Fighting the Storm

Sunset from window

Sometimes a picture can communicate more of what you want to say than words.

It felt like the darkness, the clouds were trying to swallow up the sun as a late afternoon storm rolled in on Monday. The sun kept fighting back the clouds and the storm and I could see it’s fight through a window at the gym.

The sight got at my heart because that’s where I’ve been recently. Unsure of the clouds creeping in and the storm that seems to be forming. I had been wrestling for a couple of weeks on a good thing, a decision that was good and confirming where my heart was leading but that ultimately was not the best thing. Over the weekend I was affirmed in what I felt was where God was leading. Once I voiced it to one person, just one person, I could feel this darkness creep in and a storm brewing. I could feel myself bristle up for a fight because I was choosing the best God has intended and not this very good thing that isn’t for me.

To see that play out visually just hours after I’d started to get that notion was just for me. But maybe it’s for you too. Maybe God needed you to hear, to see, to read that the thing you decided on and now feel the darkness creeping in is what He wants for you. He wants that very best thing, and not the really good thing you said “no” to right now. He wants that obedience in what He has long been calling you towards, reminding you of. The darkness doesn’t want that, Satan doesn’t want you going hard after obedience because it scares him when you are in God’s will, in relationship and fellowship with Him pursuing after what He’d have for you.

May this bring you hope, affirmation, confidence in the fight ahead. The sun always fights back against the encroaching storm. The Son already fought it off so that you could be in Him in all things. When the storm comes. When the clouds creep in. When the devil would have you doubt and fear the very best God has for you.

Calling in the Unknown

What does vision and calling look like? What about the mission of your life?

For years I have wrestled with these questions, thinking about predetermined paths and expectations that were just never voiced. Once you are on a path, you have a logically laid out means of pursuing that path and you STAY.ON.IT.

A couple of years ago that mindset changed for me, first with Jon Acuff’s Do Over, where he said you can have a different path, one where you lived into what you felt drawn to rather than the one you had prepared for. But you gotta do the work, you gotta put in the hustle. (There’s alot more to that book, and I highly encourage you to grab it if this is resonating in the least with you).

The calling I had at 25 has changed, pursuits and interests have pushed me to consider options I had not seen before…and now a decade later I wrestle with letting that calling go and accepting the heart cry of obedience.

But what does that look like? 

Exactly the question I have spent months wrestling with. I need the template, the design and the future all mapped out to what that looks like for me. What it means to live fully into obedience in calling.

The scary thing is that there’s not a template, there’s no simple or easy map to lay out before me. My limited knowledge self wants that, but the obedient child of God knows that I don’t get that. Yes I get resources and tips, I research and prepare, but also know that stepping into an unknown is incredibly scary and racked with doubt. I have given excuses and ultimatums to God about what He’s been pressing in on me about…because I wanted the map all to myself. I want easy and comfortable, immediate affirmation and success.

One would think after 10 years of life lived I would know better than that. None of that comes immediately, or even before you step out into the unknown…and it may never come. So the human self makes the excuse, stays in the comfortable and keeps in line.

So living out a mission, a calling, a vision simply reflects who you are trusting, who you are obedient to, and how you prepare yourself each step of the way. It doesn’t look like the person next to you who is pursuing their dream, nor the person who has the platform you respect and admire. It looks like you…stepping out and pursuing what you feel is your calling now, in the hard and the ugly. In the days you simply just don’t want to and the days you really need to. It means pushing aside excuses and sometimes living in the doubt of it all for a time. It means both no schedule and freedom, and boundaries with a regimented plan.

This newness and shininess has long since worn-off, but the calling? Yep, still there. It’s still burning deep and leaving me hopeful and buoyant in expectation. But not the expectation of anything beyond simple rejoicing of obedience.

There are days ahead where counts and assessments will come, where the need will wane and I will wonder once again if this truly a calling and wonder what it all looks like lived out. Answers may come, but if they don’t I know that fully and completely that it’s not about what I get out of it, but what I give away.

All of it.

Every single bit.

The goodness of a calling, a mission of life is that it’s not to benefit me. and that’s the absolute beauty of it all. It’s never about me, ever.

 

 

Defining Work

Recently I was talking with my sister about jobs and career and degrees. We both are first generation college grads, and both of us have Master’s degrees in the education field. As I was launching into a bit of an emotional monologue about the use of degrees in jobs she stopped me with, “You need to get over that.”

