing. But the reality is all you have to do to be amazing is be yourself. You heard me, BE YOURSELF. That’s the entire recipe for being incredible.

The hard part about this truth is you don’t feel  these words are true. You don’t feel amazing because you are still wondering who you are. Where you are going and what you should be doing. We are so inundated with society’s pictures of “incredible” that we get lost trying to become a snapshot, instead of our three dimensional selves. So we live very flat two dimensional lives wondering why it never seems to be enough. Well in order to live three dimensionally you have to make room for your soul. The part of you that makes you you. No one else can share your soul with you. And you cannot share someone else’s soul. So why are we all so busy trying to fit someone else’s spirit into our bodies? I have often said, “If we are so busy inputting everyone else’s ideas and thoughts, how do we have room for our own?”

It is time to get your soul back.

There is a place for in taking and uploading others creativity, but not at the sacrifice of our own. You have your own shade of “you” to add to the color wheel of the world. Your own sparkle, twinkle, glimmer, spark. The question is, “What is it?” What makes you come alive? What consumes your thoughts? What makes you want to get up off the couch and fight? Do you even know what you are passionate about? More than just the latest movie, or song, or gadget. Those are someone else’s dreams, their uniqueness floating around to bless the lives of others. But if we are not careful their gifts will be the undoing of our own dreams.

Sometimes it takes separating ourselves from the noise to hear the still small voice of our weak soul. I believe we were created in the image of God. But this physical body is not in His image, our souls are His image. So it would make sense when we feel disconnected from the deepest parts of who we are (our soul) we feel distant from God too.

He wants to connect with us so we can connect with who we were created to be. Our true selves. Alive, sparkling, brilliant. You cannot live forever off the vapors of someone else’s dreams. We were each entrusted with our own divine spark. Something we have that no one else has. But as we compare, hide, fear, we become apathetic even towards our own souls. Our own true self doesn’t even feel free to show itself to us, let alone the world. So instead of growing brighter, shinier, stronger, it begins the slow fade. It bows it’s head ashamed. Ashamed of what? It never even saw the light of day and it already lives a life of rejection.

What advice would you give to someone who’s true self was in hiding? Someone you loved, cared for, believed in? Why don’t you start telling yourself those words of life. Love yourself, let your soul shine. You’re amazing. Be brave enough to be you. You’ll be amazed at the things you will do. I have no doubt it will be something truly dazzling. Truly spectacular. Truly you.

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What If Your Dream Is Just Ahead?

Driving brings out the worst in me. I become impatient, belligerent, even hostile behind another driver. Especially when they are not driving the way I would like them to drive. Faster, always faster, is my preference for drivers. I often apologize to Jesus out loud for not being more loving in my thoughts and words while driving. Alarming but true story, I think I have mentally committed murder many times over behind the wheel of my Santa Fe.

In the end I often end my rants with praying about why I am so frustrated. As I begin pondering my recent driving profanities and malicious thoughts I always end by blessing the person I cursed (and asking The Lord to take my license so I will learn how to love others better.) He is gracious and has maintained my drivers license, but I think it may be because He doesn’t want to drive me to work. Haha.

But seriously, I often end with one thought: I am so impatient when I am not in control. I want to get there faster no matter what area of life I am walking or driving or running through. I do not want to hear, “Wait, stop, be still,” or any other variation of words meaning, “Don’t move.” But sometimes not moving is the quickest way to your destination. Our not moving doesn’t mean God is not moving. He is constantly rearranging things in the unseen on our behalf. Often changing “lights”, creating “stop” signs, and directing us into traffic jams, for our benefit. Many times, in hind sight, I can see how He kept me from falling into a trap of the the enemy because He redirected my steps. How loving, how annoying. 😉

No matter how annoying the waiting, afterwards I always seem to walk, drive, run past those could be hindrances without even knowing they were there. There also seems to be this incredible grace for the times I “pass” the obstacles across a double yellow line and blaze my own trail. But even while speeding God seems to be teaching me to slow down. So thankful His grace is faster than my sin.

His speedy grace has also been sufficient in times of waiting. Those l o n g seasons of waiting where I am stuck in traffic and about to run out of gas with no gas exit in sight. When my engine seems to be run on tears and questions. Even here His grace waits with me. I use this traffic analogy because it’s simple and anyone with a license can probably relate. As well as the fact that I love road trips, and recently took one filled with traffic jams and gas worries. But honestly sometimes life takes on a much more serious note than traffic jams and gasless engines. Sometimes it’s not the vehicles we are driving it is our own bodies racked with disease, or a family member or friend’s death. Perhaps it is relentless depression and hopelessness, or simply an unrelenting temptation that seems to follow you everywhere. Fill in the blank. Ask yourself, this ________ makes me feel lost, depressed, frustrated, fearful, or all of the above plus some.

We all have something the enemy has introduced trying to keep us from our final destination. Trying too keep us from truly enjoying and becoming everything we were meant to be in between opportunities. Often we are tempted to give up, to leave our “car” by the side of the road, make camp, and just try to survive the between. But how do you know that a gas station isn’t right around the corner? Or even five miles ahead? The reality is, the closer you get to your destiny the harder the enemy will try to thwart you. Traffic jams, flat tires, depression, anger, frustrated dreams, you name it. He has come to rob you of your destiny. God dreamed you into existence. You were God’s dream. And God gave you the ability to dream too, because He has something for you to dream into existence. Something to help establish His presence on Earth as it is in Heaven.

So the enemy comes with his bribes. Offering you a small percentage of your dream in return for your surrender. This is when the question becomes, “Are your dreams for sale?”

DO NOT SETTLE FOR 30% OF YOUR DREAM WHEN 100% IS AHEAD OF YOU.

Do not be discouraged by the world for they can only speak from their own discouraged hearts. From the bitterness of knowing they sold their dreams and need to be comforted by convincing you to sell yours too. Keep moving, keep driving, keep dreaming. For the world belongs to dreamers like you. Why do you think the enemy fights so hard to steal your dreams? Because He knows dreams lead to hope. And hope will conquer the world.

Don’t settle, your dream is ahead of you.

 

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