Who You Are Created to Be

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For the past three weeks, I have spent every Wednesday with 50 or so ladies studying how we can tackle rejection, loneliness, hurts and losing our way. I stand up before them each week hoping in some small way to encourage them, point them to God’s word and build a relationship with them. Instead, I walk away each week more humbled by the gift they are giving me, a gift they may be completely unaware they are giving.
Ever feel like you’ve lost your way? In the midst of even goodness in our lives, life often sucks us in and we just get lost in the day to day. We have words spoken over us and they change the way we see ourselves. We have assumptions made about us and we begin to make our own assumptions in return. Relationships change. Circumstances change. Work environment changes. Chaos even happens at home. It is really all of the makings for losing ourselves. It is where I’ve found myself for quite a long time now. To admit relationships have become toxic and I have played a part in not bringing grace and Christ into them have characterized my life. I can rest in a waiting pattern for someone else to bring those things to my life, to wait for someone to find value in me, so much so that my waiting turns into solely finding significance in the people around me. It’s then the words come rushing at me, “People will be people”. Yes, it’s true. They are. I am. Buried under layers of the loud voices in my head I begin to hear the quiet whisper, “Who do I say you are?” I know the voice. I know it because it even in the quietness of it, the power of peace comes with it. I have forgotten who I am. I’ve waited on everyone else, but Him, to remind me. But being the God He is, full of love and mercy, full of grace to never leave us as we are, He reminds us even through yes, people.

So, I stand before a group of women each week, and I hear the words spoken I have so longed to hear. They are not words directed toward me, but they are words that reposition my gaze on Him. I have lived a life that has taught me right answers about what I am supposed to do to overcome, but now, surrounded by women pursuing after Him, I am hearing and seeing them take actual steps to do just that. They are Christ lived out in front of me. In my search to find me again – better version of me – God has given me this gift to pour my heart into these lives, to visibly show me that purpose again that PEOPLE are the ministry. Overflowing my life into a life gives LIFE! How sweet is is to pursue God with another! To walk away from an hour and a half of cheering each other on will change a heart. It has changed mine. It has reminded me that when we chase our passion – for me, to see women’s lives changed – we truly do find who it is God created us, and is creating us, to be. I wish I could bottle up the love I feel in that room, one for another, but instead I will pass it on…to the one lost, the one who feels rejected today, to the lonely…I see you. I am you. I know One who will never speak those things over you. I need change in my life…richer friendships where Jesus is our talk, love is our mission, where getting to minister to people is the passion of our hearts because I know when this heartbeat drives us all, it lights a world on fire. As I told my class recently, “Together let’s grasp the absolute power of who Christ is and what He can do, and TOGETHER move forward to be women who can change the world.”
Which times in your life have you been reminded of who it is God is creating, and has created you, to be?

When Our Passions Are Disappointing

imageI’ve had a multitude of people offer the advice, “The older you get, do things you are passionate about.” Good advice. Even as a young adult, I didn’t go with the crowd on my choice of career, but instead went with a calling I believed I had on my life – to stay home with my children. I fulfilled my dream of getting a college degree, but what I sensed God was calling me to do always rang louder in my ear. For years I’ve heard the criticism that I should have gone out and gotten a “real” job. Trust me. There has never been a more “real” job to me than my children. I wouldn’t change it for the world because I have truly seen God’s hand of provision for our family from day one of our decision to trust God for our well being on a $19,000 a year salary. We never missed a bill, even regularly had date nights, ate out, never stopped tithing and giving offerings, and we were even able to support others financially.

My life has taught me that going with the status quo isn’t always what’s right for me. 

As I’ve gotten older, I would certainly echo the advice given to me. There comes a time that fulfilling our passions is so much more fulfilling than wondering what could have been, or even receiving a hefty paycheck. Had Jeff and I turned our backs on God’s prompting for years to plant a church, I would be sitting at home today wondering what life would be like, but today I sit in an office at that church plant thanking God and praising Him for all of the circumstances it took to bring us here. I also sit here today, though, with somewhat a heart of disappointment because following our passions doesn’t come without difficulty, pain and confusion. Sometimes, truth be told, you just want to do something else. Life feels like you are beating a dead horse. Ministry feels somewhat like this…I’m making a difference, am I making a difference, I hope I’m making a difference, does it even matter what God’s word says? I saw 2016 as a year of Christians attacking Christians, hate running rampant everywhere, not just in the political arena, but neighbor to neighbor…love took center stage in our rhetoric, but often it came alone without truth as it’s companion. Let me just chase the rabbit on this for a second:

Love is not some trend, but it sits at the core of who we are, is not something we just say, but should NOT be easy to say, do or simply be. It should challenge us to the core that we can, and will, put our stake in the ground that “God is love,” and from THAT place is the overflow.

