Painting My Thoughts

A few weekends back, my husband and I repaired a hole in our wall. Our son helped with the drywall, but Mike and I sanded and painted. While we had the paint out, we decided to touch up some spots that were in need of some love. A little paint here, and a little paint there, spruced up the dull and made it fresh. But before we added the paint, we had to dust the dirt from the surface. Dog hair and dust made a gritty surface. Simply putting a fresh coat of paint over the dirt, wouldn’t work.

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As we were scrubbing, it occurred to me that God is touching up me too. He is preparing my mind for new thoughts. My negative thoughts are ingrained in me. I need to intentionally scrub out the negative in order to freshly absorb the thoughts of God. This is a battle I’ve entered into.

My endeavor into Brave Living is this process. Trusting God, honestly choosing to believe His words over mine, is not a natural course for me. It is a flawed process that God lovingly embraces with grace and mercy. Each step, from writing when I don’t feel like it, to vulnerably sharing my words on my podcast and blog, strengthen and embolden me to live the brave life God has destined for me.

Thankfully, God is patient with me. I mess up and fall a lot! But God doesn’t count my flops, He relishes in my courage to try.

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zech 4:10 NLT).

Small steps don’t upset God. When I stay true to Him, even in my smallest steps, He blesses me. My job is to obey. His job is to transform. I will mediate on His words taking my thoughts captive and replacing the filth with the truth. Thought by thought, day by day, God is helping me re-wallpaper my mind.

A Million Little Ways

We all have strengths and weaknesses. God uses both. He comes out of us in both our strengths and our weaknesses. We all fall and make mistakes. Those do not define us. Only God defines us. Only God can make something out of nothing.

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All we can do is give our something — even when it is essentially nothing — and God will use it to transform, impact, and change others. The outcome isn’t ours to control. All we can do is give. It is in our giving with willing, brave hearts, that God blesses, uses, and transforms others.

In a million little ways, as Emily P. Freeman points out, God is producing miracle after miracle. Do we see it? Do we recognize his work every day? We live in a broken world, but God is here. He is the hovering spirit of hope. He gives us the hand to hold onto. He has the power to pull us from the muck and set our feet on solid rock.

But we must trust. Even a small mustard seed of trust. That is all he needs to move mountains. Will I give that small mustard seed of trust and let time and circumstances fall as they may? Even when I don’t see him, will I trust He is there moving still? Lord, with the smallest mustard seed of faith, I give it to you. Let my little, almost nothing, be your transforming power. Let it be a difference to someone.

Sifting For Gold

Our stories pave a path of freedom for others. But sharing our stories is scary. It takes vulnerability to release them into the world. It is a process of trust. Trust doesn’t come easy. It doesn’t come without trial. There is doubt and self-talk that interrupts trust. It takes intentional effort to keep it out. But the process is worth it.

We trust a big God; a good God. Yet our good God allows bad things to happen: very bad things—Parkland shooting type of bad things. I don’t pretend to have answers to the bad. It is easy to say everything happens for a reason. But that simply isn’t true. There is no conceivable reason why 17 innocent lives were taken on February 14, 2018. There is no reason gun violence has stripped people of their lives in Chicago in the thousands.

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I do not understand the why behind God allowing this to happen. I’m not a theologian, but I doubt even the theologian could come up with a plausible explanation. But I still choose to trust God. Why?

In John 8:58, Jesus claims he knows Abraham. The leaders sarcastically mock him saying, “You are not even 50 years old – and you have seen Abraham?” And Jesus responds, “I am telling you the truth. Before Abraham was born, I Am.”

God is the I AM. He is the before and after. He is the beginning and end. He is the why. We can grapple with it. We can dislike it. We can doubt it. But ultimately, the why is not ours to handle. God is in control of the why – not us.

Trusting God, like Bethany Anderson said on my podcast recently, is like panning for gold. When we trust God, He will sift and shake the unnecessary particles out of our life. This filtering process is not comfortable. It isn’t meant to be.

God knit our DNA spirals for a reason. We each have a story and we each have the ability to act and make a difference in this world. Will we trust enough to step into our calling and act? Will we be brave enough to push into the sifting to find the gold that is hidden?

These are bold questions for a very shaky actor. But I know God has a purpose for me and for you. It is up to us to trust and step out of our comfort zone and believe it.

The Muscle of Trust

Even while I sit alone, angst tied up in my stomach; I know I’m not alone. Fear is a bitter friend – teasing he cares while quietly devising to destroy. But Love says trust. Trust even when you don’t see. Trust that I am working all things together for good.

Trusting is hard muscle work. It requires effort that goes beyond getting up and moving. It is more effort than lifting the weights, holding the plank, or running the mile. Trust is a quiet strength built over time. It is intangible, but hearty when reached. It escapes the tyranny of uncertainty and revels in the hope of the unknown. It builds endurance, perseverance, and character. It is not easy

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Two steps forward one step back. Why this? Why so long? Applications sent, letters followed up, degrees attained, experience built … is it all for nothing? The clock ticks forward while my life slips backward. Do you ever feel this way?

Yet, even here in this place, trust quietly nudges: smile even in the dark – there is light ahead. But I see none. How can this situation turn around? Will it? What if it never does?

Then I’m reminded: look back. Did I leave you alone then? Remember you felt alone then too. You didn’t see anyway out. Did that pass? Do you hold that time with the sorrow and loss you did then? Can you see the good? Did you grow?

At 47, He’s growing me still. My teens are growing into adulthood and with naivety they think they know so much. They have it figured out. Never will they ever do things the way we did. Never will they ever… and I remember my younger self. Filled with hope, expectation, and knowledge. I would succeed because I was determined. Never would I ever stay home and parent my kids. Never would I ever be nearing 50 without success in my rear view mirror. Never would I ever be nearly 50 still filling out time sheets and getting paid by the hour with no benefits to boot. This? After work, a Masters degree, experience, grasping knowledge and applying it, raising kids… this? Me? My life?

God’s ways are not my ways. Yet I try really hard to shove him into my way. If He did things the way I wanted, it would be so much easier! Things would have worked out quicker. I’m certain of it!

But where I see my immediate benefit, I lack the ability to see the benefit that my path may have on another; a person I may never know. Anne Lamott has no clue who I am, but her words cause tears and trembling at the gut punch of accuracy she speaks. Beth Moore has no idea I exist, and yet she is a model to me of learning, growing, and fully learning to believe God. Lysa Terkeurst speaks directly to my insecurities and hurts, yet she has never heard my name. But God knows my name. And God uses these women to touch me. I bet they touch you too.

That is God’s way: it is something so far grander than our way. It is too large for us to get. We simply have to trust.  Trust is the muscle I’m working on building. It is in trust that I release, relax, smile, and go … even when it’s hard; even when it’s not going the way I want. Trust is my hope. Hold on … it’s not over yet. I’m still unfinished.

God’s Poem

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (King James Ephesians 2:10).

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In Ephesians we are told we are God’s workmanship. The word workmanship originates from the word, poiema: of the works of God as creator. The concept of poiema – God’s living, breathing poem, invigorates me! My life is His poem written and expressed. We are each a unique poem that God is using to reflect Himself in our weary world. We are the image bearers; the light givers— we reflect the God of the universe. We do so when we live our lives as the poem God designed.

But wait a minute! Doesn’t this feel like a trick in a way? How do I know what poem my life is to reflect? My life does not feel like art. It does not feel like a reflection of God’s image. But it is. Our inner woven beings are designed to reflect Him in a unique way: a quirky twist that ignites and inspires others in a way no one else can.

But what if you’re not living up to the expectations of this poem he has designed? I think the better question to ask is, what if you can’t help to live out the poem? What if, even in the midst of sin and brokenness, you exude, like an odor you can’t control, the remnants of the poem living inside you? When you speak, little elements slip out, unbeknownst to you that point to your poem. What if your messy life is the exact way God uses to release the masterpiece within?

God is inside the mess of our life. We are crafted with unique spins and stories and elements. Each of us woven together to create the masterpiece of the grandest creator of all. The creator God. The creative genius that thought it all up: The plants, the trees, the planets, the animals, the oceans, the sunsets … the people each with unique spins of the story. The loftiness of this is too much! I drop to my knees in adoration and awe! God you are marvelous and wonderful. Your works display the grandeur of you. Your glory is on display everyday. Thank you Lord Jesus!!

Shamelessly Bold

Ask and it will be given; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened: Gods promise to me. But am I shamelessly bold in believing God at his word? This is difficult for me: trusting that God will really show up when I need him. Yet time and again, He shows up. Just as he says he will.

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This week I’ve made a decision to actively work on my goals for my podcast and for my blog. I’ve listed several areas of my life where I want to see change. I’ve pondered and thought how my words can help others. I want to be a conduit of Jesus to others – but how?

As I drink my coffee this morning, this question stirs in my soul. I want to believe that God will show up and guide me on my path. But so often, I say I believe, but feel I must take control in order to really achieve my desire. So when I am unsure, or when I have set a goal that seems beyond my control, I get scared.

After praying and thinking about direction for my podcast, one of the goals I set was to find accountability. But I honestly didn’t know how to find it. I don’t personally know anyone who podcasts, so how would I find this? I joined Hope Writers, a company dedicated to building up writers and communicators, but as of yet, I have not actively engaged in their offerings. In my heart, I knew I could seek my answer there, but the courage to  step out in vulnerability and ask for accountability is a tough sell. So I gave myself two weeks to reach this goal.

But this morning, God showed up! As I opened Facebook there was a post from a woman in Hope Writers who asked if any podcasters would like to join a Voxer to communicate with each other. Wow! What others may blow off as coincidence, I knew was God answering a prayer. I boldly embraced my challenge, gearing up to take that next step, and God did it for me! I quickly responded to the invite and I’m looking forward to getting advice and wisdom from others. This so-called coincidence is such a reminder to me that He loves us so much!

“What Father among you, if his son (or daughter) asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:11-12).

God is the good father. He gives us our needs and wants. He knows our wishes and desires before a single word falls from our lips. He is a good father and wants to give us good gifts. Do we believe that? I easily say with my mouth, ‘yes I believe.’ Yet in my heart, I wonder how I can control the situation in order to truly get what I want. Then mornings like today occur. God shows up, answers the need I have, and I fall to my knees with tears in my eyes – oh how he loves us! Oh how He loves us!!

The Battle

For all my followers, thank you. This brave living project has been a step of personal maturity and growth for me. The last few months I’ve been in a funk. I’ve tossed from depression to blah back to depression. As such, I haven’t posted anything and I haven’t created a new podcast.

For a while I had interviews scheduled and plans made. Then…. nothing. This made me feel lost and forgotten. But I also wasn’t actively pursuing interviews. I just sat still and hoped something would happen. Progress doesn’t occur through passive sitting. Even trying and failing is more progress than just sitting and waiting.

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I’m struggling with direction for my podcast. I’m trying to clarify my goals. How do stories impact me and why do I want to share them? My reasoning is two-fold: First, stories give us insight into our own problems. We have universal responses, concerns, and problems. We often feel like we are the only ones dealing with a specific issue. And at least for me, I feel like I’m doing it all wrong. When I hear others talk about confronting a battle,  engaging in a fight, or relishing the joy of a present life circumstance, I grow and I learn. Even when the situation is not something I’m dealing with, I can gain insight from almost every story I hear. I just have to tune my ear to how God is using that person’s story to help me in my present situation.

My second reasoning for story is to give people, especially women, a place to share their personal struggle, or accomplishment. I think too often we neglect the accomplishment and don’t notice the magnitude of our relevance in this life. When we share our story we are empowered to see the significance of our unique spin. When we interact with others and embrace our vulnerabilities, we grow. God created us to be in community. Fear, guilt, and the plots of the devil make us feel unable to share our story with others. As such we isolate and pull back from the help God has provided. I want my podcast to be an opportunity for everyday women to share their life. I want them to see the relevance of their story.

I so believe in the power of story that I want to share it to the world. This is my point in my podcast. When I accept that perfection is not reality, I can lean on God in my weakness and trust in the calling he has placed over my life. I’m still figuring out all the steps along that path, but I will hold to his promise that we all have a purpose and a calling. That means me too.