Testimony Tuesday: Memoirs of a Military Wife

“If something happens to me, I want you to move on.”

As Veteran’s Day is on the horizon, I think of this conversation with a smile.

I was on my hands and knees, cleaning out the bedroom closet.  My kids were 8, 5, and 9 months old.  I hadn’t slept in months.  My baby was on a two- hour sleep/eat rotation, adapted from conception, and I hadn’t fully combed my hair in months.

We were drowning in debt. I knew the collection callers by first name. I couldn’t rob Peter to pay Paul because Paul was broke.  I think he had a collection agency too.

My son was slated to start kindergarten this fall.  Shortly after, I would see my husband off to war.

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If you’re in, be all in

Can I just be utterly transparent?

This year has been tough for me.

Personally

Professionally

Prayerfully

AND, it would be a lie if I said I’ve conducted myself as mature Christian woman.  Since it’s just us, I feel safe in telling you that I cringe every time I hear the “Glow in the dark” song by Jason Gray.  You know, this one:

http://https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jb1TTADzf9Y

Did it have to go viral now?

It’s like God’s saying, “Suck it up buttercup. It’s time for your game face.”

Game face.

  Ugh.

I’ll show you my game face.

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Here’s the thing.  The emotions I have experienced in this season are like navigating a fun house.  The likeness is distorted.  Shimmers of truth gnarled with fiction. I concentrate on the anamorphic images hoping something straightforward will emerge.

I come up empty every time.

So instead, I look for escape.  I don’t like it here.  Just show me the exit and I will be on my way, thank you very much.

But in this place where nothing makes sense, an exit does not appear.

In its place, a challenge.

Can you be all in?

Can you stop, for just a moment, to look for the reason you’re here?

Can you see the mission behind the madness?

Here’s what I know.

God wants his people all in.  All the time.  No exceptions to the rule.

Even when it doesn’t make sense.

Even when you feel alone.

Even when you’re sure he’s forgotten.

I, on the other hand, don’t always want to be all in.  It’s got to be my idea.

Here’s the thing about being all in.  The escape hatch closes. My focus shifts. I lay aside my two companions, compromise and conflict. I fix my eyes on God and step even when the path is chaotic and jumbled. I stop relying on emotions and instead, rely on the wisdom and discernment deeply rooted within me. The voice of doubt becomes silenced.  Courage and confidence squelch fear.

And when I feel I am about to quit, I am reminded that strength is best built in moments of impossibility.

In this moment of honesty, I can affirmatively say God will change me even when I can’t change my attitude. God can overcome my emotions and he can certainly take charge of the circumstance.

I just need to choose to stay all in, even when all out would feel much more comfortable.

Heaven only knows where this season of growth will take me.  All I can say is, “God, I’m all in.”

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.

Five Minute Friday: Trust

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.

Have you ever had one of those weeks?

Months?

Years?

The past ten days of my life have contained more turns than the tilt a whirl at the fair. And trying to figure out how to react, or even more, how to fit leaves me feeling a bit discombobulated and very out of control.

I’m aware of issues needing correction.  I’m even more aware we seem to be taking the wrong path.

Will we turn around before the dead end?

God promises that his thoughts are not my thoughts nor his ways my ways.  But really, would it be too much for you to hurry up? The longer you wait, the bigger the mess becomes. And, I don’t even begin to understand the role I am to play.

You command me to trust in you with all my heart. Lord, help me.

You command me to lean on your understanding. Lord, help me.

You promise to make my paths straight.  Can you get to work on that?

My level of trust in God is a clear measurement of my faith.  Lord, I am found lacking.  Yet, you say mountains can be move with the faith of a mustard seeds.

I implore you, Lord.  Move my mountains.

 

This post is linking up with Kate Moutaung’s five minute Friday.  It is a five minute free write based on a prompt. No edit’s. No revisions.  To see more like this, or to link up, click here.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Whose story are you sharing?

I clasp the microphone as I catch a glimpse of the Star Wars band-aid on my thumb.  A deep breath calms the butterflies in my stomach as I scan the room.

I’ve given this speech hundreds of times.  But today is different.

Today, the man who built my company is sitting in the room.

He’s retired now, but 17 years ago he saw a vision for a low-income assisted living program and invested his time, money and energy into building an industry leading company.

Today, I get to talk about his vision while he sits idly among the crowd.

It doesn’t seem right.

I took this job, not necessarily as a career, but as a means to make ends meet.

An opportunity for advancement.

However, I fell in love with the industry.  I love placing low-income seniors into safe and beautiful surroundings, but I also love the fact that I can go home of an evening and spend most of my weekends at my leisure.

He built a company.  I receive the privilege to represent it.

But in his presence, do the words I speak even matter?

As a marketing representative, I spend time learning the industry.  The rules and regulations.  I study our competition and create ways to promote our strengths. I invest sweat, tears and sleepless nights into building a platform for our community.

Most importantly, I craft the fine art of telling our story.

Because there is power in a story.

But even more powerful than telling a story is living a story.  Telling the story you are living is far more powerful to the listener than sharing the experiences of another.

Which leaves me to question.  Am I telling my story? Or am I telling his?

Think about this carefully in terms of faith.

The stories are very similar.  We stand for the same cause, purpose and goal. But merely telling his story is a simple restatement of facts, not a living breathing  demonstration of a life affected and changed.

So today, are you telling your story, or his?

Telling my story through the power of my savior means I have surrendered my brokenness and traded my shame for healing happening at a heart level intensity. I have chosen to believe his promise that I can walk with courage and confidence in a savior who witnessed the disorder of my heart said “I’ll take your place. Just believe I am the only one powerful enough to take this all away.”

Life change transforms into an adventure.

Handcrafted testimonies are authored while comfort zones are challenged.

Seeds are sown into the circles we influence while  patiently we wait for a harvest we don’t labor to produce.

I push intimidation backstage as I begin to speak with hard-won authority and confidence. I’m honored to share space with a man who gave me this opportunity but I won’t let his presence affect the speech I am about to share. Deep down I know he authored a story nowhere close to completion.

I am merely a character, chosen in a time such as this, building on to a legacy.

So today, with a Star Wars band-aid on my thumb and butterflies in my belly, I will tell my story. And by authentically sharing my story, I too am sharing his.

 

 

 

Five Minute Friday: Doubt

This post is part of Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday Linkup.  Each week, a prompt is given in which you have five minutes to write- unedited.  For more like this, or to linkup, click here.

Doubt.

It starts as a tiny seed.  A needle prick to my conscience. It causes me to stop and question everything.

My character.

My judgement.

My ability.

My influence.

It is a voice so still and quiet yet it stops me in my tracks. Stirs anxiety and incites fear. It causes me to miss victories, monumental and small as I am so focused on wrong versus right.

It is the emotion causing me to stop and evaluate circumstances for clear perspective yet it is the source of my greatest insecurities.

It is the greatest reason I choose cowardice over courage.

Yet when I doubt, I know this: “God has not given me a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, love and a strong mind.”

For me, this reason is enough to continue moving forward, even in times of doubt.

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!