Writing From the Heart.

Several months back I was approached by the campus minister to contribute a writing piece to the Lenten devotional booklet the University puts out each Spring. I was humbled to be asked to contribute as writing has grown to be a passion of mine since moving to Nashville, and writing from the lens of faith especially has been a desire.

It was a stressful time writing it as we were assigned certain Scripture. As I prayed over the direction God would have me take, I kept hearing over and over again this prompting of from your heart. I am no theologian that’s for sure. But I knew I could be true to my heart and write from my faith experience. So that’s what I did. I am incredibly honored to have been asked and able to contribute.

My words of wisdom from this for every writer, whether it’s a blog, book, article, or paper. Write it from your heart. There you cannot go wrong.

Today I am sharing the piece that was featured on March 1st in the Lenten devotional guide at Belmont. You can find the entire guide here.

Psalm 69
Jeremiah 5:1-9
Romans 2:25-3:18
John 5:30-47
Growing up Southern Baptist, we typically did not observe the Lenten season. I honestly did
not hear about it until I was in college when some friends were discussing what they were
giving up. It was not until much later that I actually observed Lent. Not truly understanding the
season though I just gave up something for 40 days “because everyone else was doing it.”
That’s probably not the best motivation for observing the Lenten season; however, I found it
very liberating. I had a conversation during that time with a campus minister who educated
me on the observance of Lent and the meaning it held for her personally. “It’s a matter of
the heart and mind,” I distinctly remember her saying.
A part of today’s Scripture reading says, “Circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit,
not by the letter” (Romans 2:29a). Our lives are fully and intentionally lived when done so
by the heart and by the Spirit. As we chisel away something from our lives during the Lenten
season, we circumcise our hearts through the Spirit’s direction. It’s a movement away from
something towards God. In observing this season of self-denial, we are reflecting the 40
days Christ spent in the desert preparing and fasting. He was fed by the Spirit during this
time, sustained in an unfathomable way to us. He was preparing His own heart, His very will
to begin the ministry in for which He was born to live, and ultimately die.
During this time of chiseling things from our lives, whether they are material or internal, let
us recall what it is we are preparing ourselves for as well. We are circumcising our hearts for
the purpose we were born to live. May we remember it is not the outward display of denial but the inward state of the newly sculpted heart.

Knee Boots, Jon Acuff, and Belmont…

I think your boots could be bigger. I mean you went small, but they definitely could be bigger.

That joking moment about the height of my knee boots was part of a full circle life moment last evening. Close to three years ago I began reading Stuff Christians Like, a blog by Jon Acuff. It was comical, jabbing at those things in Christianity we often can agree are funny-like the metrosexual worship leader or the cheap knockoff cookies they have at VBS.

I would laugh and think this guy is a genius! My assumption was he wrote the blog full time, since he was having a book come out that was based from the blog. Then the Serious Wednesday posts started happening, and wrecking me. I would see how God would use Jon to speak very pointedly to me at certain times about my life. I wondered how this guy in Atlanta knew about my struggles with grace, or my ability to forgive.

I would read and read, engaging in conversations in the comments with people from all over. It began to be a community, not bound by church walls or religion or even the US borders. The blog began to challenge me to see beyond this box of my life and what could be accomplished if I worked beyond the standard, the norm of life. I saw a guy who hustled before work, work he wasn’t really digging, but doing anyway so that he could write and speak-his dream job. I saw him encourage others to write, pursue, get beyond standard and reach above average. He did that for me without realizing it, and I am willing to wager I am not the only one he’s done that for.

In March of 2011 I knew I couldn’t stay in my same situation at work, in life. I knew that if I worked and hustled I could dream big and push myself further. I began looking for jobs, jobs I felt I was qualified for and honestly, staying rather comfortable still. That’s when the posting at Belmont popped up. “It’s in Nashville!” I thought. “It’s a a mid-range university, where expectations will be higher and you’ll be challenged!” is what fear began to say. “Your faith isn’t as big as it needs to be to work there. You’ve only got five years under your belt, and everyone will be much smarter than you.” The voice got to be relentless. I went for it, thinking it would never amount to anything and I would be back to working in my same position come fall.

