When I was a little kid, I remember being asked over and over and over, what do you want to be when you grow up?
So clearly I took a mini-hiatus from writing for a few days...sorry about that friends - weekend work retreat calls. But admittedly, it was nice to take a few involuntary days away from connection to any technology.
However I have found a way to catch up for the lost 6 days, and also cover 6 (ok maybe 7) very important people I am thankful for...
Patti Brussat (far left)
Sharon Turner & Lisa Toomey
Who are these women?
They all, at some point in the past few years, have mentored me. They are women who have given of their time and their hearts to pour into my life, to offer wisdom and encouragement. They are women who are a little ahead of me on the path, but who are willing to show me what they've learned along the way.
They've laughed with me
cried with me
listened to me
prayed for me
And most importantly, they loved me...right where I was at.
But they've also loved me enough to not let me stay there.
They've helped me understand more of the woman I am and the woman I want to be. They've held a mirror to my face and helped shine a light on my path, and for that I am forever grateful.
They have inspired me to do the same thing...to invest in the next generation. To pass along unique insights and lessons that the Lord is teaching me along the way...maybe even helping to keep some young girl from making some of the same silly mistakes I made. But inevitably, helping to encourage and raise up a generation of women who seek Jesus, who seek wisdom, and who seek to continue to pass it along to the generation that follows them.
These women are a monumental part of my story and have forever left their thumbprints all over my life.
So here's my challenge for you today:
On whose life are you making an impact?
"Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction."
Men, I have a secret tip for you...
Do you want to finally understand women?
Do you want to know how they're wired, how they think and most importantly, what they want?
Well fellas, fear no more...I am here today to tell you that there are only two "handbooks" that you need in your pursuit to understanding the hearts of women: The Taylor Swift music collection and the book,
Now after you quit laughing, and before you give up on reading this post, hear me out. Do you know why just about every girl loves a good Taylor Swift song (whether she admits it or not)? Because inside, we're all really still just a 15 year old girl at heart. And because she's not singing anything we're not already thinking...she's just bold enough to say it out loud. But if you can't deal with the chick music, don't lose hope...you still have the other book, which is what I am really dedicating this post to. :)
I am a self-proclaimed book nerd, and writing is my outlet...so there are numerous books that have played a crucial role in my personal growth. One of those books, hands down, is
. It's a book that eloquently encapsulates the desires that lie deep within every woman's heart...the desire "to be romanced, to play an irreplaceable role in a great adventure, and to unveil beauty."
Just as every man has certain desires that make him come alive, these three elements are the core desires that make a woman come alive. Most of us women already know that. However, the beauty of this book is the fact that it so perfectly depicts all of the things women are feeling...the hopes, but also the fears. The good, the bad and the ugly parts of who we are and how we are wired. A lot like Taylor, it puts words to countless thoughts and feelings that many women are afraid to say out loud.
It's confirmation that we're not alone.
And to a woman, that's priceless. To me, it was not only affirmation, but a great reminder of how we're uniquely wired to reflect God within our femininity. And that, is true beauty.
Because whether we're willing to admit it or not every woman, at the core of her being, simply wants to know that she's needed. That' she's worthy. That when it comes to love, yes there are risks....but that she's worth the risk.
She's worth the fight.
Just like God, a woman is not a problem to be solved, but a vast wonder to be enjoyed...As she is sought after, she reveals more of her beauty. As she unveils her beauty, she draws us to know her more deeply. Every woman has a beauty to unveil. Every woman. Because she bears the image of God.
-From Captivating by John & Stasi Eldredge
I'm a planner.
It's how God has wired me. I LOVE the idea of dreaming up and mapping out an entire plan, then seeing it come to fruition. Whether it be a party, a trip, an event, a goal...I thrive on taking a big picture, breaking it down into a feasible strategy and then making it happen. In fact, if you add up the money i've spent in my lifetime on planners, calendars and notebooks for to-do lists, well you just might be able to hire a personal assistant to track all that for me.
I also make lists. Lots of lists. I sometimes even put things on my lists that i've already done just so I can check them off and feel like i've accomplished more in the day (yes, I know they have support groups for that kind of thing...just call it the overachiever in me).
But even within my well thought out and highly anticipated plans, i've somehow always carried within me the capacity to go with the flow when things change at the last minute. I normally don't mind a little shift on the fly...it rarely, if ever, stresses me out or makes me mad. I'm an easy-going type of gal who can usually roll with the punches in a patient and placid demeanor.
...except when God starts messing with my plans.
Can we say hypocrite, party of one?
How in the world is it that I can be patient and flexible with everything and everyone around me except for the God who gave all of it to me in the first place? It's simple...I put my big God in a little bitty box without even realizing it.
