When You Are Not Quiet

Most people will call me reserved, quiet. I have not always been so, and am not always still. My friends and family that know me well know that I can at times be goofy and somewhat odd. This is my personality, and while most psychologists will say that personality remains fairly steady over a period of time, people can have developments of personality that cause change.

As I write this, I am sitting in a king-sized hotel bed, hoping to be lulled back to sleep before I have to check out in a few hours. I am alone and came five and a half hours away from my home in order to be alone and go to an event put on by an author I love and her friend. The event itself was only three hours long, but it was a great time to connect with other mothers, relax, and be pampered a little.

The author who spoke at this mini-conference discussed the topic of a gentle and quiet spirit. This Scripture no doubt has been the source of many mixed feelings and interpretations. I personally have heard it used as a mantra, a goal, and even used as a carelessly tossed out insult toward someone the speaker did not think fit the bill- yes even Scripture can be used to hurt people, unfortunately. And while I by no means consider myself an example of this verse, I often feel that maybe I am being judged a little more critically by others when I am neither gentle nor quiet.

And yet, here is the confession:

Sometimes, I am not gentle or quiet with my children.

Sometimes, I am not gentle toward my husband.

Sometimes, I am not quiet or gentle with my friends and family.

Sometimes, I don’t want to be those things.

Most times, I feel freer when I am not.

I like to dance and sing loudly with my children in the living room.

I like to challenge and rebut my husband in friendly banter.

I like to do something new and fun and maybe a little crazy with my friends and laugh a little too loud.

So when this author began to speak on this verse, I perked up. And what she said resonated with me and I felt the truth in her words.

The words gentle and quiet in these verses are also interpreted as undisturbed and established. When your life is in Christ, He gives you a spirit of gentleness and quietness. Your spirit is established and undisturbed in Him. Zephaniah tells us God will rejoice over us with singing and quiet us with His love. He establishes and makes us undisturbed by His love.

It’s not about the volume of your voice or the bigness (or smallness) of your voice. It’s about being rooted in Him, having a spirit that is in deep relationship with Him so that when the storms come, your spirit is quiet, calm. Undisturbed because you know Who He is.

What a freeing thing to know. I have always argued that God has given us all unique personalities, just as He has given us all unique minds, bodies, and souls. Why then would He tell us that we must all be quiet? Does He not say He rejoices with singing, and that He will one day descend from heaven with a shout? Why then do we think that we Christians (women specifically) must be quiet? It is because we take these words and interpret them in our modern context and subject them to our outward appearance even though the Scripture clearly states it is talking about the spirit.

Is your heart established in His love? Are you undisturbed by the trials because your eyes are focused on Him? Then you fit the bill of the verse. No matter how loud or big or wild or odd or silly your personality. Let it shine, because you are the light that shines the joy of the Lord.

 

Beyond Valentine’s Day

We may have been babes when we were married- well, there really is no denying that we were– but we were the only ones that didn’t know it. We thought we were old enough and wise enough and life would just be grand. We had known each other for so long already and it came as no surprise to anyone that we would get married. It was “meant to be,” so to speak.

And then came the four funerals in the first year of our marriage and the loss of our first baby at just six weeks old two years after. We were almost evicted from one apartment, worked two jobs each and were always broke, and had many other challenges that tried to rock us.

We were never perfect, never “always” kind, patient, forgiving. We never threw anything at each other or walked out on one another, but words and cold shoulders have been thrown. Yet we also have grown and fought for this love.

So when teenagers come to me and tell me they think they want to spend the rest of their life with another teenager and the parent looks imploringly at me, I just smile sheepishly. Because otherwise, what kind of hypocritical advice would I give? And then the teenager tells me all things that they did for Valentine’s Day, and I smile a knowing smile.

A hopeless romantic at heart, I love Valentine’s Day. So many of my friends and family do not, but I do. And while I am not one of those people that thinks they have to date their spouse, I do think you have to romance them. And Valentine’s Day is an excuse to do just that. It doesn’t have to be all about the superficial things- though I love flowers- but it never hurts to take the time to evaluate where we are. To slow things down over one dinner or late night talk to assess our marriage. We look back on things and laugh at our foolishness and discuss with deep sincerity our future endeavors.