Opinions are not the foundation. They simply represent me, me, me. Seeing love take on this definition that doesn’t feel right at all has shaken me. It’s taken on the form of you live any way you want, and I will love you through it. Friend, love is not easy. It is call to be tough sometimes when the truth is at stake. So, being in a calling to speak truth, show love, guide in God’s word feels like it falls on deaf ears. I wake up everyday wondering if I even care anymore. I want to quit. I watch marriages end and it’s celebrated. I see people living with someone who is not their spouse and it’s as if God looks favorably upon that…“God just wants me to be happy” is said so much that somehow it’s justified living contrary to His word. I watch friends jump from church to church, just shy of ever truly committing anywhere. I see friendships fall all because our pride steps in, forgets to forgive, refuses to make amends as if Matthew 18 is just a suggestion. Hear me when I say, I do not write from a place of judgement. I grew up watching my church culture judge person after person for every. single. thing they ever did to sin. It sickened me so. I write from a  place of grief. I write from a place of what will it take for the truth of God’s word, HIS love and walking the narrow way to stage itself front and center? It won’t take me quitting, but I want to. I don’t want to live in a society that considers God’s way a suggestion, His moral absolutes interpretive. I just don’t want to, nor do I believe I should.

So, passions sometimes disappoint us. We find ourselves wondering, “God, why did you bring me so far to feel like I take ten steps back a day?” We would just rather do something else less disappointing, but God says, “Come to me all you are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Matthew 11:28) Life will feel weary, sometimes even lasting for seasons, but God will give rest for the weary and  while “Weeping may spend the night,
but there is joy in the morning.” The thing is, friends, sin should grieve us. We often mistake the weight of it for something we cannot change, so we delve further into it, because we might as well, right? No, see for yourself what God says about it, rid yourself of it, and believe that He alone will bring rest and freedom to your heart. For me, my desire to speak truth should never stop, either,  just because it’s not always followed.

Don’t stop dreaming. I’m telling myself that today. I don’t even know what the dreams He has for me may look like, but I want to dream with Him, not without Him, and then hoping he will agree and bless me. His plans for us are so much bigger. So much stronger. Today, I need to remember that He’s not done with me yet.

When We Waver

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“It’s our wavering between gods that has us sinking. It’s the wavering between the gods of things and the God of everything – that’s what has us flailing and drowning soundless in it all.” Ann Voskamp, “The Greatest Gift”

I don’t even think we know we’re making the choice, but in fact we are making “it”. The tearing down of myself over the exclaim, “Someone else can do it better.” The forsaking of the “assembling of ourselves” because we just can’t make ourselves wake up in time. Our marriages, which have indeed become “conveniences,”no longer understood under the beauty of covenant. The cheering of that which is outside the will of God. All hard pills to swallow, yet it is the wavering between “just enough,” to no God, to all God that has us sinking, many drowning. We wonder why we feel suffocated, so we search for a way, a quick fix, to get a breath, to make us feel better. Maybe our marriage, that one we thanked God for in the beginning, has become the easiest thing to just stop fighting for…so, we turn to the god of happiness instead because, “Wouldn’t the God I serve want me to be happy.” Careless words, catastrophic consequences. Is He only enough God when things are going well? Is He really the God of ENOUGH?
That co-worker that seems to outshine us in every way, sending us to our car each day for a long drive home, blaring “You are WORTHLESS” all the way. Is He only God enough when we succeed? Is He really God ENOUGH…period?

Life’s blows, its choices, the valleys that are so very hard, how easy to waver to “He doesn’t care”. “And if you don’t choose God, you’ll bow down before something else…” (Ann Voskamp). Surely I won’t bow to another, yet I do. I bow to the “I have to get myself out of this mess,” or the “just enough God” to get me through my junk.

Advent is still the gift of the “slowing down”. The gift that truly does keep on giving, for it’s within the slowing of life that we may just see Him more clearly. It’s in the slowing down that we find new resolve to fight for that which is worth it. Can we see the worth? You, my friend, are it…the worth…the one He came for – died for. No wavering is too late to change. Choosing Him always wins in the end. The gift of Christmas this year may just have been staring you in the face all along.