In my late teens and early 20's I made a plan for my life. And in my mind, it was a good plan. It was what I thought I wanted...so of course that had to be what God wanted for me right? So I mapped out my dreams and goals and then set out guns a blazin' on my trail to follow my perfect plan. And what happened?
My plan failed. Miserably.
I found myself completely broken, attempting to pick up the pieces of what was left of my shattered dreams, all the while looking back and wondering what the heck I did wrong? I loved Jesus, I went to church, I talked to Him daily, I tried to be the best person I knew how to be...why didn't my plan work?
And then the light bulb went off...
In a moment of painful desperation I cried out to God asking why He took my perfectly good plan away from me...and it was as if I heard Him whisper "because it was never MY plan for you."
I finally grasped that all along, even though it was, in my mind, a good plan...it was just that. MINE. I went along my life doing my own thing, charting my own path all the while kind of asking God to just "check off" on my plan as somewhat of an afterthought. When in reality, I should have been doing it the other way around all along. I should have leaned into the desires of my heart, and then earnestly taken them to God, surrendering them to Him while patiently waiting for His direction and confirmation.
I learned (the hard way) that it's ok to make a plan for my life. It's ok to dream and to lean into those God-given desires of my heart...but I need to be willing to loosen my grip and fully surrender those desires to God, and more importantly, I need to desire HIS plan over mine - no matter what it looks like. And when I begin to get anxious or impatient, I need to remind myself to trust that He knows what's best for me...afterall, He can see much more of the big picture than I will ever be able to.
Do you know what I've realized in doing that? I'm not nearly as creative as I thought I was because my life since then is living proof that God has WAY bigger and cooler dreams for me than I ever had.
...and I'm totally ok with that. :)
the prisoner was you.”
Close your eyes with me for a moment and reflect. (ok, maybe wait until after you read this paragraph first, otherwise this exercise is going to be exceedingly difficult to do) I want you to think of someone who has hurt you. I'm not talking about the kid in middle school who called you (and everyone else) brace face, I'm talking about someone who has truly, in every sense of the word, wounded you.
Maybe they lied to you.
Maybe they betrayed you.
Maybe they left you.
But in some form or fashion their actions, in your mind, justified a need for remorse. They've committed an act against you that warrants rectification. There is something that at some point, you feel they have owed you. There is a debt that needs to be paid.
Is your blood boiling yet? Take a deep breath and bear with me.
The irony of this situation is that in this scenario, unless you are willing to fully forgive that person (with or without an apology) YOU are the one enslaved to the offender. YOU are the one that will lie awake at night rehashing the situation, thinking through what you really want to say, if you had the opportunity to set them straight. And guess what? Odds are that they aren't losing any sleep over it. Guess what else? If just thinking about this person and this scenario is causing your blood pressure to even slightly rise, you're nowhere near close to truly forgiving them, no matter how much you think you've let go of what happened.
You see, the easy part is forgiving someone who is genuinely sorry. Someone who acknowledges the error in their ways and begs you for forgiveness. The problematic situation is forgiving someone who is not. Someone who either isn't willing to accept responsibility for their actions, or thinks they weren't in the wrong to begin with. How do you go about forgiving them? Do you forgive them? Is that even possible?
Learning this principle was a major game changer for me...so don't miss this:
There is FREEDOM in unconditional FORGIVENESS.
Forgiveness that is not earned.
Forgiveness that is not solicited.
Forgiveness that is not, in some cases, seemingly necessary.
If you look at the context of "forgiveness" you will see a very crucial word hidden within the text: give. I don't think that's a coincidence. True, unconditional forgiveness is not a feeling. It's a choice we make. It's a gift we have the opportunity to give...on behalf of the One who gave His life for our ultimate forgiveness.
Hidden within the confines of unmerited forgiveness are the offerings of grace, love and truth.
Grace says I will bless you even though you don't necessarily deserve it.
Love says I accept you right where you are.
Truth says I will continue to point you back to Jesus in all I do.
So how do you know when you've truly forgiven someone?
For me, it was when I was able to sit down to pray for that person who hurt me...to genuinely pray for God to bless them and to know that I really meant it. It didn't happen over night. It wasn't easy all the time. But it was a daily (sometimes hourly) choice to cancel the "debt" I felt was owed to me, and to believe that God has much bigger things in this world for me to carry for Him than a grudge.
Who do you need to truly forgive today?
-From The Grace of God by Andy Stanley
Let me take you back to English 101 for a moment. Remember when you used to have to read a book or short story, and then pick out the underlying themes of said story? Well, if you were to look at the story of my life one of the major underlying themes would undeniably be the concept of grace...