Several weeks later I found myself at Belmont University, being interviewed by advisors, supervisors, deans, and students. It was the toughest interview I have had to date in my career. I walked away rather defeated, with the bright spot seeing Jeremiah 29:11 posted in my would-be supervisor’s office. That verse had come up several times over the days prior to my campus interview, and I found a little solace in seeing it there in her office. In the days that followed, I had resigned myself to preparing mentally for rejection. “Don’t expect much and when you fail, it won’t be as bad.” The voices got loud again…

Last night I had the opportunity to introduce Jon Acuff as he was speaking at Belmont for 394399_10101002715162665_1030054131_nthe third time this year. Jon was instrumental in my jump, he confirmed that fear gets loud in your head, but sounds ridiculous when you share it. He may not realize how big of an encouragement the community he builds on his blog, with 5 Club, with Quitter conferences is for those of us let fear and doubt not chase our dreams.

Following last night’s program a friend of mine posted on my Facebook some encouraging words as I am seeking to pursue another dream (that’s why I am up at 4:30am, punching Tuesday in the face). I had shared with her this story of Jon’s influence, without him really knowing he’d done it, earlier in the day. Her response? “Now you’re being an Acuff for others.”

I get jokes thrown at me for how I engage in 5 Club or talk about Jon’s impact  from some individuals. They referenced me as an Acuffite once. But here’s the kicker, that’s a compliment. You see he feeds the dreamers and encourages the ridiculous because his story is ridiculous. I am excited that I get to work with colleagues and students daily and potentially encourage them the same way. Maybe one day I can be someone’s Jon Acuff, but with better boots.

My Night with Rachael Ray

indexLast night I got the amazing opportunity to hear Rachael Ray speak on campus. Most of you know that I am a foodie, and stress bake. What you may not know is that Rachael’s 30 minute meals was the first cookbook I ever received. She has long been someone I have looked up to as far as her perseverance and determination to make a difference in what she does. She’s not just a cook, or a television personality.

During the course of the evening she made some remarkable revelations about where the proceeds go and where her passions lie. She spoke on how she takes time away from things to enjoy family and rest, to remind herself why she loves to cook. The one statement she said that really struck me, especially given my post from yesterday, was this:

I measure success by the amount of happiness you get out of each day.

I thought that was rather telling of her approach to life and being in the day, rather than moving through it.

I am planning some big projects for the first few months of the new year, and I am excited to share them with you all, in due time. For today, encourage one another and squeeze every ounce of happiness out of it.

Top Five Friday-The One Year Anniversary

Today is a big day. It’s my one year anniversary. That’s correct. I have been at Belmont University for 366 (it’s a leap year) days today! So today’s top five is Belmont-themed…as I recap the last year at Belmont with my top five favorite moments.

  1. The Prayer. I have mentioned this before in another post, but it still resonates. I had been meeting with a student for several months about organizationally related business. One morning we decided to meet for coffee instead to chat. Before we ended our conversation, she looked at me very earnestly and said “Would you mind if I prayed for you before you leave?” It’s a humbling thing to have someone ask you that. So often we are always asking others to pray for us, that we often don’t stop and ask if we can pray for them and then do it right there.
  2. The Interview Moment. I have told my supervisor this multiple times, but I knew Belmont was where I’d be headed shortly when I came into her office during my interview time at the end of the campus visit. I looked up onto her wall and saw Jeremiah 29:11 in a frame. I had been reading that verse the week prior and praying through it. It was a special moment with God saying “I got this. Remember?
  3. The Matt Wertz meeting. I have to be honest and say this was a surreal moment for me. I first heard Matt when I was working at The Square Room part time. He was the first show I ever worked. To be in a meeting five years later, talking about having him and Ben Rector do a Christmas show was pretty cool. And yes, he is a normal guy, and pretty chill.
  4. The Jump. This video showed me how intentional the senior leaders at Belmont are about thanking the staff for all they do. They revealed it during a lunch they served us. It meant alot to see that in my first year.
  5. The Conversation. Only one other person knows about this conversation. It was a very difficult one to have as I had truly warred inwardly with a situation that had built in momentum throughout the year. I am not sure she realizes how significant and altering that conversation was for me, but it definitely is a top five moment this year, and probably a top three in my professional career. God gave me you for the ups and downs…

What are some favorite moments of yours in your last year of your job, vocation, calling?