 

Without realizing it, I had elevated this education to a place of importance, of stature that was bordering on idolatry in my life. I had made it more important than God’s design for me. I didn’t fully grasp this until I read the words of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:

Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind…Therefore I turned my heart and despaired of all the labor in which I had toiled under the sun.

(v. 17, 20 NKJV)

I saw how I had placed my work, the labor of my life, as the thing to be obtained, to define me and make me find meaning in it. I did it all without realizing it. It was a slide I hadn’t seen myself take and ultimately it left me just as Solomon states, despairing and hating.

If I am truly honest with y’all I was a nasty person to be around in some of those moments. I contributed to the hate and despair as I let my job and my work seep into every ounce of my life, laboring out of a place of idol worship rather than out of the overflow of Christ. It wasn’t work as worship, I had switched it around and made my worship be my work. I sought the meaning of my life in the work I did, and ultimately it crushed me and left me empty.

It does that to us all if we allow it, if we pursue after meaning and definition from our work for our lives. We see how Solomon shows us plainly, cautioning us that he’s done it…every bit of it, and yet it was lacking, it left him empty. It ultimately gained him nothing but emptiness and despair.

But when we seize our work as a gift from God, that it is from His hands instead…that we aren’t relying on our work to be what defines us, but instead relying upon God, then we find nothing is better, that joy is found. Because it’s not about us in that work, it’s not about the work itself, it’s about God. It’s the good found only in Him, what He gives us, that we are then able to rejoice in. We are able to meet the stressors of a job situation, a career move, job loss with the focus on what He is telling us rather than what that job says about us.

When we are able to accept the truth that our jobs, positions, degrees, etc. aren’t what give us definition, then we are able to see the way God chooses us for them, whether a lifetime, a season or somewhere in between. It’s in that we can Amen to Solomon’s follow-up words:

Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor.

(v. 24, NKJV)

For Such a Time as This

There’s something to be said for Nike’s slogan of “Just Do It.”

The last few days I have pondered career path and steps. It’s been almost a year since I changed job streams and I have to consider what that has taught me, brought me, and fought within me. If someone tells you it’s easy changing your entire path of career, they are lying to you. It is hard. Change is difficult and we all know that, but when you’ve pursued something and poured your life into something for a decade and then leave it? Yeah, it’s like a marriage ending (or what I would think is a marriage, I’m single after all).

Through it, as I have referenced through many posts over this last year, I have found what I do does not define who I am. I let it for ten years of my life. Actually probably more like ten and 10 months. 🙂 (Work in progress y’all). I discovered through the course of that decade a calling to ministry far beyond what I could have ever dreamt up back in college on my own. It has to be a God thing, and it has to be His work and not mine.

But y’all, I have a confession here. It’s my safe space among a supportive and nurturing community (and a couple of friends who call me on my junk). I have been running from the call. I have been excusing, distracted, and down-right defiant about it. I do well at stubborn, ask my momma about that. Instead of allowing growth in me, choosing to hustle on this call of obedience I slid into comfort and coveting. I’d look at what others were doing and wonder why I wasn’t there, or getting that opportunity.

Jealousy and coveting are not good looks on anyone, and especially on my heart. Yuck.

As I was talking with a friend recently about some major shifts in his ministry, I kept spurring him on, wishing he’d see from this side of the view that God has given him this for such a time as this in his life. I poured words of affirmation and encouragement into him, seeing first hand the work God is doing through him in the ministry He’s placed him in now. The heaviness I saw in my friend just under a year ago has changed, and maybe that’s all a show, but it’s difficult in our friendship to hide that kind of weight.

I thought more and more on the conversations we had exchanged the last few months, and the recent revelation of a potential new shift in his ministry and I rejoiced. He was made for this, after years of work and toil this is where God had brought him. That’s when I turned that perspective on myself. Reminding myself that I too had a call to ministry. One that gets rough, hard and doesn’t look like much to those around me. But it’s there.

Actually it’s here. Now. It’s for such a time as this. So instead of allowing the beaten down attitude, the comfort of stagnation and the excuses of distraction to continue, we push on. We take hold of the promise of the prize before us, and we continue to run. We run not in our power but His, knowing this calling isn’t one of our strength but of His might.

So we just do it. For such a time as this.

Doubtful…at best.

Doubt is a funny thing. If we aren’t careful it can creep in unawares and spread like a bug infestation. Recently I heard the story of Moses in Exodus 4 from a different perspective.

This was along about the time Moses was being called by God to do great things. We get the version that isn’t live, but “previously recorded” if you will, so we know the outcome. God calls him to do His work, Moses doubts. God calls him to action, Moses doubts again.

Here’s where it gets interesting for me…

God asks what is in Moses’ hand. He’s God, He’s all-knowing, and He never asks a question for His own need. He asks it for the one that is to answer. Right there, God is giving us something truly powerful. He’s giving us the assurance that what is within our hands He has given for use.

He has equipped us for His work, yet we continue to doubt. We don’t doubt Him and His ability to do the work (well maybe occasionally we doubt Him too). No we doubt our power, efficiency, ability and gifts. We are doubtful, at best, of ourselves to do what He is giving us as work, as life.

We wrestle, we fight, and we question, “Why us?” Yet He still pursues us with this call, with these gifts that are within our hands. He points to them and asks what they are, not for His benefit but our own. It is recognizing the true goodness and sovereign nature of Him that calls us as He has already equipped us. He knew we’d doubt, He knew we’d question Him-pointing to others. He provides the way for His will to be done.

But wouldn’t it be sweeter, wouldn’t it be joy-filled to find that our doubt gets set aside when we look at what is within our hands? When we see what He has made capable through us and in us, not by our own limited means. There will be failure, but there will also be glory to give to Him. There’s work to be done and calling’s to be followed. Hearts that desire to be fulfilled by affirming ourselves in the confidence of His creation-ourselves.

What is in your hands?

Day 28-A Running Wife

I have taken up running once again recently. It’s something I literally hate doing, but I know and cling to the “after-run” feeling. Last week I was having some issues again with my Sciatic nerve and then debilitating migraines on top of that. It was not the best week for me physically, so Sunday I made myself go run. On mile 2.5 I wanted to quit. My chest hurt and it was unnaturally warm for an October afternoon in the South. But I pushed on, because I knew the feeling that awaited me at the end.

That I had challenged my body to push beyond this moment and keep going to complete what I set out to do.

“Run hard towards God. Every once and while, take a look around and see who is running just as focused as you are. That would be the man to consider.”

I heard those words last week and I keep coming back to them. What makes wife material, as I have continued to stand firm on, is not what you wear or how you act around certain men in order to gain their attention. Wife Material is Christ Material. When you are running hard towards Christ, firmly focused on Him you will find along the way there are others running with you, just as hard and just as focused.

I have found those to be some amazing women of God as of late. He has firmly placed us in this race together, keeping our eyes on the prize for the calling of eternity, not for the short term.

Yeah, it may suck running the race alone now…we aren’t really ever running alone. He’s right there with us, setting the pace and challenging us to go just a mile more. To accomplish what we (He and I) set out together to do way back in 1999. We’re just on the second leg of the run, where it gets really good.

Day 8-Wife Calling?

My highest calling is not to be married. No, it is to be a woman of God. Within that framework, many of us are called into being a help-meet, a mother, a friend, a counselor, a missionary or a leader.

I keep going back to Proverbs 31:10-30, so forgive me the redundancy. I dwell on this woman of valor-as Rachel Held Evans calls her. It is about her, not what is in relation to a husband, not how she is defined ultimately by her marital status or even how many children she has. Scripture celebrates her as a woman and a follower of God.

We are all called to be many things throughout our lives. God calls us to places, to positions and to people. For me, it has become a focus on who God is calling me to be, and allowing Him to move me into what that looks like for me. I have to be receptive to that calling, while also adapting and growing into it.

I forget in the daily life that I am called to be an image bearer of Him when my heart starts yearning to be a spouse. When I start doubting or questioning God’s timing in a relationship, or lack thereof. I get sideswiped with longing to be in a marriage relationship and encourage my husband.

Sometimes I then remember I can do that now. I can encourage, support and love on those around me. I get that gift in the now as a part of my calling to the place and person I am right now. That’s not something I have to wait to discover and do when I am married. In fact, if I am not working on it now what makes me think it will magically bestow itself on me once I am in a marriage?

In the right now, in the very present, my calling is to become wife material. That wife material means obedience in the calling set before me already. That is a calling to be Christ material first, with a byproduct being establishing the pattern for the material of being a wife.