...beautiful, tender, unsettling, all-encompassing grace.
Grace is the gift that can often only be truly valued, understood and given away in the midst of trials, brokenness and pain. But in the center of those dark times grace is the beacon of light. The reminder that we are loved by our creator in ways we will never be able to fathom this side of heaven.
In my journey of learning to give and receive grace, I've come to one conclusion: I always want to be known for extending too much grace rather than not enough. Otherwise I'm no less selfish than one who hoards their riches. I always want to be as generous in giving grace as the one who gave it to me.
Here's an excerpt from a blog post I wrote a few years back about the gift of grace - even in the small things...
[Blogpost from 2007]
Today I am thankful for grace.
I love it when God shows up in the smallest and strangest places to remind us of the most important things. Back in the spring, I had found my heart wrestling with acceptance. I know that my identity is firmly and deeply rooted in Christ's love for me, but every now and then the enemy tries to taunt me with self-condemnation. Even though I know that Jesus has fully forgiven me for my past sins, I find myself occasionally struggling with receiving that forgiveness. Consequently when this happens, the enemy will use that as a tool to make me feel broken - telling me that noone will ever want to love someone who has made such prodigiously unwise decisions as I have in the past.
Fast forward to Memorial Day weekend. I spent 4 fun-filled days at the beach with about 25 of my closest friends. On the way home we stopped for our traditional breakfast at Cracker Barrel. The wait to seat our group was about an hour, so we proceeded to wander aimlessly through the cute little country store in the front of the restaurant playing with toys, smelling all the candles, and basically just goofing off to kill the time.
At one point, I stood at a table full of useless knick-knack toys. I picked up this cute little wooden bird, which would balance on your finger like a perch. I placed it on my finger and jokingly showed my new pet to my friend Jessica, who was standing nearby. As I laughed and turned to put it back, it fell from my finger, breaking into three pieces. i instantly felt like that kid in the glass store who just knocked over a set of dishes. I picked it up and immediately started towards the cash register, prepared to pay for my blunder. However as soon as I stood up, one of the Cracker Barrel greeters stood directly in front of me, smiling with her hand outstretched in my direction. Apparently she had witnessed the whole thing. I apologized profusely and told her that I would immediately pay for my fault. She just smiled at me (visibly missing quite a few teeth), took the bird out of my hand and said "honey, if I made you pay for that i'd have to make every single child that comes in here and breaks something pay for theirs too...it's ok." And with that, she walked off to put it in the back room.
As she walked away, I felt so sheepish. Even though she told me it was fine, I couldn't help but feel guilty for being so careless and silly. And then I noticed something. As she walked back out of the storeroom, I noticed the name that was embroidered on her apron.
Her name was Grace.
I was overcome with emotion - I stood there and just teared up right in the middle of a restaurant, right in front of all my friends. And in that moment, I felt God whispering to me. I knew that I was the "bird," broken...but still forgiven. I got it. It amazed me to see how God could use some petty experience in a restaurant to calm my heart over what I had been fighting. I resisted the urge to go and hug the nice lady, for fear that she might think I was nuts - she had no idea how God just used her in my life in such a big way.
As we drove home, I just kept thanking God over and over for using something so small to remind me of something so big - that He extends us ALL grace so that we may freely receive it and live fully redeemed in His power of forgiveness. No, we don't deserve it, but He loves us so much that He gives it to us regardless. And I thanked Him for allowing me to hear his whisper, even in the middle of a busy restaurant lobby.
What are you thankful for today?
A storm is on it's way.
If you were distracted by the usual Monday morning efforts to get ready and out the door to make it to work on time, you might even completely miss the warning signs. And this afternoon when you're sitting in your office and all of a sudden hear a rumbling of thunder, it might take you by surprise. It may even find you unprepared without an umbrella.
And that got me thinking. How many times have we missed the warning signs for approaching "storms" in our lives because we weren't paying attention to our surroundings? It's true, storms are usually inevitable and never without purpose. But in life, and in the heart, storms are often weathered better with awareness, preparation and maybe even a little shelter. An umbrella may not completely protect you from a storm, but it will at least keep you from arriving at your destination completely drenched.
When I think back to storms in my own life that I thought "came out of nowhere," I begin to reflect on the events leading up to the storm and often realize they weren't so out of the blue after all.
Did I miss the warning signs? Maybe.
Could the storm be avoided altogether? Who knows.
But I do know that even being slightly aware of what was brewing right in front of me might have prompted me to make different decisions. It might have triggered me to prepare myself or take shelter. It might have inspired me to listen more intently to God and be keenly aware of what it was he was trying to teach me through that storm in the first place.
"When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation."