Own Your Gifts

latestThank you, Sir. I think I can be brave enough. — Lucy
I’m sure you could. Battles are ugly affairs… These are tools, not toys. Bear them well and wisely. — Father Christmas
(quotes from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe)

Much like the young children from the beloved C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series, we’ve all been granted gifts to use in pursuing our callings. But the more I think on it, the more I’m convinced we all-too-often overlook the reason behind it all. It’s not so much a calling we yearn for; it’s a sense of purpose. And until we have it, we remain restless despite our callings.

According to Google definition:
A calling is a strong urge toward a particular way of life or career; a vocation.
A purpose is the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

To have a calling without a purpose leaves me incomplete. I might have a bent toward a certain way of life or career, but without a reason for choosing that particular path, I’ll remain aimless in accomplishing anything of worth. I am a wife, daughter, friend, mother, writer, intercessor… these are all callings on my life. But my callings are not interchangeable with my purpose; they are merely vehicles to achieving that purpose which is larger than all of those identities combined.

Despite the seasons of my life, my purpose remains consistent: to love God and to love others as myself. But how that looks morphs and changes throughout the years and is dependent upon my roles being played out in the lives of others. To one, I am wife. To some, I am mother. To others, I am friend…

As I live to fulfill my purpose each day, I must ask myself a few pertinent questions:
How do I best show love to my husband?
What does it look like to honor God while encouraging my family?
How do I support my friends as I urge them to remember God’s faithfulness through the trials of this life?
How do I impact a lost and hurting world?

In short, how do I fling my arms about my Savior and humanity at the same time?

The answer?

Be brave enough to be here now.

Stop and linger long as you intentionally make time for relationships. With God and with His people.
Set goals for the future, yes, but live in the moments that are.

When we choose to linger with God, we cannot help but be saturated with His Spirit. And when we are filled with His Spirit, we have eyes to see and ears to hear and hands prepared to move and to act and to serve in obedience, wherever we are. Right here in this moment of everyday life we are living.

The Spirit of God has dreams for you, friend, and they come with gifts to equip you to fulfill those dreams. It’s time to open the packages in your hands and trust you are the owner of them. To be brave enough to accept and to bear them well and wisely, for these gifts are not meant merely for you alone, but also for the people whom you encounter this side of eternity.

At the start of this New Year, I encourage you to own your gifts, beloved. Use them up. Drain them dry for His glory and for the benefit of all who need to be touched by the love of God you have to offer.

Your gifts might not look the same as the packages being opened all around you, and that’s okay. In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lucy and Susan and Peter all received different gifts because their callings were all unique. What they were each meant to accomplish looked very different even as they worked toward the same goal. If they would have been caught up in comparing their gifts instead of using them, then the entire kingdom of Narnia would have suffered and remained in bondage to a perpetual winter that was never Christmas.

Likewise, people need what you have to give as much as you need what others have to offer. Someone needs your love today. Your prayers. Your encouragement. Your faith being expressed from your uniqueness. Believe it, then be brave enough to bear your purpose well and wisely when the time is at hand. Don’t allow the comparison trap to keep you clenching your gift tightly, fearful of how it might look when you finally allow it to slip from your fingers into the life of another.

Once we start sharing, we’ll see the power in the gift. We’ll see the impact it can make. We’ll feel the difference of transformation taking place before our eyes and within us. And we’ll yearn to pour the life He has given upon all who come near.

So move into your purpose, dear one. Reach out to your spouse first thing in the morning as you are filled with God’s grace to partner together under the influence of the Spirit’s leading. Come alongside those teenagers you loved enough to birth, and continue to stick with them to birth something real and beautiful as they grow. Stretch out your hands to your friends and clasp them in prayer over that next cup of coffee. Wherever you are, at any given moment… be present.

Be real.

Be you.

Make it your intention to live with the intent of fulfilling your purpose.

Because you have one, and it’s beautiful.

And it’s needed.

People are waiting for you.

I think you can be brave enough.

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When the Beautiful Seems Buried

Some days my thoughts seem tumultuous. They flit back and forth like a captive bird unexpectedly released from its cage yet uncertain as to what to do with its newfound freedom. Spinning from idea to idea, yet landing upon nothing. Circling and hovering with no intent of coming to rest anytime soon. On days like this, my best recourse is to simply stop and pray as I ask God to realign my focus and help me to pursue “one thing” instead of rushing toward any number of countless opportunities I could easily grasp at any given time.

And so I pray. I pour out my heart in letters to Father who knows and sees all that I am and all that I am yet to become. Even when I don’t.

As words tumble out one on top of the other, tripping and stumbling toward the throne of grace, I ask God to keep my heart balanced. I pray for help to dig in and push hard through those times of transition and the pain that often accompanies them. For the courage to embrace change, and chance, and risk. To press in and gather the broken when everything in me wants to turn in flight. But I also ask to have those amazing moments of brushing up against hope and birthing life, too. To find times of rest and grasp bits of beauty throughout my day so that I do not lose heart in doing good. Oh how my soul needs those times of refreshing delight in God’s presence to keep me from growing weary. (See Galatians 6:9)

Partnered with those moments of both the soul-tiring and the refreshing, I need my memory to be stirred. Challenging me to look back and memorialize those times when God seemed so very far away but, in reality, was as close as the heartbeat keeping me alive. Those out-of-the-blue experiences when God showed up in unexpected and surprising ways. Both small and large. Just to remind me He was very much aware of my every breath.

Calling attention to the fact that He was/is/always will be there.

Despite my failings. Or my feelings.

In the midst of living out my days and walking out my dreams (and sometimes my nightmares), God is ever near. So very present. Even when life is less than glamorous. Even when the beauty seems buried beneath layers and layers of the downright ugly.

He is here. Here in each inhalation and exhalation of life.

Whether I am gritting my teeth and pushing through to accomplish the next step in pursuing my purpose or coasting on the winds of the Spirit carrying me along, I want to live. To be here now with a moment-by-moment, graceful awareness of God in me and me in Him – all held tightly together by His unrelenting yet unrestricting love.

To live each day with open hands as I’m called to pour out those desires He has placed within me. Both the ones I long to fulfill and the ones which I sometimes war against. (Can I get an Amen?)

It seems that divine purposes sometimes always require a patient continuance in order to bring them to completion. So I ask that God hold me close and keep me pressing onward as I present these humble offerings. Looking to Him with faith, trusting that He will focus my gaze and steady me through it all.

Each and every moment.

Even as I grow to understand that while my life may not be glamorous… it is always beautiful.

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Receive the Moment

Whatever the pace of my life, time will keep it.

Whether my days are a flurry of activity or a lounging Sabbath rest, time holds steady.

Minutes tick by with rhythmic precision. No matter the frantic cadence of my heart racing to fill the moments as I rush from one thing to another, and somehow only manage to come up empty the more I grasp for stillness. Thinking to lay my hands upon abundant life by cramming my schedule with more, I fail to realize that time keeps its own pace. It fills and empties at the same rate, and there is no amount of hurry that can wish it away or make it linger long.

Time holds constant. Continues on, beat by beat. Slipping by minute after minute, while I am caught in this never-ending cycle of trying to make the most of the moments. I remain in this whirlwind of forgetting that more is found in less and satisfaction often shows itself in simplicity.

Grace is grown in rest with God.

Abundant life flourishes in abiding, gathering strength and nourishment from moments spent in communion with Father.

Why is it so hard to slow down when I know it is what God would ask of me?

Why do I cave to the temptation to hurry through each day instead of basking in each precious heartbeat, knowing full well it could be my last?

Today I am reminding myself to enjoy the moments. No matter that I am certain to need the reminder again, possibly even before this hour has ended. For now, I am choosing to tarry with time instead of zipping past its presence.

I want to linger with loved ones and squeeze bits of solitude into my days.

To slow down.

Simplify.

Soak in Sabbath rest.

To learn to make the most of my time and live each second.

To be here now.

Fully present.

As I open wide and receive the moment.

IMG_4141To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heavens…

Believing Something Is One Thing

Believing something is one thing; living it is the miracle.

Slowing down.

Savoring the simple.

Noticing the moments compiling into memories.

Being here now.

It all stems from the belief that your something is the one thing you should be living with this very breath.

Instead of constantly searching for that ever-elusive defining moment, open your eyes to the wonder you are in. Right here and now, in this something surrounding you.

Redefine your ordinary.

Embrace the miracle playing hide-and-seek in your everyday.

Ponder the precious routine of rousing your children from slumber each morning.

Relish welcoming your husband home from work.

Enjoy sipping lemonade on a sunny summer evening or curling up with a mug of hot cocoa on a frosty winter morn.

Savor the simple and stop wishing away your days. For all too soon, they will pass and fade into the recesses of yesteryear, slipping like sand through aging fingers still reaching for the wonder.

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Today is your day to live.

Right here is your moment to shine.

Don’t wait for the significant to find you.
It. Already. Has.

Open your eyes to see it dancing before you in the form of muddied toddler hands wrapping around your legs, straining to squeeze the love out of life.

Watch it tango through the elementary school where your son’s third grade class thinks you’re awesome for bringing in those cupcakes with sprinkles.

See it waltz across the soccer field where you’ve devoted to coach that rambunctious group of middle-schoolers, all gangling arms and graceless feet.

Hear it dubstep through your house accompanying the late-night laughter of that group of teenagers who know they are welcome in your home.

Believe that every something is your one thing.

Your opportunity to impact lives. The lives surrounding you — wherever you may be.

The world needs you.

It needs your strength and gentleness. Your kind and faithful presence. Your being — being fully alive — in every second of the day. No matter how insignificant you may feel those seconds to be. No matter how much you may be longing for something more. Something bigger. Something beyond what you see in the present. For now, this is your gift and your calling. This day is your day to reach your full potential and purpose.

So step into this moment with gaping heart and arms flung wide to embrace whatever lies before you.

After all, believing something is one thing; living it is the miracle…

sand-castle-in-hand Every moment possesses its own kind of magic and what we do with it counts. It counts. (from Stargardener)

Ordinary Miracles

So, I’m stepping WAY out on a limb here and jumping in with a group of writers to take the Five-Minute-Friday challenge over at http://www.lisajobaker.com/five-minute-friday. Basically, we are all given a prompt, then turned loose to write (uninhibited and unedited) for five minutes before posting to a link and sharing our raw thoughts with others. Needless to say, this is pushing me out of my comfort zone and stretching me to write and post quickly without the editor in me rising to the surface. And I have to admit that my first attempt at this was more like eight minutes instead of five, but please be gracious since I’m new to this. As long as they don’t place a time limit on how long I have to link up to all of this, then I should be fine. Can you say, “technologically challenged”?

Here’s to today’s word of ORDINARY:

Mountains of laundry, meals to cook, groceries to buy, school work to grade, emails to write, prayers to pray, articles to edit, bills to pay…

The list of the ordinary continues to grow and morph throughout the years with the unbroken rhythms of life. Nothing much exciting happens as days slip by turning from Monday into Tuesday, then rushing to catch Wednesday and Thursday…week after week, month after month, season after season, year after year.

Why is it so easy to think of my every day as everyday? Why is it so common for us to look in the mirror or at the piles of laundry and dirty dishes piling up and accept that our lives are ordinary instead of seeing the miracle that dwells in each moment? Seriously, is any of this God-infused life truly “ordinary”? In reality, there’s nothing ordinary about this perfect rhythm which holds the universe in place. Nothing ordinary that keeps the gravitational pull between the moon and the earth and the sun and the stars in perfect synchronization so we don’t all go careening across the galaxies, and yet, I’ve been tricked into thinking that my surroundings are ordinary because they appear so commonplace.

Just because something is common does not make it ordinary.

The miracle of the moments lie in the eye of the beholder, and let’s face it, when I look in the mirror and behold my reflection, what I behold does not make me gasp in wonder and awe at the work of art that makes up me. Nor does my heart skip a beat as my hands sift through mountains of laundry, or scrub the dinner dishes, or grade the never-ending pages of schoolwork that make up the majority of my days. What I generally behold does not seem beautiful, it seems merely common. Nothing incredible about the umpteenth trip to the grocery or the gazillionth email to which I’ve replied this month. Just ordinary.

Because I have forgotten.

I cease to remember that every moment of living is a gift from my Creator. Every ordinary is merely an opportunity for the miraculous. Every breath, an invitation to connect with God as I inhale grace and exhale gratitude for this moment of living. A chance to see the world with eyes of wonder that are too often clouded with skepticism.

Seldom awed, but easily overwhelmed by the stuff of life instead of the God who indwells my moments and longs to make each one a miraculous reminder of Himself…

Right here in this moment of ordinary in which I’m living.

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Love is…

Love is patient.

Love suffers long.

Why is that the first definitive entry in the famed “Love Chapter” of Scripture?

Perhaps because, above all, love must be willing to wait on others.

But not just wait as one would while standing in line at the grocery checkout. True, loving patience is willing to suffer as it waits to have its own needs met, even when they seem so very long in coming. If, indeed, they ever do come. Because the reality is, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes our expectations go unmet. Sometimes our needs remain. Sometimes the hurts linger and the trials persist.

It’s with these thoughts that I ponder the many facets of “patience,” a word which, by the way, is slow in coming (no pun intended) to yours truly. As much as I wish it were different, patience is a virtue that has been disinclined to cultivate itself quickly in my life. Much to my dismay, I generally do not bear up under interruptions or delays without annoyance or frustration. Nor do I naturally exude forbearance when trials come my way.

And yet, I can’t help but want to be a person of patience, so today I am setting my mind upon what I believe it means to fulfill this first definition of a perfect love. And perhaps, as I ponder, I will grasp a bit more of God’s love in my life – pulling me toward and anchoring me more firmly in a patient love that waits in the now with the hope of eternity.

Patient love…

Lives the moment of less than as if it were more than, consistently trusting God for the enough.

Exists in this perfectly imperfect moment of life.

Welcomes the wonder in the place where it seems lacking, resolved to find the awe in the awful.

Seeks the Giver in the gift it never chose.

Embraces life beyond the shadow of the cross while firmly seated in the darkness of the ninth hour.

Shows up haggard and lame at the temple gates, begging for release, yet content to listen to the praise songs of others.

Stays put. Lingering and longing, yet still there – prepared for the miracle of release that comes in unexpected ways.

Looks for the hidden, straining to see beyond the veneer of a shiny surface to note the nitty-gritty of an aching heart beneath the facade of an altogether all-together.

Sees the world as soul-weary and lost despite the fluidity of motion that tempts us to believe otherwise.

Embraces the thorns with the flowers and bleeds alongside the beauty of its fragrant bouquet.

Is willing to camp out in the wilderness, determined to endure the stillness of a moment and not wish it away.

Finds the gift hidden in the now and trusts the Giver who extends within and beyond.

Does not begrudge the good fortune of others, but looks to add to it.

Bestows blessings upon those whom it encounters in this very moment of living the moments with gratitude for it all.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails… (I Corinthians 13:4-8a)

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