The Moment

It’s been probably three years. Words often penetrate my heart. They cut to the core of the painful places, yet often restore the same wounded nooks of my heart. I’m always listening, always looking for ones to which I can cling. Those three years ago, the words were “Present Over Perfect”. Ever have those moments when the words ring loudly, you know you need them, even when you don’t fully understand them? That day was the day of peace for me, words I’d been longing to hear, to just unload the burden off of my shoulders.

Today those words are part of the ‘intentional’ to me. The striving for, the hope-to-be of their promise sticks with me, and most times grounds me to truly live in the moment. Sometimes, though, the moment I’m striving to live is not the right moment at all. All of the good, the face to face living, the seizing of the day moments just might not be the right moment to be living ALL of the time. How can that which is good be bad? When the longing for more outweighs the greatest gift of all. When we walk into the room searching and cannot remember what for, maybe it’s staring us right in the face all along. Maybe it’s more of Him we seek, the More than Enough that is always a cry away.

open-handThe weight on me has been heavy lately, no sense to be made of it at all. Life is good, smiles are the norm, but the weight of living is suffocating. Wheels spinning, little progress made even in the best moments, chasing myself round and round. Some call it a ‘funk’. I call it stuck. The magnifying glass isn’t even helping me see. The present over perfect moments are the desire always. The right moments have become a tiny dot I cannot see. It is Him I seek. In the season of Advent, it really is more of Him I want…not the Him that is hidden within the lights, sounds and cheer of the season, but the raw, quiet moments when He whispers, “I am your Present.” Not the one adorned with a bow, but He is the Present that makes all perfect. Maybe the right moment is the moment found away from the crowd, gazing into the eyes of the babe in a tiny manger, the promise of hope in His crooked grin. I want my right moment to be a moment with Him. Don’t you? Release the breath you’ve been holding, the one that has suffocated you for so long. Let go of the relationship where no God hope can be found. Release your grasp on more stuff. Replace it with the MORE THAN ENOUGH!

When the Expectation Is Unbearable

Expectations can be the best motivator or the biggest failure. Perspective is the difference between the two. I have to admit, I tend to favor the latter of the two. For me, it’s as if I’ve lived two different lives sometimes. There is the pre-hurt days of Amy, and the post-hurt days of Amy. Circumstances do that to us. When life seems full of more ups than downs, that day can come when everything changes. For me, the day(s) that happened are very real and still impact me everyday. My somewhat naive, slightly unaware life – one I very much enjoyed, mind you – completely left the day I experienced the hurt of betrayal, the loss of trust, the realization that the promise to “always be there for me” came with conditions. The days that followed felt foggy, impossible to believe I’d ever trust anyone again, and most of all, hopeless. Wasn’t my life supposed to be an investment in another life that actually made a difference? Yet, here I was, bruised and scarred, afraid to trust.

For years the hurt of my past has haunted me. It has stopped me in my tracks for YEARS. I’ve kept my heart very protected, bound in layers and layers of cushion, so that the hurt would somewhat bounce off, right? Right? The thought of being hurt again is suffocating sometimes, squelching out real living most times.

218850The enemy, while not all knowing, does know some stuff. He hits me in the face daily with accusations of “You are not enough,” “You are a failure,” “They don’t like you,” “You’re not meeting all of the expectations”. He’s a terror like that, invading the thoughts, filling the mind, doing whatever it takes to stop us from really living, from helping others to really live, too. Lately, the discernment that is God-given has collided with the lies I’ve allowed myself to believe the enemy speaks to me daily. While I know a title can hold certain expectations, the expectations have now become my title, the banner hanging over me that says, “You’ll never measure up”. Not being there enough for people, not speaking when I may not even see someone, not praying for someone when I don’t even know there is a need – some expectations true, some all in my head. Isn’t like the evil one to make us just insecure enough to render us unusable?

The words popped off the page at me, screamed “These are just for you!”

“When we know who we are, we are not defined by the opinions of others. When we know who we are, we are not defined by our successes, failures or by our circumstances. When we know who we are, we can change the world with Christ’s love!” ~Amy Ford

I wish the words  instantly changed things back to pre-hurt Amy days. They don’t. Within them is the challenge to take the hurt, the heavy-to-carry expectations and see that the love of God is within them, too. What passes through His hand is FOR our good, the hard and the easy. The weight I carry around of “maybe I should be more” falls off my shoulders when I lean against the Cross. For you, too, my friend.

Maybe today you are carrying around years of failure and mistakes. Maybe the enemy is using every opportunity to whisper words of death in your ear. Maybe you’ve missed years of real living because you’ve listened way too long. The truth is that we will never measure up to what man thinks we should be, but God says, “YOU ARE ENOUGH”. After all, He made us, and says to us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” James 1:17-18

The Cashier

When I woke up Saturday morning, I would have never realized that one simple gesture could mean so much to me. Who knew a cashier at my favorite crepe place would impact me just by looking me in the eyes? Sometimes our hearts have to be primed and ready to receive that which otherwise would roll right over the tops of our heads. Being ready isn’t always easy.  Sometimes it confronts us in ways that are unkind, in ways that reject who God made us to be and cause us to pause in front of the mirror wondering if something really is wrong with us…because I feel like something is wrong with me based on what others say, on what I choose to hear.

“You should always speak first,” they said. Excuse me? “The pastor’s wife always speaks first, so when you didn’t we knew you didn’t like us,” they said. I don’t? I thought I did, but suddenly I had become aware of a rule I wasn’t following, making an impact I didn’t know I had made. No “did you have something on your mind,” or “maybe you were busy getting your child to her classroom,” and no “maybe you just didn’t see me.” All I heard was accusation and all I wanted to do was defend myself. No, this was not my intention, and it is not who I am. Just the Sunday before, the same people said, “We’re so glad you are real and stay true to who you are.”

We want others to be real until we decide our version of real is not good enough.

A life in the fishbowl is one I’m okay with. I’ve never known any different. The title of “pastor’s kid” has been traded for “pastor’s wife,’ but the one God made to be the way she is has not changed. The fishbowl brings cries of “You should speak first” and “You shouldn’t let your daughter wear that,” because you are a pastor’s wife, and they are pastor’s kids.  Deeply loved people leave our church doors to enter doors of another church, and each time I make a deal with myself it will hurt less each time, but it doesn’t. I can’t help but care. Seats are empty because choices are made that “we need a break from church.” Personal? I don’t know, but it stings.  Those cries, those departures, those choices scream rejection, their punch packed with confusion. My life is my life, but it carries the weight of a title that I hold so deeply that can’t stop me from caring deeply. Defense attempts to step in, make it right, set everyone straight, but no one defends like He defends. Yet, life feels weary lately. It feels like  the core of who I want to be and aim to be is invisible, like anything I do doesn’t matter…

until a cashier looks me in the eye and sees me.

No reading between the lines here. I would never trade my life for another, but the experiences of it hurt sometimes, make me want to hide and never come out. I’ve tried keeping it to myself, – the hurt, the exhaustion – but the real me never did that before. Our story has to be heard (or read) by someone, because someone is always going through something, and someone always needs to know there’s another someone who relates.

imageSaturday a cashier in my favorite crepe place looked me in the eye and said, “Are you (emphasis addedhaving a great weekend?” Did she see the exhaustion behind my eyes? Could she feel the pounding of my headache like I could? Did I lie when I said I was having a great weekend? No, I really was, and no, I don’t think she could tell I was tired. “Are those your girls with you?” “Yes, one is. One is not. We are celebrating a birthday early.” She said these words to me, “You know, I can tell you’re an intentional mom.” Did she know that meant everything to me? The life of a career was never mine, not because I didn’t want one, but I wanted more what God wanted for me. For me, it was to be home with my girls. I’ve heard the accusations there, too, the criticism that I should have a “real” job, but no matter the title in my life, my heart has never changed. I just want to do what God wants me to do. Saturday, a cashier in my favorite crepe place looked into my eyes and cared for me. She was kind. She was purposeful. She spoke life. Those negative words of what I’m not being to someone, or not doing right by my kids had been invading my heart and rooting deep down as truth. I didn’t realize the impact until she spoke fresh words. Truth isn’t who others perceive or say I am. Who does God say I am? Saturday in my favorite crepe place truth wore flesh and spoke louder than the critics. It’s been awhile since I’ve felt someone peered so deeply into my eyes that they really cared about how I was doing, but it ignited a fire within me to speak life, share my story, to stop hiding my hurts and to never quit!

Opinions are flying everywhere in our culture these days. We all just want to be heard. Opinions take little time to ever peer deep into the eyes because opinions generally never take the time. I’m not the only one that needed life spoken. There are TONS of people everyday that don’t need more opinions. They need more action to back up those opinions. Let God do the changing of lives. Let’s be an instrument to help bring that about. I lead our women at our church by these four power words – WELCOMED, KNOWN, LOVED & ENOUGH. When a person is reminded THAT is who they really are, then, and only then is there an opinion that really matters! We can all be like the cashier at my favorite crepe place.

“…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,”Colossians 2:2