The consequence of commitment

We said yes in 2015.

We said yes to leadership opportunities.

We said yes financially to a church building campaign.

We said yes to renewed pursuit of dissolved dreams revived by a gracious God.

And each time we said yes, the paved walkway beneath our confident feet crumbled. Soon our beautiful roadway was nothing more than a dirt foot trail filled with pot holes and stumbling blocks lingering in opportunity to stall progress.

Our normally healthy kiddo, hospitalized during Thanksgiving.

Financial strain we haven’t experienced in years.

Struggling census creating a bit of job insecurity.

Behavior issues with my kids requiring professional intervention.

Turmoil. Pressure. Struggle.

A pendulum of priorities vying for my attention.

Adopting an attitude expecting the unexpected. Waking each day wondering how my well planned life became such a hot mess.

God, is this what is means to say yes to you?

I struggled with this question.  For months. It caused me to pause in writing. It caused me to dig deeper and differently into his truth. It caused me to review my base motives.

And one day, God spoke:

Why are you above the struggle?

Why indeed?

The course of the last few months have shaken the core foundation of my jaded beliefs and caused me to reinforce the cracks with concrete evidence of God’s truth. The truth about who I am and the truth about why I am here.

And seriously, it’s not about me at all.

It’s not about my comfort.

It’s not about living on my own steam.

For a good percentage of my life, I have lived with the misconception that if the call comes from God, it should be easy. Friends, this is a lie.

When we said yes, when I said yes, I told God I was willing to stretch beyond my comfort in order that I could lean upon his strength. “I can do all things,” is no longer a fancy t-shirt slogan. It’s a core belief. Right when life seems impossible and it seems we have nothing left, God shows up in a provisional way time and time again.

I’ve also learned when I have nothing left, God still wants me to give. My time, energy, resources, finances- the list is endless. But it’s his. The calling is still mine.  No one else is going to pursue it, even when I don’t feel like it. No one else is going to type the words he lays on my heart to say. No one else is going to make tough calls on behalf of my marriage, family and home. No one else is performing the hard work it takes to live the life he created for ME to live.

I’ve learned I cannot live my call alone. The people he has handpicked for my life are mine.  My job? Learn who they are. What makes them tick. Discover their love language and encourage them in their own pursuit of his purpose. Above anything, I am learning to be the friend, wife and mother that I want to have.

I have learned I don’t have to know everything. It’s okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to allow others into my weakness. Each day, I can look to God and the amazing community surrounding me for wisdom, prayer and strength.

When I continue to give my whispered yes to God from the deepest valley of life, I live life in a way I have never before experienced. I carry my cross to the finish line of faith. I learn the communication work it takes to become one-minded with fellow believers.

Daily, I ask God for my portion and daily I thank him for the grace extended to me as I die to self and increase in his image. Daily I ask for divine appointment, divine opportunity to share his love with those who most need it. I commit to him my whitespace for the day _and then the roller coaster begins. Friends, I don’t want it any other way.

Life without God is not living at all.

The consequence of commitment is a life directed by God – the author and creator of the big picture. The masterpiece I am likely to miss when I am intently focused on the snapshot of the season.

 

Saying goodbye to safety

“I am not sure if I can wear this today.  A teacher might say something.”

I glance over to my son as I place the car in park.

Plain black hoodie.

Blue jeans.

“What are you wearing that would require change?”

He lifts his dog tag necklace declaring Jesus as his king of kings.

“The last time a teacher saw me wear it, she told me to tuck it in.  It might offend someone.” He replied.

I replied as any other angered mama bear would in the same situation. “So far as I know, you are a citizen of this United States and it’s still a thing to freely practice your religion here. You wear your necklace. And if another teacher says something, please take their name.”

Even as the statement passed my lips, unease set into my gut.  I need to contact administration, but I don’t know what to say.   I don’t have a teacher name.  She was a test proctor, so she may not even be employed by the school.  And really, no resolution can come from this, so why should I even open my mouth.

Heaven forbid I be lumped in with one of them.

You know them.

The weird Christians.

They’re the ones who got Halloween parades banned at school and raised a ruckus about Starbucks cups.

Yep.

Those guys.

You never know what they’re going to do to cause the next national cringe in the name of Christ.

And while they live out their belief loudly, I continue to sit here and do nothing.

The homeless shelter in our community needs larger facilities and runs into continuous roadblocks to gain valuable ground to expand their services.

I do nothing.

Families disintegrate around me.  Broken people looking for light and hope. Just a break from chaos, ugly and evil.

I say nothing.

My son, whose core character is to live quietly and peacefully with all who surround him, is approached by a teacher in what amounts to professional bullying.

I do nothing.

I don’t wanna be one of them.

I want to stay safe.

And normal.

Because blogging on the internet to process your every thought and feeling is completely normal.

But I can’t stay safe any longer.  Not in this world.  Not in these bittersweet times when our nations are under attack.  Not when so many need to see the light of hope in Christ – through me.

Christ did not come to judge the world but to save it with his life. And when he left, he told his people to go to all the ends of the earth with his message of hope.

That is so not safe.

But that’s all he asked his people to do.  To believe him. To call upon his name and to go.

To speak.

To do something.

I can’t do that without becoming one of them – okay, maybe not the Starbucks one- but still. I have to make my life count for the sole purpose of reaching another.

Not because God needs me to do it. But because he chose me to do it.

Regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or past history. God is an equal opportunity God.  He can take all that is broken and make something new.

He’s asking me to change my heart from fear to trust. To love the homeless man who walks the street and the foreign refugee torn from their home by war.

It’s not up to me to pick and choose.

His love is open to all.

First, I must surrender my safety to his mighty cause. I must realize people become the priority and because people are involved, it’s gonna be messy.

But I can’t coach from my couch in the game of life. I have to move from the sidelines and step into the game.

I have to go write an email.

What safety zone is God challenging you from today?

I can’t pay it back, but I can pay it forward.

Fifty Dollars.

Simply tucked away in a beautiful note from a dear friend and mentor.  No terms or conditions. No reason for sending.

Just fifty dollars and a few words of encouragement on a God timed day.  I can’t remember why I needed the money.

I just remember I did.

Our kids were little.  Money was tight and this fifty dollars was a little touch of manna from heaven. And I remember thinking, “How can I ever pay her back?”

What could I give to this woman who seemed to have everything.

A small voice of reason whispered quietly from my soul.

“You can’t pay it back, but you can pay it forward.”

Immediately I decided, whenever it was in my control, I would commit my life to paying her generosity forward whenever I got the chance.

Shortly after, the earthquake in Haiti occurred. My oldest daughter felt burdened to help. In those days, we didn’t have the means to make a difference in Haiti, but it opened my eyes to need in my community.

Later in the week, we signed up to prepare meals at the homeless shelter.  I couldn’t give financially, but I could give my time. I could give encouragement.  And I could prepare a hot meal.

In return I learned giving is about so much more than money.  It’s about taking inventory of my time, talent and energy and saying, “How can I use these resources to benefit another?”

Time progressed and we were able to begin giving financially in addition to our time, yet found and continue to find our time and efforts given are so much more valuable in the overall picture than the sum written on any check.

Because our experience brings encouragement and valuable skills. Our willingness to help relieves the burden from those carrying loads too large for their frame.

As for me, I am learning to live my life with an open hand. Generosity reduces my need for overpowering control. It prepares me to trust God more than my resources.  Generosity teaches me to value community over commodity.

Depending on my season in life, I may or may not have much to give.  But God can use my little and multiply it into something great.  I just have to trust him with it.  I have to be willing to let go.

I’m not always willing to let go.

Yet when my heart is willing, God is too.  He will take my small yes to stretch and condition me.

And in the process, I remove myself from the center of my world and place God in his rightful place.

 

 

Is your identity in crisis?

With nerves dancing in anticipation of a new opportunity, I opened the door to observe my surroundings with brand new eyes.

A corner office proudly displaying gleaming wood furniture, cozy arm chairs and my beautiful desk, stocked full with every supply needed to perform my daily tasks.

This was it.  I finally made it.  My dream job.

I settled into my chair and waited for contentment to overtake me as I started my day.

Instead, an inner voice began to accuse, “You don’t deserve this.  You are far from qualified. You really think you have what it takes to pull this off.  You’re a fraud.”

Perplexed, I stuffed it down, ignoring it to go on about my day.  Yet as time went on, the doubt and anxiety amplified until I became paralyzed. Receiving an “action plan” in conjunction with the accusation confirmed what I already knew.

I was not good enough.  I was not smart enough. And dog gone it, people don’t always like me.

I was guilty of allowing my work to substantiate my identity.  If I succeeded at work, then I was a success.

So what did it mean in this time of failure?

It’s in this moment I’m forced to agree.

“You’re right.  I don’t deserve this opportunity.  Nothing in my background qualifies me for this title I hold and I certainly can’t do this on my own.”

But I’m not on my own.

 For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

1 Peter 1: 18-19

It was in this moment of grace when peace squelched the voice of doubt, anxiety and fear. Perspective revealed this job as merely a tool providing my family the resource to live comfortably.

The title was not my name or my purpose.

The office was comfortable, but not as comfortable as tucking into the wings of my gracious God.

And if I lost my job?  Yeah, it would suck.

But it would not change my core character and my purpose. For I was created in the image of God.

What is your identity wrapped in?

Marriage. Motherhood. Ministry. Work.

The eye-opening reality is this.  So long as we live in a broken world, these identities can go away. Christ died on the cross to pay a ransom for our lives that we may live abundantly, regardless of the circumstance attached to our lives.

When we accept him, he seals us as his own. No longer are we marked by our identity in the world.  Our mark is of God. My life paid for and ransomed by his precious son that I may truly live.

And when I choose to focus on this truth, the rest seems slim in comparison.

An invitation for freedom awaits you, too, when you click here.

 

What if today is the day?

I wake up with a familiar pit of unease. A fear only conquered by lacing up my running shoes and hitting the road.  I set a goal for myself several months ago.

To run a 5K.

Eight short weeks later, this obese asthmatic crossed the finish line on her first 5K.

And they say miracles don’t happen.

Yet here I stand four months later, 17 pounds lighter, with an unhealthy, unfounded fear taunting me, “Today is the day you might not make it.”

“Today is the day you might not have what it takes to cross the finish line. What will you do if today is that day?”

Do you hear this voice too?

If I’m not hearing it on running day, it might be the day I sit down to blog.  What if the words won’t come?

Or, when I climb on the scale.  What if a few of those pesky pounds creep back on?

What if today is the day I taste failure in place of success?

So what if it is?

In the entire scheme of my life, does it really matter if this day doesn’t meet my expectations. Does it really tag me as a failure if in this one particular moment in time I didn’t have what it took to meet the goal I set for myself in my mind.  Does it matter?

Or a bigger question.

Does it matter enough to prevent me from moving forward?

What if I allowed fear such a strong voice I didn’t even start to pursue the goals and dreams planted in my heart so long ago?

Because I wouldn’t be good enough.

Fast enough.

Strong enough.

But what if it isn’t?

What if today is the day I beat my personal best because I courageously stepped in spite of the pit in my gut.

What if today my words resonated with just one who needed to hear them.

What if today is the day I meet my next goal on the scale.

What if today, I just let go of expectations and instead allowed life to happen. What if I celebrated success and embraced failure, learning how to adapt to both for the experiences yet to materialize.

What if I embraced just how far I have come in comparison to where I have been?

What if I allowed myself excitement in exchange of fear. Confident growth is just about to show up.

How much more would peace resonate my heart if I just entrusted it to God and said, “God, today is your day.  Thank you for taking me along for the ride.”

Over and over God has proven if I just step in obedience, he will bring victory. My feet can pace light as a feather or ungraceful as an elephant.  It doesn’t matter to him so long as I step. My speed is my own. My progress only hindered by my own high expectation and fear.

So where are you today?

I’m making the choice to lace up my shoes expecting to see God at work today.

Lord, turn my eyes from fear and redirect my attention to your hope, your promise, for me.

My hot messes are God’s master plans

I sit in the cool grass reconstructing my phone as dawn pinks the sky. I hit the power button, take a deep breath and do one last inventory for pain or twinges. As I stand, I meet the eyes of a skeptical woman and her dog.

Oh, did I mention I’m sitting in HER boulevard? Actually, I just crash landed here a few seconds ago on my morning run.

“Good Morning!  Just taking a breather!” She mutters as she continues her walk not meeting my eyes.

Clumsiness is not contagious.  It’s just part of who I am. A small characteristic in the hot mess of traits the compose the D.N.A of me.

I used to work really hard to cover up my inadequacies and flaws.  Now, I embrace the unique blend crafted together to prepare me through my life’s individual seasons.

My loud voice used to turn my mom’s hair gray. Now, it allows me to speak to large groups with confidence. Or, to a senior experiencing hearing loss.

My need for balance, control and predictability allows me to quickly identify broken processes as well as solutions to enhance productivity.

I was not a strong student.  I have a high school diploma but never pursued secondary education.  My resume consists of a hodge-podge of jobs ranging from fast food to sales & marketing.  Yet each step I have taken has been a step of preparation for today.  Over time, I have developed critical thinking skills allowing me to process difficult concepts in a way that can be explained to the most novice individual.

I believe in the underdog.  I have a passion for their potential even when they can’t yet identify it.

I have a hard time grasping why people won’t pursue better for themselves yet I’m a firm believer in choice.  I’m also a firm believer in consequence.

And, I have off spring.  Off spring who have developed my dry sense of humor and use it against me on a fairly regular basis.

I know I’m flighty.  Do you really have to point it out and make it the center of dinner table discussion?

Yes, I almost got in the wrong car at CVS.

Yes, the consequence of my running fall was self-imposed whiplash.

Yes, I fell off a woman’s porch delivering Peacemeals a week later.

I pay to keep our newly adopted dog is on Prozac.  Namely because she has eaten most of my house including curtains, trash, toilet, bathroom cabinets…..but I still love her because she is the sweetest thing ever.

And, I can relate to a hot mess. Mostly because I am one.

I carry about 50 pounds of extra weight that is never going to come off and I am currently traveling through one of the most complex seasons of my life.  I’m happy here, mostly.   Yet, I’m stressed.  I’m frazzled.  I’m at rock bottom.

But darn it, I’m living.  I’m learning.  I’m challenged and I’m growing. I feel stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been. I wake up every morning with excitement.

Where is the adventure of life going to take me today?

More than anything, I’m thankful God did not give up on me. I’m thankful for his new grace and mercy every morning.  I’m thankful for exactly what he is giving me in this day ahead even if it’s not what I would have chosen for myself.

I’m thankful for a God who see’s my hot mess and knows it’s all part of his master plan. I’m not yet who I want to be. However, I am closer today than I was yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

Lord, I surrender the junk of my heart to you

“You have ten seconds to cease this pep talk and I promise no one gets hurt.”

I’m thinking it in my head but I would never say it aloud. I’ve heard this speech about 100 times and given to myself 100 more.

My attitude needs adjusting.  I get it.  I know. I don’t like it about 99% of the time myself. But I stand before you tired.  Out of patience and over excuses.

I have reached a point in my life where action needs to replace apathy. And God, more than that, I need to know what you need me to do right here.

It’s time to fight for change, or it’s time to move. But I can’t stand here anymore.  The only thing I can change here is me – is that enough?

Lord, what say you?

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

Proverbs 4:23

I examine my heart to find it littered with debris of life, burdened by junk God never meant for me to lug around.

My negative attitude colors my perception prompting bitterness and cynicism to flow from my mouth.

A heart littered with the debris of life is at best, unlovely.

It is time to unpack the contents of my heart in full surrender to a king who promises to make all things new.

He starts by taking my pride and ego exposing tender places of disappointment and hurt. Grace and forgiveness rush in allowing me to see the fight is not against people but unseen forces plaguing our world. He reinforces my patience, reminding me I cannot yet see the big picture.

He is still in control.

He grants me wisdom with words to speak. To us my words as building blocks. Not wrecking balls. “Be strong and courageous for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go”, he reminds.

He assures my place in his kingdom. My purpose in this time and this place are not a mistake.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3: 5-6

Will I trust him to provide the firm foundation I need to weather the storm?

To place sold out trust in God, I have to let go of the emotion collecting in my heart. I have to let go of my need for knowledge and control. I have to step when he says step and stay when he says stay.

I have to kneel before him for clarity that might never come.

Lord, grant me the courage to let go.  To stand firm on your rock and to seek shelter in your wings.  This condition is temporary.  It will last only for the time it takes for me to let go in surrender to your power and control. Lord, affirm my steps. Purify my heart. Renew my mind. Hold my tongue. Lord, even though I don’t grasp it, use me here. Amen.

 

 

 

 

Harvest happens in the moment

I stand by hubby among sleepy-eyed customers waiting as the worker fills our tray. A tall, skinny man with hair long needing cut approaches the line counting the change in his hand. Hair curled by a sheen of oil. Clothes worn but clean. He stands back from the crowd, accepting his disfavor as he waits for the cashier to take his order.

The prompt charges in without words. An unspoken assignment laid on my heart.

Yes, or no.

An undeniable choice required by God.

“I think we need to buy his breakfast”, I whisper to my husband. He glances in the corner of his eye and nods silently.

I move off the side and wait for his approach.

“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, “It’s still four months until harvest”? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

John 4:34-35

I want to tell you I always get this right.  This unmistakable request of God to act in a very specific way as a means of blessing to another.

I want to tell you I’m not too busy.

Not to broke.

Not to tired.

Not to distracted.

Not to uncomfortable.

Rushed, late and stressed also come to mind.

Then I think of the teen driver trying to push his car into his drive.

The silver-haired angel of wisdom sitting on her own at Cracker Barrel.

The moments I chose to go on without uttering a yes so precious to God.

To be completely honest, my agenda does not always have time to fit in God’s agenda.  It’s in this very moment he knocks on the door of my heart and says, “The harvest you are working so hard to achieve is right here. Right now.  In this moment. Will you say yes?”

In this moment, will you be my hands and feet?

He approaches the counter as I approach him.  I link my arm in to his and ask quietly, “Can I take care of your breakfast this morning?”

“No.” He replies, much to my surprise. “But can I sit with you instead?”

“Sure. We’re over there.”

I turn back to explain to my family when the customer behind us catches my arm. With a tear in his eye he said, “Thank you for showing him Christ.”

I never saw it coming. I nodded speechless. My testimony was not to Frank.  It was to the nameless man standing behind us in line.

Who is among your harvest today?

This post is linked up to Suzie Eller’s #LiveFree Thursdays.  Click here to check out an amazing community of diverse writers!

What family means to me

I dip my toes in water cooled by the night air. Goosebumps rise as I silently wish for just a touch of the sweltering heat of the day.

Vacation has begun. Relaxation commencing now.

My husband & son stand at the edge of the pool, arms locked in a stance delicately balanced to toss the other without falling in.  Their rough housing in combination with a large pool crowd dances on frazzled nerves. “Hey guys-“.

Beep. Beep. Beep. The alarm blares like a cicada in it’s glory as other guests begin to shoot looks our way.

Sigh. Team Landrus strikes again. Who knew gate alarms could be so sensitive.

After 20 minutes of glares, stares and confusion by guests late to the party, a frazzled hotel maintenance man deactivates the alarm.

Apparently this hasn’t happened before.

We enjoy the final few minutes in a fully vacated, but quiet, pool before heading up to our room for the night. I check out the breakfast area en-route to the elevator. As I head back, I realize one of my shadows has left a wet footprint trail behind me. I inwardly cringe.  We are so getting kicked outta here.

Our family is a bit like the National Lampoons.  Not Team Clark.  Nope.  We’re Team Eddie all the way. A little loud. A little rambunctious.  A lot passionate. Not at all classy.

When I think of family, functional is not the first word coming to mind. While our kids are raised in a “traditional” home, their roots are far from conventional. Firsthand, they’ve seen love and tolerance take priority over personal opinion. They recognize rough edges but refuse to be tripped up by them. They take words at face value but pay close attention to actions. They live by the example we have set.

Family is a safe place. A niche in their life in which they can find joy in the melancholy. A seat to sit and rest. A corner to receive encouragement.   It’s an inside joke. Animated conversation. An unpaved trail.  A point where passion fuels and wounds find healing.

Family is sometimes a  source of embarrassment and anxiety. The origin of sleepless nights and emotional days. Family is my greatest challenge.  It’s the place I learn to keep trying.  They are the one thing I can not give up.  More than anything, I want to get this right.

Family is an adventure. It is the community in which you grow. Sometimes it’s blood.  Sometimes it’s not. It’s a conversation  picked up after months or years of silence. It’s stories of years gone by.

My family is my legacy. A little messy. A little broken. A lot passionate.

All mine.

 

Today I am linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFree friends!

 

 

 

#LiveFree: God wants to fix my perception

I walk among the blistering streets crowded by thousands in celebration. The sand sticks to my sandals as I think about all God has done for this people and what he is yet to do. I have come for them, but they do not yet know.

They stand in awe as I perform signs right in front of their eyes.  Daily, I prove my place as son of God. Today, they believe what they see however they do not understand.

One day, they will.

Yet I know my purpose.  I know my end. For tomorrow, a seed of doubt will be planted. My authority will be questioned. Honestly, its already been questioned.  The moment I cleared the temple of her evil marketplace activities they began to stew. They call me zealous.

“How can you destroy what has taken 46 years to build?” They ask.

“I can rebuild this temple in just 3 days,” comes my reply.

They don’t understand.  But they will. In the meantime, I do not entrust myself to them. I am not cynical or bitter.  I just know mankind.  I know what lives in each person.

And one day, I will save them all. They merely need to come to me. Accept me.  Fix their eyes upon me. Not upon what they see but upon me.

You see, as a human, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion of what is happening in the moment. But life will invade and my people will forget my promise of life and life in abundance. The way they choose to spend their resources, efforts and energy will reveal their true heart condition. They say one thing with their mouth but their actions reflect the belief of their hearts.

Walking with me is meditated, not mundane.  It’s unnatural. It requires intentional daily focus. It requires going even without understanding.

I didn’t come to earth for riches and authority. I’m here to guarantee a place in heaven for my people. But they do not know me. I’m here to heal the sick and the broken. I’m here to encourage the lonely.  I’m searching for the lost so they may be found.

Each day, I am teaching my disciples to do the same. The future of the church will lay in their hands one day.

I spend each morning with God in prayer. He gives me purpose for my day. His voice resonates the noise, redirects my attention and refocuses me for the day ahead. He lays my plan before me and as an obedient son, I go where he leads. Each day is an adventure.

Soon, my people will have this same direct access to God through my name. I hope they choose to use it. What a gift to have a direct line with their creator.  When my people seek me, not just with their eyes but with their whole heart, I will reveal myself to them.

Choosing my name will bring rejection and pain. Choosing my purpose will bring confusion & chaos.

My name will tear families apart.

Choosing my name is not easy yet I can empathize for I am walking this road before them. I too will fight temptation.  I too will be scorned & rejected. But I will beat all that is dark. I will defeat death on it’s home turf and I will rise to my position of authority in heaven.

All for those who believe in the power of my name.

I will leave an advocate behind. A helpmate. The same mighty power that will raise me from the dead. This power will be made perfect in their weakness. They merely need to call upon it.

My believers will never be alone. The Holy Spirit will reside in them. They must live in a way that breathes life into the Spirit I will give them.

And when I am gone, my people will be on the lookout for my return. They will be hard at work building up the kingdom I have entrusted them on this earth.

In my absence, I will be preparing a place for them. A place free from sin and darkness. When I return, I will defeat the king of earth once and for all. I will take my place as prince and my people will live in peace.

What a celebration that will be.

Today, my people celebrate what is old but a new thing is coming. May their hearts be prepared to receive life over laws of old.

 

I am linking up with Suzie Eller’s #LiveFree linkup. This week’s theme: “God wants to fix my _____”. To read more on this theme, or to link up, visit Suzie’s site.