How God Gets Our Attention

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Discovering God's Plan

The month of May just zoomed by, as I was crazy busy with adjusting to summer vacation with the kids at home, my part-time job, and everything that goes along with that.

Honestly, I’ve been doing a whole lot of “looking in my house.”

How God Gets Our Attention

Thinking over the last six weeks or so—as I take a step back from the busyness of life—I see some clear markers of what God has placed under my nose to get my attention:

  1. I’ve been presented with several different freelancing/contract work opportunities that offer some exciting, long-term benefits.
  2. I’ve been “cut loose” of some responsibilities that had previously demanded a lot of my time (which would have hampered time I could spend on #1).
  3. My husband has some exciting things going on right now with his work.
  4. God continues to feed my soul, as we worship at a new church hearing awesome weekly messages, many of which have focused on the same ideas I put forth here: God has a unique purpose for you as part of his bigger story.

I also believe that God continues to prune and chip away at the peripheral things that don’t matter, in order to make room for the things that do. Of course, these things that he prunes include sin, but sometimes they also include “good” things.

It’s hard to say goodbye to things that are good but have become idols: relationships, comfort, predictability, smooth sailing.

Another thing I’m trying to learn is the difference between things that I enjoy and am interested in, and the things to which God is calling me. This is hard. Super-hard.

For example:

  • I’ve always enjoyed school and learning, and I’m a terrific student. I thought I’d be a great teacher.
  • I’m a terrible classroom teacher.

I love the whole world of Internet marketing and social media strategy. I keep trying to wiggle my way into these business endeavors, but I can’t quite find my niche. Right now, I’m trying to decide if I just need to persevere or if God is trying to turn me around. I think I’d be a great niche blog site owner—with a targeted “product” to promote and sell—but I’ve been trying to discover what that may be, examining everything from pantyhose to door knobs.

Nothing’s really working out. Nothing is presenting itself as viable. Nothing excites to the point of I can’t imagine myself NOT doing it. And the last thing I want to do is “force” myself into a business endeavor—committing time, money, and resources—when I don’t see or sense a clear affirmation of what I’m doing.

For now? I wait. I continue to turn over and move the rocks that God places in front of me. Maybe I’ll find something underneath one someday soon.

But if not, I do know one thing: casting aside the rocks in my path just clears more space for me to pursue God. A clean path to Christ guarantees a greater access to him.

And God’s plans for me far exceed anything I could imagine or pursue myself.

God’s plans for me far exceed anything I could imagine or pursue myself.

Photo Credit: CountryDreaming via Compfight cc

Mission Field or Mopping Floors? Following God’s Call

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I think most of us have an idea that God’s call is usually only valid if it involves foreign countries where you’re scared to drink the water and have to get a dozen vaccinations before you board a plane.

But you know what?

I believe that God’s perfect call for you is doing exactly what you’re doing where you are doing it.

Is that being a stay at home mom? Is that cutting hair? Is that running a corporation?

In Mark 5:1-20, after Jesus releases the demons from the possessed man, the man is restored. He has, literally, been transformed into a new creation. Jesus has saved the man, and he’s overflowing with gratitude and joy.

mission.field.graphicWhat is the man’s first instinct?

To go “on the mission field.” He asks Jesus if he can go with him—becoming part of his ministry team (verse 18), if you will.

But how does Jesus reply?

No.

Jesus tells the man that the best thing for him to do is to go back to where he came from, telling others there of what Jesus did for him. In effect, Jesus is telling the man to live among the people as a new man: show them what a changed life looks like. Live and love them with the passion, zeal, and joy that only Christ can create in you.

God gives each of us our own little spheres of influence—our own families, communities, and hometowns. Our own workplaces, neighborhoods, and school zones.

It’s no accident you are right where you are. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him” (Acts 17:26-27, ESV).

Are you passionately living out God’s call exactly where he has placed you? Are you always returning to your community after an “experience” with Jesus and telling them of his love for you?

Service in the mission field is not the only work to which God calls his people.

Establish the Work of Our Hands

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psalm90.17

Psalm 90:17 is written on an index card and taped to my kitchen cupboard door. You can tell it’s been hanging there now for a few years. The edges of the card are bent; and if you look closely, you’ll see some spatters of food or drink around the “of” and the “our.”

I keep it RIGHT THERE because it’s at my eye level when I’m cooking, which I seem to do a lot of! I need to be reminded that my work matters, as God is “establishing” it: setting it in stone. I can’t help but read it and reread it and reread it. And many times, I also pray it.

Not only is running a home tough, but running a home-based business can also be challenging! Results are slow to come or non-existent. You blog. You market. You finish one assignment and take on another. You write a little today on this eBook and a little bit more tomorrow.

But your traffic numbers, your sales figures, and your social media connections don’t budge.

What to do?

Pray Psalm 90:17 and realize that your work—all of it—is not in vain.

And guess what? It’s not temporary, either.

Yes, I know our earthly lives here are temporary and we await our sure and eternal home. But this verse tells us that the work we do actually endures. It is “established.” Furthermore,

God will redeem all things in the new heavens and the new earth.

If our work today is set in stone, what may it look like redeemed to its intended glory for all eternity?

Wow. Blows my mind. :)

Realize that your work—all of it—is not in vain. —Psalm 90:17

Do You Know God’s Call for Your Life?

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“I sensed God was calling me to the mission field.”

“We really felt God was not calling us to leave just yet. We felt there was more work to be done.”

“I’ve always felt called into teaching.”

Have you heard people say these types of things when they’ve been discussing their life’s plans or work? Maybe you’ve said those things yourself because you have a clear idea of  “God’s calling” on your life; I hope you do!

I’ve got to tell you that mine has been rather muddy for most of my life. Lately, more and more of God’s call is coming into focus for me and my family, though, and I can tell you what’s helped us to better figure out where to go from here.

How You Can Determine God’s Callingfile0001525508692

1. Look in your house. Really. Walk through the rooms and halls of your house. What do you see? For so many of us, we choose to ignore the very callings that stare us in the face. Family, work, skills, gifts—all of these things show up in our daily lives, if only we’d recognize them for what they are: God’s nudge to say, “Hey! This is the way I’ve equipped you; get to work using what I’ve given you.” Pantry full of food and pots and pans? You may be missing God’s call to begin a meals on wheels ministry, a catering business, or to become a nutrition counselor.

2. Embrace your passion. What has God put you on the planet to do? What has God gifted you to do that only you can do? Now—go do it.

3. Seek the person of Christ. One of the most transformational aspects of Jesus is that he did not simply embody good, wholesome characteristics like kindness or truth, as you and I may do. No. Jesus IS goodness, truth, love, kindness, self-control, and more. When we are hidden in him, our relationship is more than mental ascent. We possess what he possesses. We have access to the Father and his power through Christ! Stop and think about that. We have access to resurrection power.

4. Get yourself out of the way. Believe that his way is far better than anything you can do on your own. Now, move over!

5. Accept and celebrate that this life is temporary. We are just passing through. God’s calling—whether it’s exciting, boring, dangerous, or mundane—is not for your comfort, your success, or your fame. God’s calling is to advance his kingdom and impact others’ lives. Period.

6. While you may live out several callings at once and many throughout a lifetime, you are always required to abide by one above all others. Your highest calling is to be an instrument of God, doing his work.

 

Interview With Alyssa Avant, Author of FaithLeaps

Alyssa
FaithLeaps

 

Today I have the great pleasure of being the host on Day 7 of the Virtual Blog Tour for FaithLeaps: The Christian Mom’s Guide to Passion, Purpose and Profits by author Alyssa Avant. On the last stop of the tour, Alyssa visited Rosann Cunningham’s blog at Christian Supermom.

Below is the great interview I did with Alyssa about FaithLeaps.

Why did you write this book? Alyssa

ALYSSA: I was inspired to write this book several years ago, as I was attempting to navigate the overwhelming journey of working from home.  I had taken a “leap of faith” and quit my part time job and really needed to make an income from home.

Through trial and error, I found my way, but wished I would have had a guide or friend to help me along the way. There is also the issue of passion and purpose, which ultimately is what this book is about.  Yes I talk about working from home and ways to do that, but a stronger theme throughout this book is finding one’s passion and purpose and ultimately profiting from it (not necessarily financially).

What are the two or three main ideas you hope readers take away from FaithLeaps

ALYSSA: There are several main ideas that I hope readers will take away from FaithLeaps.  One of those is that we are all created by God with a God-given passion and purpose.  It is important, I believe, for us to identify and explore that passion and purpose.  Secondly,  I hope that readers will take away from this book that God enables us and can work through us to help us to accomplish our dreams and desires.

[Read more...]

Announcing FaithLeaps Launch and Online Book Study

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Bible study | Christian moms | Christian business

FaithLeaps is a brand-new book from Christian mom and entrepreneur Alyssa Avant. I’ve had the pleasure to receive an advance copy of this book for review.

I gleaned many insights from the book, but I think the most beneficial—and one that has the tendency to slip away from mind first—was that God made me who I am. God gifted me in certain ways. He gave me skills and talents. He has ordained my circumstances.

[Read more...]

Just Tearin’ Down My House—as Usual (The Wise Woman Builds Her House)

wise woman scripture Prov 14.1

wise woman scripture Prov 14.1

One of the Bible verses that stays with me through thick and thin and good times and bad is this one:

The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.

—Proverbs 14:1 (NIV)

I think I like it because it’s appropriately convicting, yet practical as it offers concrete instruction.
What does it assume? It assumes several things:
  • a woman’s sphere of influence is her house (household)
  • a woman can act foolishly or wisely
  • a woman’s work, tone, words, and countenance are important to her home and family
  • a woman’s actions will strengthen or destroy
I’m not trying to make any blanket statements about where or how a woman chooses to work. Whether you are working outside the home full-time or part-time, working a business at home, working full-time as a stay at home mom, or doing any combination of the above, you have a profound and primary influence on your house.

Desperately Seeking Passion

Desperately Seeking Passion

finding passion, purpose, and profits | God's passions, purpose for lifeMy daughter had a school project due. We headed to Michael’s, which is, of course, a requirement for all school project creations.

Something about that day’s trip was different for me. I don’t know. I’ve shopped in Michael’s hundreds—maybe thousands—of times. But that day, I was nostalgic. I longed to trim photo edges with scallop scissors. The glitter paper begged me to take them home. The sticker sets sprang to life and struck me as immediately useful. The beads, chains, hooks, and stones convinced me that I could make gorgeous jewelry. I even had to restrain myself from reaching for the latch hook rug kits.

I’ve always thought of myself as a “crafty” person. At one time, I was a pretty serious scrapbooker. I’ve wanted to learn jewelry making and quilting for years now.

But realistic, hard-working me has stuffed down these passions in favor for the more practical activities of the day: work, laundry, and errand-running.

But it occurred to me that crafting is one of my passions. Yes, that’s right.

My name is Mary and I am passionate about scrapbooking.

And cooking. And healthy/green/organic living. And keeping my family organized. And following a budget. And writing. Of course, writing.

But I’ve stuffed down all these outlets for creativity, talent, and skill. Most of the time, I believe, I’ve told myself that I don’t have time to do X because I need to be working and making money. And truly money has been a concern throughout the last few years, but I wonder how many times I’ve allowed it to become an excuse, even after its legitimacy has long passed? After that, my mind  has played over and over the mantra: “that’s silly; that’s not valuable/profitable/important; go do something to make some money.”

What passions have you pushed to the side? Has it ever occurred to you that since God has gifted you with those passions, he will and can use them to invigorate and deploy you to actually use them for his glory and your family’s good?

That’s what been running through my brain lately: all of these passions that I have used to describe myself over the years—scrapbooker, chef, family manager, green, writer, reader, teacher—were put there by the Creator himself. How might he use me through my passions to bring him glory and bless my family and others?

What about you? Would you like to wake up your passions? I’ve decided to lead a small group study for a new book, Faith Leaps,  that I just finished by my friend and Christian mom entrepreneur Alyssa Avant. The details of the study are still being ironed out, but I believe we will all read through the same chapter(s) and then discuss those online, probably on a weekly basis.

Will you join me? Will you invite your friends? Leave a comment so that I can gauge interest, and I’ll be in touch soon with more details.

Together let’s take leaps of faith to discover how God will profit our passions and purposes.

My Word for 2012: Receive

2012 Mayan Calendar

(My friend, Jamie at BlondeMomBlog, posted this cartoon with her year-end post.
I had to borrow it for mine. I love it.)

It’s a new year—the perfect time for reflections and fresh starts.

I’m a real sucker for cliched rituals like that.

And so, I look back and look forward.

I started this blog one year ago with the greatest of aspirations. I wasn’t completely sure where it would take me, but one thing was foremost. I was devoted to being intentional.

Intentionally, Chris and I set goals for our family surrounding faith, family, and finances.

And unlike most New Year Resolution Resolvers, I actually held to a state of intentionality for much of the year. In fact, I consider it somewhat of a triumph that I was at least still considering intentionality as I closed the door on 2011. I was intentional enough to at least assess my success with goal-setting.

Drum roll, please.

You know what? Most—if not all—of those “goals” I set about faith, family, and finances were not reached. In fact, most were woefully missed. As in not just “come up a little short” but more like “the target was way over there.” And I’m not being negative, just realistic. You know what this tells me? That simply having intention isn’t enough to cause change.

Hmmm.

I have a theory. I think that most (if not all) “success stories” are “accidental.” (And by accidental, I actually mean God-orchestrated.) Hard work? Intention? Determination? All of those are simply by-products of calling and God-given talent.