We have come a long way in ten years of marriage, understanding more, now, how little we actually understand.

But I can still laugh when you come back early this morning with flowers and a Hello Kitty gift basket because even though I am almost thirty it is still one of my favorites. And you can laugh at my forgetfulness in asking for your help to unpack groceries and you unpack your chocolates.

And I’ll still decorate the dining room with pink and red hearts and wait like it’s Christmas morning for the kids to come down and get their treats.

We have a lot of growing left to do, a lot of life to live. But I will enjoy these Valentine moments with you, cherishing the traditions and embracing the changes as they come. Because no matter what the date on the calendar, we are in this together, and I could not love you more.

 

Fear Idol

I often find that I am a lonely person. Not in the sense of I have no one to talk to or that I don’t have any friends. I have a husband that takes the times to listen to me, to respond, and is committed to me. I have a core group of friends that I trust and a good relationship with my siblings. I have mentors who are friends, and am slowly making friends with people in my church.

Yet, there still is a place in me that has welled up out of fear. A place that creates these walls and makes it hard to break them down. I have been teased on many occasions that I need to open up more, to talk more about myself. This blog doesn’t count.

And I can’t help but wonder if this fear in me has created a place of sin. While reading through my oldest son’s Bible study curriculum it mentions how idols are anything that takes our desires and hearts away from God through pride or fear. I knew the pride part, had experienced it on my own many times and worked through it. But when I thought about the idol of fear and what that might look like, I realized it looked a lot like my reflection.

Fear that I am not going to sound “right” has been a cop out when I am with others and we are praying aloud. This has kept me from prayer.

Fear that I am not good enough as a mother to have kids that behave well enough. This has kept my children and me from activities.

Fear that I might be a little too odd, a little to awkward, to try to make friends, that I won’t be accepted. This has kept me from relationships.

Fear that if I am vulnerable and share a real need and not just something on the surface, that I might be too broken. This has hindered current relationships.

But what I learned this past week is that when you are vulnerable, when you dare to take a chance on your friends and show them a little bit of what is going on with you and your life and your crazy mind, they are not going to walk away from you. When you speak out in prayer those things that you seek, that you need and desire, they will stand with you. I have run from these things with the idol of fear in my hand, thinking I could never be that open. Past experiences remind me of the hurt that can occur when you are open and vulnerable with friends. But new experiences have taught me that when these friends are good and safe and true, it is okay. The judgment you feared was coming doesn’t. And maybe, just maybe, you can finally loosen the grip you have on fear, finally realizing that it is your grip on it and not its grip on you that has kept it around for so long. And you begin to do the things that were once so natural but have been hindered or stopped completely because of fear. You begin to take a chance again, to believe, to open up.

My theme this year is simplicity. Fear complicates things. It is time to let go of it, to lay that idol down and simplify my life with the pure and unconditional love of Christ, with the simple truth of the gospel, and with the simplicity of being with my friends as I am, without complicating it with walls and barricades. Because when I opened up, I no longer felt as lonely. I felt a simple hope rising up, encouraging me to press in when I feel like running. To let go of fear instead of waiting for it to let go of me.

The Simple Truth

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This year’s one word challenge is hard for me. I thought about the word almost in a begrudging way. It felt like one more thing I had to do before the year ended. It’s not like anyone was forcing me to do it, but I know when I have a goal or thing to accomplish I usually attend to it more and work toward it.

As I thought about why I felt this way- why I felt like I had to have a word, and why it was bothering me to add it to my to-do list, the word came. Like a quiet admonishment. Like something I knew I longed for but wasn’t sure how to get.

At the risk of sounding arrogant (or idiotic), simple things do not come easy for me. I always seem to take the hard way, put too much on myself, pushing and pushing toward something. I place responsibilities on myself, many of which are unnecessary, and overthink things ad nauseum. Often this adds to my anxiety, making me worse than better, compounding the feelings of being overwhelmed or wanting to hide away. It causes me to shut down, afraid to show my imperfections, because deep down I know many of them are of my own doing.

Take, for example, someone coming over to my house. I will clean and clean and fret and worry. I will try to make food that is not just good, but amazing, which all too-often makes for first time attempts at a recipe that may come out not as planned and then I disappoint myself. I want people to feel invited and welcomed in my home yet I cannot relax enough to allow myself to enjoy that they might just feel that way. I want to welcome and at the same time shield people from my flaws and cluttered spaces. After all, how dare I show I am human, right?

