Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Designed to create

You won't see many blog posts out there on exhaustion from a first person perspective. Why? Because exhaustion sucks the creativity right out of the person who is dealing with it. It sucks the energy out of us too.

I haven't written because that's where I was. I'm out of it now and can write again. So, what happened? Was I doing more? Was I not taking care of myself? Was I just lazy?

I've learned a lot about myself in the last couple months and it has been an adventure. Looking back, I realized that it wasn't just the amount of stuff I was doing that caused the exhaustion. It was the type of stuff I was doing.

My business was good, but stagnant. The volunteer work I once loved had turned from creating light shows and scenes that set the tone of a church service to scheduling people and being in charge of processes. Lots of stuff like that. Boring.

I hired a business coach to try to figure out why I was burnt out and to get help. Actually, it was our first meeting, before I even hired her, that she showed me that I was designed to create... not manage. I suddenly felt free to explore other ideas for the first time ever... because I was doing what God designed me to do.

I had been going to live music shows and posting about them so other people could find them too... but I had been viewing it as a hobby I probably shouldn't take seriously. When I realized that I had confined myself to the boredom and burnout I had been dealing with, I decided to pursue something new... something that breathed new life into me.

Suddenly, it was a business. In 6 weeks I had over 500 followers (growing every day) and local bands and venues are working with me to get their shows promoted. Three months ago I was still too scared to walk into a music venue or a bar by myself. In fact, it was just about 3 months ago that some friends were late for karaoke and I sat in the car for 20 minutes until I was sure they were inside before even getting out of my car.

Two weekends ago I saw seven bands in seven venues in two nights, but kept to myself... not letting anyone know who I am. This weekend I saw 6 different bands and walked up and introduced myself between sets. People who know me, look at me and are amazed at the differences they see.

I've never lived outside of my comfort zone so consistently or so deliberately before. 

Some may see that and think, but what does that have to do with grace? Isn't this a blog about how God's grace changed your life? 

Yes, yes it is. 

And because I'm no longer living in fear of making the wrong choice or making God angry... I know who I am, who He created me to be. The world can put all the expectations on me they want. It doesn't bother me. I can focus on the thing He created me to do. CREATE. 

I've never felt more like I was made in His image than at this moment in my life.

Grace did that for me.



God created mankind in his own image. 
Gen 1:27

By grace you have been saved through faith.
Ephesian 2:8

I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, 
and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
Hebrews 8:10b

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cool Enough


I once told a guy I was dating
we were only still together
because he hadn't figured out
he was too cool for me yet.
It turns out I was wrong.
I'm way cooler than I thought.
And don't tell me it isn't cool
to say cool anymore.
If it isn't,
I'll just bring it back.
I'm cool enough to do that.

-Me

More than enough

Last week I laughingly told a couple of friends about a thought that had come to me, "I am the main character in every cheesy movie about a 55-year-old-plus divorcee or widow who went out to find herself...."

I've gained a deeper understanding of my faith. Dated a couple of wildly opposite guys. Figured out I can be happy and single at the same time. Changed my hair. Lost some weight. Started working out again. Traveled. Went paragliding. Found a love of live music. Started a really fun new hobby. And I even went to a paint night regardless of the fact that I can't draw a straight line with a ruler. The change has been gradual, and isn't finished... but I'm so much more confident in myself than I've ever been.

I laughed when I shared it,"All that is left is for me to accept being single for the rest of my life and find a retirement home that will let me move in and paint sunflowers all day."

It was mostly a joke. I wasn't retiring or painting or giving up on what I want for my future. I just thought it was funny. Mostly. But not completely. I didn't exactly like identifying with women 20+ years my age... even if they were just movie characters.

It's funny how one comment can change your mindset. One friend surprised me by saying, "Well, you're way ahead. I was much older before I had that kind of confidence."

Wait. What?

My perspective of my "main character" status changed instantly. I'm not old before my time. I've been blessed with wisdom and confidence that many woman struggle to receive. I'm not ready to retire. I'm ready to live.

I went to an amazing conference this weekend with 24,000 women from around the world. If I had gone last year, I would have sat in my seat and waited patiently for sessions to begin. I probably wouldn't have wandered around offering to take group pictures of women with their cell phones. I definitely wouldn't have had the nerve to take selfies with their phones in the process! (I hope finding those pictures of me made them laugh!)

In previous years I would have enjoyed praise and worship with Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith, and Cece Winans from my seat. This year I joined the pre-session dance party on Friday and then decided to join the women who were praising from right in front of the stage. It was a completely different worship experience. And guess what else... nobody thought I didn't belong up there with them.

A few months ago I was afraid to go to a bar alone, even to meet friends for karaoke or see a band. I couldn't bring myself walk up to order at a crowded bar, knowing people would know I didn't belong there. The anxiety I felt over these things was ridiculous.

I've gone to different places to see live bands several times now, and nobody has ever even given me a sideways look... much less questioned my right to be there. I've quickly come to realize that the thing that was most holding me back... was me.

All of those times I was afraid to step out because of what someone might think, I was telling myself that I wasn't good enough. I wasn't smart enough, cool enough, funny enough, pretty enough, didn't have enough rhythm... didn't have whatever it was that I thought others had. I wasn't enough.

Here's what I've had to ask myself: Who am I to think I'm not enough, when Someone already told me I am? God knows what I can do... so why should anyone else's opinion matter?

How about you? What situations do you find yourself in that you slowly back away from because you know you aren't enough to be there? Where do you not bother to give your input? How often do you see someone doing something and think, "That looks fun. I wish I could do that!"

Who are you to think you are not enough, when God already told you that you are?  

In Jeremiah 1:5, God told Jeremiah, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations."

God's words to Jeremiah tell us that God knew we were enough before we were even born. The things we perceive about ourselves have nothing to do with our ability to carry out the plans God has for us. Keep reading Jeremiah and apply what God tells him to your life. You'll see that even when you don't have confidence in you, God does.

God created you to do those good things you are afraid to do, but He won't make you do them. It's the enemy that feeds you the lies that make you shrink back and give up those things you were destined to do. Talk to that stranger. Write that book. Sing that song. Start that company. Volunteer for that position. Hug that person who looks sad. Speak up for that person who needs someone to have their back. Take some time to take care of yourself.

You'll still end up in Heaven if you don't ever learn this... but you'll enjoy your time on Earth a heck of a lot more if you do.

You are more than enough. 
You are awesome. 
You were created for this!  

Friday, September 8, 2017

Only a test

If you want to date me,
and we've talked much at all,
I've probably asked you a lot
about your interests and activities
because I want to get to know you better.
Not too long in I will send you a link
to something I wrote that I'm proud of.
It will take less than 5 minutes to read.
You don't have to love it.
You just have to read it.
This is a test...
It is only a test.

When I wrote just a month ago about a new relationship that I was really hoping would work out, I was already seeing signs it might not. That was one of them that followed soon after. I sent a link to a post that was important to me, and I explained why. He still didn't read it. It wasn't the problem, just a symptom.

I mentioned that I was worried about turning my fear of failure into a self-fulfilling prophesy. It turns out, sometimes people are just complicated and don't know how to communicate well. That's okay. I made a lot of new friends during that couple of months and that is what I'm choosing to focus on.

Right after I told him it wasn't working out, I participated in a motivational conference as a vendor. One of the speakers there said,
"You have to surround yourself with good people. 
Someone can be good, but not good for you.
You will be too much for some people... Those aren't your people."
-Ingrid Beyhl

It turns out, I am too much for some people. For the right one, I won't be. I'd rather wait a little longer for him than keep trying to make things work with someone who isn't all in. Life is too short for that.

Thankfully, in the process this last time, I met a lot of other good people. <3

I told someone else this last week that with the exception of that fact that I can't seem to find a man who isn't a jerk, doesn't need rescued, or isn't some combination of the two... my life is pretty great right now. I'm pretty happy with how things are going. My bills are paid and work is flowing well. I need to find more time to write, but I'm working on that too. Most importantly, I know who I am. I may forget sometimes, but only for a moment. Then I remind myself, dust myself off, and keep going...

I'll be sharing my previous post as a speech at my next Toastmasters' meeting. I'm really looking forward to it! If you aren't familiar with Toastmasters, feel free to ask! It a great thing to be involved with!

I don't have anything life-changing or ultra-encouraging to share this time, but sometimes a post like this gets things out and opens the floodgates for something more meaningful. Sometimes I write things like this that I think nobody will get anything from and I hear later how much it touched someone in an unexpected way. 

One of the ways I remind myself who I am, is by reading this to myself... also, I have this new shirt I love that says FEARLESS on it... definitely working on being that more often. 


Monday, August 7, 2017

Not a command, a promise

She stood in one place staring at the ground, 
wishing her glare alone would be enough 
to make a hole open up and swallow her. 
At that moment, she knew death was certain anyway. 
It wasn't death she was trying to avoid. 
It was the public humiliation.

The men holding her called out for the religious teacher
as if they actually cared about what she had done or his opinion.
"Teacher, this woman has been caught..."
She knew she was being made a example of
for some other purpose. It didn't matter.
"in the act of adultery."
Too humiliated to even cry,
She could feel her soul crumbling within her.

"The Law of Moses commanded us to stone such women..." 
Such women, the words sunk in. 
They might as well have called her garbage.
Even if they had let her live, she would be an outcast,
considered good for only one thing.
She was broken, and ready to die.
"So what do you say?" 

She waited an eternity for his answer.
At one point, she raised her gaze just a bit
half expecting to see a stone hurtling towards her.
Instead, she saw the teacher bent towards the ground,
writing in the dirt with his fingers
as they continued to badger him for an answer.

When he finally spoke, his voice rocked her to her core.
"Let him who is without sin among you 
be the first to throw a stone at her." 
and at that moment, she felt the faintest strain of hope.

The teacher continued to write in the dirt
as confusion swirled within her. 
What was he saying? It made no sense. 
She knew she had done wrong,
she knew the punishment that was coming.
she knew she deserved it.

But the men holding her there, began letting go.
They started walking away... one at a time.

She was still watching him write in the dirt
when he suddenly looked up and caught her gaze.
Without breaking eye contact, he stood up.

"Woman, where are they?
Has no one condemned you?" 

"No one, Lord." 

And Jesus said, 
          "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." 

~John 8:3-11 



Those last five words always stuck in my throat.

"Go and sin no more."

Many hear those words as a commandment. Sure you are forgiven, but God still expects you to work hard to keep up your end of the bargain, right?

That's what I believed.

I had heard it preached so many times... and I just knew I couldn't do it. So I didn't. Every time I did something I knew was wrong, the guilt/shame spiral that followed led me right back to the thing that I knew was hurting me. But I also knew I deserved it. I was shackling myself to those hurtful things, letting them define me and who I was.

The day that Jesus broke those chains for me by showing me how much He loved me, without any conditions or caveats on my behavior, was the best day of my life. That's why I identify with this story. I was never an adulteress by conventional standards, but lust, envy, pride, and more definitely had a hold on me... and I was never truly free until I found out that He didn't condemn me for those things. 

I believe the woman above felt the words the same way Jesus meant them for all of us on that day. "I don't condemn you for being human. I don't look down on you for not being perfect. I am not mad at you for what you've done. I love you. And because of that, I know you can do better."

And hearing those words, she straightened her shoulders and started the walk towards home. Not as a woman full of shame who would be doomed to repeat her mistakes because she called herself by the title those men had given her, but as someone who had a newfound freedom, knowing that nobody condemned her.

You see, "Go and sin no more" is too often taught as a command from God for excellence, when it's really meant as a statement of our freedom in Christ. When we know who we are, and what He thinks of us, it gives us the power and motivation to overcome those labels we used to put on ourselves, the ones that became chains that bound us.

Abusers, addicts, and adulterers alike can find freedom when they understand that Jesus doesn't condemn them for their struggle. I know I did. And it's not, as some people claim, the freedom to continue to sin as much as we want. It's the freedom to walk away from those things, knowing we are no longer defined by them. And, if we falter along the way, the freedom to get back up, dust ourselves off, and walk with our head still held high... because none of it changes who we are in Christ or what God sees when He looks at us.


So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.
~Romans 8:1


So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
~John 8:36

Catching up

I've been at a stand-still when it comes to writing lately. There have been a lot of big changes in my life. I just never know where to start, so I decided to try with a quick recap...

Over the last couple of months one relationship ended, or changed tracks really. He is an amazing person, and I hope we'll always be friends. I look forward to seeing where he lets God take him in the future.

I went on two trips out of state, both fantastic for their own reasons. In Nashville, the girls and I fed and ministered to the homeless, both on our own and with the help of a homeless ministry there. It was a wonderful couple of days. Then, in California, I enjoyed time with my brother, saw a couple of plays (one he was in), spent time on the beach, and pushed through a huge fear to have an awe-inspiring experience.

Another relationship began. And, while I'm excited to see what happens with this great guy, I'm constantly vacillating between, taking it one day at a time... and trying not to make the thought, "this guy is absolutely going to break my heart" a self-fulfilling prophesy. I might be worse at this relationship thing than I thought.

It's not unusual for me to have a handful of unfinished blog posts at any one time, but I think I have record number right now. All of those things above are blog worthy. I just haven't known where to start. So I guess this is it. 

Some days I wonder if writing is really my calling or not. I start to think that maybe I'm not supposed to be in ministry in any big way... just the smaller ways that God works through me in daily life. But then I remember how I told Him that if He gave me a story, I wouldn't stop sharing it... and frankly, the story just keeps getting better and better. 

I know better than to think I would be happy not writing. I know better than to think I would be happy letting my story quietly fade away. I know better than to think I'll ever be happy if I'm not making a difference with someone, somewhere... 

Being open and honest about my life in the hopes that it helps other people is scary sometimes. But when I think about it... so is the alternative.

If I'm not doing the things I was created to do, being the person I know I am, then what am I really doing at all? 


For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord. 
Psalms 40:2-3

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Thirty years

For thirty years I believed 
saying a prayer when I was five 
only meant I was going to Heaven someday. 

For thirty years I believed
God sent Adam and Eve out of the Garden
because He was angry with them.

For thirty years I believed 
if I didn't act right, 
God would punish me too.

For thirty years I believed
if I didn't forgive others
God wouldn't forgive me.

For thirty years I believed 
if I followed the Bible as a rule book for Christians,
God would believe I loved Him. 

For thirty years I believed 
if I did what He said, 
God might answer some of my prayers. 

Thirty years is a long time 
to be bound by something 
that was meant to set me free.

Thirty years is a long time to believe lies.

I don't believe anyone intentionally lied to me. There are lots of reasons I didn't understand the truth. But to find out I spent thirty years bound by something that was supposed to bring me freedom is crazy!

In the last two years I've learned more about what I stepped into when I prayed that prayer at five than in all my previous thirty years combined. 

The funny thing about discovering the freedom I have in Christ is the realization that I've always had it. Jesus unlocked the prison doors a long time ago... but I had to walk out... and until recently, I didn't know how... or what was waiting for me outside of the prison.  

We hear these verses all the time, but if we don't really understand what Jesus did at the cross, we can't really understand what they mean for us.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. 
Romans 8:11

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will 
do the same works I have done, and even greater works, 
John 14:12

If I had really understood those verses, if hadn't just said them all the time without thinking about what they really mean, if I had really known what I had by the Grace of God... how would my life have been different?

I could think about that for days, but the truth is this: what really matters is what is happening right now. What am I doing TODAY with the freedom and power I've been given? That's what is important.

Today I'm finally living the life God planned for me. I don't necessarily mean He planned out each step and decision along my way... I mean I am living without fear. I have all of my needs met through Him and I'm excited about letting others know they can have it too. 

God is not mad at you, not even a little bit. You are perfect. You are redeemed. You are holy. You are the light of the world. You are a work of divine craftsmanship. You are healed. You are prosperous. You are the righteousness of God. You are loved more than you could ever imagine. You are free.

I know because I am too.

So if the Son sets you free, you are free indeed.
John 8:36

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17