I think everyone has something (or a few things) that he or she is created to do. As imagers of God, we are creators. I think everyone comes hard-wired to do/be a unique something/someone. Period.

My particular temptation (for whatever reason) is pursuing everything under the sun. I see the possibilities in all things and try to fit my square peg in a round hole. No amount of “intention” or “determination” can change or improve something that doesn’t exist.

This fall, I attended the PCA International Women’s Conference in Atlanta. My friend, Nancy Guthrie, was the speaker and was absolutely fabulous. Anyway, one of the most important things I took away from the weekend was the idea that God was calling me to a special place. (And that wasn’t the topic of Nancy’s talks but was something I found to be kind of a residual effect of my learning and listening.)

He is calling me to a posture of reception. Of listening. I have always been praying and seeking his guidance about what to do. I believe he now is calling me to simply be. To watch for his moving. To identify his signs. To become still in order to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit.

So, I enter 2012 with one word: Receive. And I’ve got to say that we’re only a few days in, and it’s tough. My mother is dealing with some health issues associated with recovery from breast cancer, and our family is navigating some sticky relationship issues. And yes, I still need to address faith, family, and fitness, just like last year.

But I come to 2012 in place of cautious expectancy with no agenda except to wait, watch, listen, and receive.

 

 

Living Between Two Sins—Messy vs. Immaculate

Not long ago, we hosted dinner guests. I had already determined that I wouldn’t be doing extensive preparation for them for many reasons:

  1. I’m busy and tired and don’t particularly enjoy housework anyway.
  2. They have a small child and know the challenges that go with keeping house while child-rearing; I relied on the “mom sympathy” card heavily.
  3. It really is all about the fellowship and conversation.

As I quickly vacuumed (the centers of the rooms and high traffic areas) about an hour before they arrived, I remembered how Chris and I used to clean and scrub and prepare for hours on end for dinner guests. It would take us at least 5 hours or so to clean a 900 sq. foot apartment, set the table, and prepare the meal. We never conveniently closed doors or shoved something out of sight.

(In hindsight, now, I wonder, What were we doing?)

Mostly I remember being exhausted as we sat down to dinner and to enjoy our guests. I was tired, not to mention I had hours of clean-up ahead of me (by the time I handwashed my china, crystal, tablecloths, and napkins, of course).

I still have a twinge of guilt today when I don’t put in that amount of time and work to prepare for guests.

So, there’s that side of me: the side that actually wants to out-do and impress but calls it “southern hospitality” in order to sanitize the underlying sin. Perhaps some have purer motives of sacrificing for others, but I can freely admit mine are tainted. While I do want people to feel comfortable and “special” in my home, I think I’m a bit more motivated to have them think well of me.

And then there’s the other side of me that somehow rebels against the grain of “nothing’s worth it.” About ten years ago, my parents stopped doing much at all to celebrate Christmas. Of course, they still enjoy the holiday with all of us, but they stopped hanging any sort of decorations (tree or otherwise). They stopped getting any type of gifts for the adult children and stopped the fun tradition of stocking stuffers.

One year my mom talked us into having ham biscuits and fruit—a “finger foods” kind of buffet instead of a sit-down meal because it was “less trouble.” Last year, my sister and I said, “No way!” when the ham and biscuit suggestion came up. We have since commandeered the menu and come up with our own solution about what constitutes a Christmas dinner. Call us high maintenance but we like a plated, hot meal together since we only get to have it twice a year.

So, I guess what I’m saying is I have a hard time reconciling all of this. I read blogs who speak of creating elaborate meals on the fine china eaten in Sunday best; especially at Christmas, we are to “go all out” because we are welcoming a King.

I get that. I do. But I have to say that sometimes I struggle to be free enough to say that I’m OK with eating on Chinet paper plates because I’m tired or have demanding children or a full schedule or whatever. And I don’t like feeling condemned for a cluttered laundry room and plastic cutlery use.

Yet I believe our loved ones are worth the effort. To me, a sweetly-folded paper napkin can represent as much thoughtfulness as a cloth swan; a remembered tradition can be as reverent as showing up to dinner in a three-piece suit.

This Christmas, as I sit right now surrounded by littered carpets, toothpaste-splattered bathroom mirrors and multiple baskets of unfolded laundry, I am searching. Searching for a middle ground between two sins: one of apathy to the point of disregard and one of superficiality to the point of extreme self-centeredness.

Quite possibly, my Christmas guests this year will have to step over a pile of laundry to eat a meal on china—or something like that.

Photo credit: wax115 from morguefile.com