Or when I come to meet with a group of friends or just one friend how I feel myself having to mentally take down walls all over again because the idea of vulnerability is such a hard thing for me?

These are things I do to myself because sometimes, honestly, I just make life too complicated. For the sake of predictability I expend exhaustive amounts of time planning, preparing, and rehearsing. Blame it on my introversion, my INFJ melancholy personality, or just plain oddities of who I am. But either way, things get way over complicated in my mind and it spills out into my life.

So my word for 2017 is this: simplicity. An experiment in living Ockham’s Razor, if you will. Whichever is easiest, most simplistic, is the route I need to take. Instead of engaging in the rabbit hole of thinking that leads me to doubt relationships and feelings, choose the simplest path. Refuse to go down that rabbit hole. Purging the house and ridding it of unnecessary things so that it becomes easier to organize, easier to clean, and easier to host. Simple eating; good food that is good for me. Less spending on material objects and more time spent on the things that matter. Not worrying about fancy words and phrases but finally getting that story written down and let it tell itself.

Simplicity. It is a purposeful way of living. It is intentional. It is growing out of the unnecessary and stepping into the things that matter most. It is the renewing of the mind and resetting life to pull out of the mundane. To love people more and rid myself of false pretenses. To accept myself more and be okay with where I am and who I am. To not overwhelm myself and learn those boundaries and know when I have reached a limit. To be enough.

Plain and simple.

Beginning Advent

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When the sun comes up through the tall branches of the pine trees, Sunday awakens at my house. It is the first Sunday, the first day, of Advent. As a child, Advent meant nothing more to me than opening a little flap on a cardboard box that was filled with a plastic tray of little square chocolates. The dates were not entirely all that accurate either; no matter what we started on December 1st, with the culminating piece that was opened on Christmas Eve showing off a plump and cheerful picture of Santa.

I have passed this tradition on to my children, with my sister always being determined to deliver the calendars to her nieces on nephews each year, faithfully by December first. But even if she is a little late, they don’t mind as they can double up on the chocolates to “catch up.”

This was the extent of my understanding of Advent for many years. I remember a Sunday School teacher spending time on it, explaining the wreath and the candles and what each week signified, but unfortunately I was not paying as much attention back then or recognized the significance. It felt like something more traditional churches would do, as if it was only for someone who was perhaps Catholic or Methodist.

I read it about in people’s blogs years later, and saw ideas on Pinterest and people discussing the celebration. Still, I could not understand this idea of Advent; why were people waiting for Jesus’ birth when He had already come?

When I began to read more about it, to search for the meaning behind it and the purpose, I was surprised to find there really was a meaning to it, a purpose beyond plastic trays of chocolates or lighting candles. I saw that it was for everyone, not just the churches that were rooted in deep traditions already.

The more I saw the structure to it, the symbolism of it, the tradition of it, the more I began to think that this was something I wanted to teach to my children. I wanted them to see beyond the glittery decor and the presents and Santa, beyond the artificial magic we produce with stories of elves and wishes and Christmas miracles. I had told them the true meaning of Christmas, of the birth of Jesus and the angels singing and the shepherds and kings that came to visit that Babe in the manger, and they had nodded their little heads with eagerness, all the while eyeing the presents under the tree.

Last year we began to really participate in Advent, to learn of the prophecies of Jesus, of the many names by which He is called- Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, and many others. We read in Isaiah of His coming, of God’s meticulous plan beginning in Genesis leading to the moment of Christ’s birth. As we read those passages, we were right there with those people, waiting for the Savior.

This year we have an actual book to help guide us, with traditional songs, activities, and the lighting of the Advent candles. Tonight we will join those who still seek Him, who have waited on Him for His birth in the Scriptures and those who now wait on His second glorious coming. We make the journey in our hearts, hearing the prophecy and seeing God’s plan in action. For four weeks we will study and grow and pray and wait. And the point at the end, at least for me, is to know how much like the innkeepers will I be? Will I have prepared Him room in my heart this season, or will I choke Him out of the meaning of the holiday we celebrate that is all about Him? Will the artificial magic reign supreme, or will I bow to His holiness and in the quiet recesses of my heart- and in my kids’ and husband’s hearts- surrender our love and life to Him?

