Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Owning Your Right Here Purpose

Working in the universe that is the local church, I have been thinking about Christmas since about the beginning of October. You know, just a couple months after Hobby Lobby displayed their Santa crafts in the back of the store. If you are not in the mood to contemplate Holiday cheer, I'm inflicting it on you anyway. So, sorry not sorry ;)

This past weekend I had the privilege to attend a conference for the "Belong Tour". In case you've never been to an event like this, these big-time writers, singers, fitness trainer Christian women put together a conference to speak and create a space for women of all walks of life to "Belong". Good premise, good conference. I thought of things in a new way. I was inspired. And I bonded with some amazing women. If the conference was designed to make me feel like I belonged, mission accomplished.

It was also a great avenue for children to be adopted through World Vision, for supporting families wracked from life-threatening illnesses in their children, and for us women to find our "lane" (our purpose), get into it, and do great things in the name of the Lord.

The last thing spoke to many women, no doubt. Me included. Here I was watching women do the things I love to do- write, teach, and make music. Check, check, check. Congrats, ladies. You are all living my dream.

But towards the end of the conference and in the days that followed, I have had to step back and recalibrate. Honestly, my dream is not to be up on the stage with those women. I wouldn't turn it down, but I am not making that my end goal.

Here is my end goal- and here is where Christmas comes in. (I know you've been waiting for it.) My end goal is to follow the path I am on and not spend so much time planning for the future that I miss this stuff going on right here and right now. At the end of my life I will not be disappointed that I never made it big. I will be disappointed if my life passed me by and I was so distracted by the future that I was never fully in the present.

I want to be like Mary. We look at the people that line our bookshelves or teach on stages and think that is about the most obvious evidence of greatness there could be. But here's what I think- and this is especially for you parents of young kids- your life may feel like it is in a holding pattern right now. You may look forward to those things you can do when the kiddos grow up a little, but the truth is there is value in what you are doing right now. This minute. (After all, you are reading this blog.)

Mary had a baby. One step in the direction God asked her to go. It wasn't fancy. Quite the opposite. It was about as basic as could be. But after that she was amazing simply because she continued to be present. We see it in the Gospels. She was there until the end, and beyond. What if I could simply be wherever Jesus is? Even if He is just in my living room?

I'm accepting the fact that anyone can write a book. Some will even be successful. Maybe one day I will see my book in a bookstore. Maybe I won't. But my purpose doesn't lie in the pages of a book. It lies in simple trust. One step, no matter how mundane, can be transformed by God into a life of beautiful service, and if He is the only one who ever sees it, that is enough. He rewards what is done in secret. And He has given us tasks so specifically designed for us we can't even fathom it. I am the only wife to my husband. I am the only mother to my kids. No one else gets to do that.

So I want to encourage you where you are. Maybe you do feel like you are in a holding pattern. Maybe you would like to live your life like a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book and go back and try a different path. But God has you here for a reason. All He desires is your trust. He lavished love on us when He sent His Son for us and He has. not. stopped. since then. You are precious. You are His masterpiece. Own it.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Sick, Tired, and Totally Blessed Out

It took ten minutes maybe to get the phone call from the school. We had just dropped our youngest off at 4K and made our way to pick up some coffee before a kid free morning date at Aldi when my husband's phone rang. He answered it, listened, hung up, and turned us around. Unbeknownst to us, Heidy was sick. That cold sore I saw in her mouth that morning? The one that made me think "weird"? It wasn't weird. It was Hand Foot and Mouth Disease.

And let me tell you- HFMD is no joke. We are on Day 6 of the illness.

Yet, this whole experience reminds me of what a loving God we have. It actually illuminates 4 important points to me about our relationship with God and each other.

1. Our sickness does not sway God's love. God is not disgusted by us. He is holy. He cannot be in the presence of our sinfulness, yet He loves us completely. No matter how feverish and slobbery and whiny my daughter is, my heart is full of love for her. Her chubby little legs are still adorable. Her arms strung around my neck warm me to the bones. There are times, recent times, when I am disgusted by myself. I repeat my sins. I am whiny. I don't trust God. I am spiteful and short with my kids and husband. I make myself a martyr and then resent others for not noticing. I am jealous. I am lazy.
And I am still loved. I belong to the Father, and He knew what He was getting when He bought me. His love is everlasting and unconditional. When He looks at us He doesn't see lemons. He sees His children; His sick children clothed in the sacrifice of His perfect Son. He doesn't love me any more or less than He did yesterday because He loves me completely every day. And He loves you in the same way.

2. Quarantine might be a good way to keep a virus from spreading, but when it comes to sinfulness we are way too late. Quarantine isn't an effective lifestyle. We aren't to dabble in ungodly living, but the goal is not to lead lives where grace is unnecessary. The goal is to get out there and love our sick neighbors actively and completely. And if we sin in the process (which we will because we are sick too) there is grace for that. There is a reason that Jesus said when you visit the imprisoned, you are doing it to Him too. Quarantine works for disease control, but it was never meant to be a permanent way to live. God, reveal to me the people I have avoided...

3. We should be less concerned with "catching something" from others, and more about others "catching something" from us. Grumbling is contagious, but Grace can be too. If I am more aware of the Grace I am carrying in my body through the work of the Holy Spirit, I will be less worried about the potential sickness of sinfulness around me. The words of others may sting, but they won't cling. The baffling decisions people make to ruin their lives or the lives of others will move me to action and compassion instead of judgment and division.

And here may be the best one of all: God is looking forward to our healing even more than we are. A couple nights ago my daughter was feeling well enough (thank you Tylenol and smoothies) to dance. She donned her hot pink fedora and black cowboy boots and smiled for the first time in days. I nearly cried. It was a glimpse of my little girl coming back to me.

I used to think our good works pleased God because in Christ we are His kids and He delights in the fact that we are showing His love to those around us. I still think that's the case, but now I think there is another side to it. I think in those moments where we serve and delight in God, we are a glimpse of what we are truly meant to be. Like my dancing daughter. The snapshot may be blurry, but you can see in that moment a vague indicator of the joy that will be ours when we are our fullest and truest selves. And that glimpse touches the heart of the God who alone knows who we were created to be. As much as I long to be healed and whole, God longs for it all the more. But He is gracious and patient and willing to wait for that day with us. I can't think of anything more comforting than that.
So please continue to keep my family in your prayers as we trudge through the sick season, and I will pray for you too. One day we will all be healed and we will all be together.