My prayer this Advent, as we wait and hope, is for the children to understand the significance of Jesus’ birth, of the climactic scene of God coming down to Earth, equally man and equally God, borne a babe like us but dying and resurrecting as a Savior. Some traditions will not die- like the chocolate calendars- but I want my children to see beyond that, to see Him in it all, as we wait. And for them to revel in knowing that our waiting is only for celebration, as He has already come, but that others had to wait, not knowing when He would arrive, clinging to the promises of prophets of old. Our Savior has come; now we prepare our hearts once more to receive the miracle of Christmas.

 

The Oil of Joy

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These past three and a half weeks I have been participating in a study at church with a group of other women. In our private study at home, we were asked to read Isaiah 61 and to mark the passages that speak the most to us. It is a Scripture that many are familiar with, that many cling to for the promises found within and the glory of Jesus fulfilling these promises. It cannot be summarized, and I dare not to for fear of missing out on relaying the beauty of the gift found therein:

“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61: 1-3).

Those are only the first three verses, and yet they are captivating. We have all been through trials of loss, pain, suffering, hopelessness. We have all mourned and wept and questioned and fought to cling tight to the faintest of hopes that we know reside somewhere deep in our hearts. At times we have all traveled in dark places, lonely places, places where we think there will never be morning again. We have sat in the ash of our places and lives burned down, and could not find the good in it.

But these verses speak life into those dark moments. It forces the breaking of dawn and the light of Hope to shine once again in our lives. Just as we feel that there is no hope to hold onto, that we are completely abandoned, God whispers, “Wait. I have not forgotten you.” He lifts us from the ashes and gives us beauty; He lightens our loads.

And the one promise that I wrote down as the one that speaks most to me? Oil of joy.

We have heard it many times, that joy and happiness are not the same thing. Joy is like a state of being for the soul, an assurance of God’s goodness even in the darkness and trials. It is the delight in something, a pure thing that is not circumstantial. And I began to think of the imagery of these words, of what is means to have the oil of joy.

When looking back at many ancient Hebrew traditions, oil is used for many things. At feasts and other celebratory moments, fragrant, sweet smelling oil is poured onto guests. Kings were anointed with oil. Oil was used for prophets, for sacrifice. But the celebratory kind, the one that smelled so sweetly and was given to all guests and not held back for just one, as in a king’s anointing? That oil was the oil of joy.

The oil of joy was poured out. It was not just sprinkled or marked, but poured over the person. It covered them, head to toe. Oil is not like water that will dry and run off. Oil lingers. It slides thick and slow, seeping into every pore, running down to coat the person. It cannot be washed off easily, and was not meant to. It is shiny and noticeable on the skin. When one saw the oil one saw the anointing. It permeated the person and gave off a sweet aroma that others saw and smelled. When they smelled the oil of joy, they knew there was a reason to celebrate.

And Paul tells us that we “…are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.” (2 Cor. 2:15). The fragrance of joy is the fragrance of Christ. And if that oil of joy is found in Christ, could it be, as Charles Spurgeon suggests, that the oil of joy is the Comforter, the Holy Spirit within us?

Could this mean then that we already have the oil of joy, waiting to be poured out? Believing that Christ came and fulfilled these words, as He says He does in Luke 4:17-21, means we also believe that God is working this in us.

This fulfills another promise of God, that He will always be with us and through Christ we can do all things. Even the hard things and the painful things.

But why then can’t I always feel it?

Because I am trying to work in my own strength. I am grasping at the intangible, thinking I can will joy to come and be done with the pain. I fail to see that the oil of joy does not pour out of me of my own accord, but because God has given it to me through Christ. When I give myself to Christ, relinquish my need for control, it is there He pours out the oil. It is there joy is found. We try so hard to push and force and make things work and struggle against ourselves when all the while He has provided for our every need. If I pour out my selfishness, my pride, my hurt, He pours in. The oil of joy seeps into those dark and hurting places and restores. It becomes a countenance, a sweet fragrance. When the oil of joy is given, the anointing is made visible. To the saved and unsaved. And it is no longer my striving and struggling others will see, but rather the Holy Spirit working in me. When the hard times come, the joy remains. Because Christ remains. God’s promises remains. The oil of joy permeates my soul. And that which I so long for I can cling to in the dark moments, because Jesus has never left my side.

 

Titles and the Forming of New Things

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Writing is a peculiar thing. It is something that I have courted for years; from the time I learned the magic of reading I wanted to be the one to put the words down, to share in the wonderment and pure joy that comes from words. It is no wonder my desire to know the Word of God in its entire nuance of original language also makes me love the description of Jesus in the Book of John as the Word. It is no wonder one of my favorite Scripture verses note that death and life are in the power of the tongue. In our digital age, I would apply that to our technological tongues too, which have become an extension of our own physical (and mental) beings.

Yes words can be elusive. There is a hide-and-seek game that is played each time one ventures to write, trying to find the best words, the eloquence, and the flow that makes it worth reading. Words particularly enjoy hiding themselves when I think of titles for my blogs or short stories. Will it be eye-catching without being another click-bait article? Will it bare another piece of my soul or feel insignificant? Will it be enough to encompass the words within, to bolster them up to something that makes sense and can be savored by others? Am I just wasting my time with all of this, writing out of selfishness and false bravado? I always hope not.

So when the title was the first thing that came to me for my next work, I thought surely this could not be right. The first problem was the words themselves, and how very unlike me they are. Then came the whisper, This is who you will be, if you will just let go. There’s that control issue again. The title feels like big shoes to fill and could be a let-down to the contents inside, but again, a whisper, This is your story. You are not a let-down, you are of worth, and value.

That was nine months ago. I tried starting, twice. I hand-wrote out the beginnings, trying to make it witty and light-hearted, like a thin veil over a dark hole. And while I can be sarcastic or funny at times, this was not the right move. This story was too important to laugh it off. So I began to type it out instead, and got to one part and cried. And cried and cried. And I thought, how horrible. How terrible this all is and I cannot do this.

Instead of writing, I did what any other author would do- I wrote other things, I sat completely inept at my keyboard and wrote nothing at all, I read other books. And then I picked up a book on writing and felt like someone was speaking to my soul, and the fire sparked again.

Like a mother who has waited nine long and hard months for the birthing of new life, it is finally time. The pangs of giving birth give way to the joy and relief of something new, something that has been worth waiting for and giving up one’s body for. I feel that I will come away ragged, torn asunder, and a limping in pain by the time this is over with, but it will be for something better, something I need to give up and let out. It will be my biggest challenge yet and for fear of talking it up too much as something more than it is, I will not say much more until it is complete. But my hope is that through the writing of this next book I will continue to be inspired to write on here, to share and grow with each of you who read these pages.

I look forward to this journey and hope you all will come along with me.

The Dangers of Positive Stereotypes

I received official word the other week that I am half-way through my doctorate classes. It was a surprise and not so much as this past class has been a whirlwind of information and one that is challenged me to think deeply. The class is Social Psychology and we have delved deep into stereotypes and biases. And as I have been thinking about these ideas and beliefs, one thing that came to my mind was the concept of positive stereotypes, and how very dangerous they can be.

We have all been referred to in some manner regarding a negative stereotype, some of us more so than others. Sometimes, we can ignore those, prove them wrong, have open dialogue about the issue, or sometimes be hurt. So when someone alludes to a positive stereotype, they may think they are not causing any real harm. Because let’s be honest, what Asian person doesn’t want to hear how they are so good at math, or a woman that she is nurturing, or a man that he is tough, or an African –American that they are good at sports? There’s nothing wrong with those, right?

Wrong.

A lot of times, the positive stereotypes are the most detrimental.

These types of stereotypes set standards, not for a person, but on a person. It stakes a claim on what others think they should be like or act like or think like or do like. And then when that person doesn’t fit the mold, people are surprised. Upset. Taken aback. Disappointed. And the one being labelled is left there feeling inadequate and ashamed.

There are some individuals who do not care what others say about them to a degree. They don’t mind being mold-breakers. But many, many more are directly affected and influenced by these “positive” categories they are placed in.

Recently I had a friend call me the “mom who does it all.” I cringed. I wanted to back away from the label and run far, far away. Because I am not that mother. I am the mother that yells when I am frustrated, is less patient than I should be, piles more on my plate than I know I should, lets housework slide, and generally fails in at least one area daily.

I am (self) labelled an introvert. But this too creates this idea about who I should be. But some days I am the extrovert screaming to get out but doesn’t engage first and wants to be involved and doing things and not just a tag along. I am not the one to invite first, usually, but a lot of times, I want to be around other people. Friends. Laughter. Food. But introvert mixed with the stereotype “busy” and a husband’s schedule that is not routine leaves me alone more than not.

So I am not the mother that does it all unless that means all the things that are not evenly balanced. I am not the introvert that always avoids people. Just as I am a Christian that still is not perfect because that will not happen this side of glory but I still try. We are all trying as hard as we can, keeping up with life and emotion and people and the last thing we need is another label, another expectation, to live up to. The last thing we need is to be considered a disappointment because we didn’t live up to how someone else thought we were supposed to be like.

It is a natural occurrence for the brain to categorize things. This is how we make sense of the world around us; compare and contrast. But the danger lies in relying on these categories and then reacting when someone no longer fits. Because they never really “fit” there anyway. The danger lies in losing the individuality of a person, even when you think there is no harm done.   So in treating each person as a person and not a group or notion, that is showing love for them as Christ loves us. And love is more valued than labels.

Truth Over Fear

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It was one of those rare summer evenings, when the children have actually gone to bed –and to sleep- on time and I had a few moments of quiet to myself. It had stormed all day and the clouds were finally beginning to break about midway across the sky as I stepped out onto the back porch. To my right, grey and ash colored clouds continued to intermittently glow from within by summer’s heat lightening. To my left, dashes of pink and deep purple cut across an orange sun that was sinking below the shadowed tree line.

I looked out to my backyard and watched the fireflies dance and sparkle, waiting for their reflection in the form of stars in the approaching night sky. The moon hung like a tilted crescent, thick and white against the forming darkness. The storm had broken the heat and left little humidity and a lot of breeze. Crickets sang their calls and frogs croaked their love songs.

This was the first time in weeks, months even, I had felt peace at night- real, deep in your soul peace.

When you get closer to the truth of something, the lies scream louder, trying to draw you away. This was what was happening to me, a fear uttered aloud coupled with tension and pain and a tendency to worry left my nights plagued with sleeplessness and fear.

This fear culminated in what some call a panic attack, an anxiety attack, an overwhelming sense of fear. To put it simply, it is an attack against all your logic and sound mind.

After dealing with the same issue for so long, you begin to wonder if something is sincerely wrong. Deep down inside, especially during the day, I know these headaches and fatigue are from tension, worry, overworking myself, overthinking, and carrying stress around like it’s a trophy to be had. But at night when I try to sleep, these thoughts come, these whispers in the dark, that it might just be something more.

And lately I have been reading a lot of truth, a lot of wisdom that is changing the way I view things about myself and God and what it really means to be free in Him. I am learning how my very thoughts and perceptions of God change the way my whole mind and body work. And His Word, the main source of Truth, has reminded me time and time again of who I am in Him, Who He is, and what faith really means. It has been a moment of letting go and submitting to God.

So many years I have been driven, maybe even pulled, ever forward. I have always felt I had to prove myself, that I am good enough. So I did what I had to do to win favor; I pushed in school, I became the submissive friend, dependable employee, the quiet, nice one. I was competing against this lie that I had been told and believed about myself that I would not be anything, that I would not and was not worth anything. Then I tried to be overly something I was not- loud, assertive, nonchalant. I quickly reverted back to quiet. I always envied those who were in their thirties and said, “Now I know who I am and I don’t worry so much about what others think about me.” I am one year away from thirty and still think that will never happen.

But, slowly, ever so slowly, like a parent with a child who grips the edge of a pool for dear life and refuses to let go, God was saying, “Let go.” Through all those years of believing those lies, He still whispered just enough Truth to me that I held onto hope. And now, through this “re-training” of my view of God and me and what is really the truth and really seeking out His Word and knowing it as I know breathing, the tension is being released.

No one ever said growth doesn’t hurt. I remember having terrible growing pains as a child and my grandmother would put warm rice pads on my ankles and calves. Growing hurts. Things rooted deep over the years have to be pulled out, not just chopped off at the base. So here I am, a year from what has become, to me, the golden ages of the 30’s, and instead of settling in I am being torn up. But I know the growth is coming.

I know because of nights like the other night, where peace flowed through me and I knew Jesus was working on another piece of me that needed to let go. Re-focusing me on the truth of His sovereignty and His love.

 

Thoughts on Purpose

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There’s a lot of talk on the idea of purpose. There are those who claim they can help you find it, those who are seeking it, those who claim it is elusive, and those who really just don’t care.

To put it bluntly, I think most are wrong.

I have had my fair share of the quick on-line tests to see what I “was made for.” I’ve read the books and done the diagramming and the journaling and the seeking.

I have spent ten years in college looking for it.

But that is where the problem lies, really. We are all so busy looking outside for our purpose, for something that we can do to fulfill our life’s calling. We couldn’t be more wrong if we tried.

Whether or not I am a writer or counselor or mother or student or wife or all those things, that is not my purpose. Whether or not I am called or gifted to put words on pages or preach or be a doctor or artist, that is still not my purpose.

To really find our purpose, to know why we are on this Earth and what we are made for, we have to stop looking out and start looking in.

Really, really, far in. Past the personas and the facades, past all the walls we have built and the way we want others to see us, past the lies and sins and secrets we carry. Past our own motives and desires and what we think we are and should be. We have to turn inward to the quiet corner of our hearts and souls to hear the answer.

I Am.

When God identified Himself to Moses, it was not about who Moses was or would be or what his life calling was all about. It was about Who God is. In the moment that defined Moses’ life and what it stood for, it was not about him at all. It was the acknowledgement of God.

Our purpose is found in Him. Christ set us free and gave us eternal life and told us to go and tell others the good news. He didn’t say tell them what you have done, where you are going, or what you think you are good at doing. He told us to tell others about Him.

Our purpose lies in Him.

When I get a quiet moment to search the depths of my own heart for the One enthroned there and everywhere, nothing makes things more clear than when I hear those words: I Am. He cannot be moved. He cannot be shaken. He cannot be told there was anything before Him that leaves Him unaware or anything that will surprise Him. He purposed us to serve and love Him. He created us, and the glory of it all is because He wanted us.

We were created with the purpose to live and love like Him and to love and worship Him.

But our society has so confused us by creating the idea of purpose as synonymous to gifting or talent or passion. It has whispered lies that we can prove our stature if we just find what we are made for. Blinders that lead us to mirrors where we only look at and to ourselves. No wonder we are empty inside. No wonder the ache never goes away and we doubt and convince ourselves we have not really found our purpose because we have not yet “made it.”

And all the while Jesus beats steady in our hearts, I Am. I Am. I Am. Our center found in the center of our beings, pulsing truth through our veins but our heads keep telling us we have to prove. We must be driven or we have lost our purpose.

It’s a cheap gimmick that is costing us everything. It takes the focus off of Christ and back onto ourselves and the weak flesh overcomes the soul and we are vacant, hollow. We compare and contrast, trying to justify if our lives are successful and meaningful or if we need to push a little more. The epidemic spreads and we all think our gifts are our purpose, never realizing that we are instead serving our gifts instead of using them. They are using us.

Gifts are not meant to become chains. Callings are not substitutes for purpose. These things make life well and good and meaningful, but it does not, or should not, change our course. We can serve God and love Him and others through these things, but not because of these things. If all my words failed me, if my hands could no longer hold a pen or my mouth form the sounds, my purpose would remain unchanged. I would find another way. Nor am I limited to these acts as there is always a way to show the love of God. His Word even tells us the rocks will cry out if necessary.

In Him “we live and move and have our being…” (Acts 18:28). Our purpose is defined here in these words. We were created by Him, for Him. The real purpose we all have, that we all should be seeking? Is to know Christ, to serve Him and love Him, and by doing so love others.

Everything else is just a gift. So with open hands and grateful hearts we accept those things which we enjoy, knowing it is there for us to do just that: simply enjoy. But it is not what defines us or what we are made for.

Because we were purposed for I Am.