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.

 

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.

 

 

I’ve Looked in My House and It’s a Mess

This is not anything new, really. My house is always a mess.

By “house” I mean both my physical dwelling, as well as my mental/emotional/spiritual “house.”

And I straddle sanity between enjoying the permission to be unstructured with the overwhelming desire to “get it together” and get it cleaned up.

The first few weeks of school have been hard for us.  We’ve been dealing with all sorts of broken household appliances and behavior and sleeping issues with the kids while just managing the daily stuff, too.

Trying to juggle it all brings me to wallow in the low-grade guilt that I haven’t kept up with my blog or other online projects. But then of course, I begin to wonder, Why do I feel guilty? Is it awful or earth-shattering that I haven’t blogged on schedule?

I’m pooped.

And I’ve made a really hard decision. I’m turning everything off for a while. I love writing and I love dreaming about having a successful blog/online business. But something is wrong with this picture. When I start hating The Pioneer Woman because she has her own TV SHOW coming out on The Food Network, something is wrong.

I’m hoping that “pulling back” can reveal the truly important stuff.

See, I am not structured. I am not. I am not predictable nor routine. I live by a loose rhythm, I guess you’d say. Which is OK. I think it would be more OK if I just embraced it and sought the positives instead of always beating myself up that I’m “not doing so-and-so.”

And that’s what happens when I see The Pioneer Woman’s TV show promo or read posts from my blogger friends who homeschool their 15 children AND maintain three blogs AND have a book deal in the works. I just start the inner pummeling: If you really want to be successful, write books, have an online business, you’ve got to get with it, young lady. Nothing’s getting done while you’re sitting here playing Words with Friends on your iPhone.

And as true as that may be, I also realize that somewhere in a crucial and important way, it’s NOT true. Because it’s really dishonoring who I am. (And, oh, I’m a dang good Words with Friends player.) The problem is that I don’t know who I am. I know that I don’t thrive in this structured, you-must-Tweet-every-10-minutes-to-stay-viable-in-online-media world, but beyond that? Really—who am I? And what gifts do I bring? And really? What makes me happy?

What makes me happy?

Well, what doesn’t make me happy is jealousy, self-loathing, self-criticism, and constant regrets.

So, I’m off to discover how I can capitalize on how God made me. Why he gave me the gifts, talents, and preferences that he gave me. You know what? I think I’m facing the fact that I don’t think he wants me to be Blogger Extraordinaire OR homeschool my 15 children (kidding! I only have 3, but I don’t think he wants me to homeschool them, either—at least not right now). But I also know that I can’t hear from God when I have so many competing voices and pictures of “success” constantly bombarding me.

So, here’s my plan:

  • I will post here when I feel like it. Not sure what that looks like. I hope you’ll stick around but I totally understand if you ARE a structured person and like to hear from your bloggers on a regular basis. That’s just not me.
  • I’m going to unsubscribe/stop reading the “Blogger Barbies”—those “perfectly coifed” ones to whom I’ll just never measure up. It’s just not healthy for me. To the “Blogger Barbies”: I don’t fault you. I just think that I have an incredibly difficult time looking at you and your accomplishments from afar without comparing myself and obviously, we are differently gifted. But I can’t see that right now, so I must go away for awhile. I just can’t take any more posts in my news feed about how you made an entire clothing line from your discarded newspapers, traveled half-way around the world to minister to starving children, or stocked your freezer with (healthy! organic! made-from-veggies-you-grew-yourself!) meals for the next six months.
  • I do have a few ideas of upcoming projects that I hope to complete. I have at least one eBook in the works, but I’m not sure when/if it will be finished. I’m working on it and have a loose time frame for it. That’s exactly where I want to be with that. :)
  • I need more glitter in my life. Much to the chagrin of my children, I’m setting out to fill my life with glitter. Because? Glitter makes me happy.

I hope I haven’t come across as too gripey. I’m just tired of being a slave to my own emotions and suffocating behaviors. Enough. I’m ready to enjoy my positive attributes and really seek earnestly the ways that God has planned for me to live, work, and play.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you have traveled this road and discovered something new about yourself.

Thanks for reading.

I’m off to buy glitter now.

What Is Robbing Your Time?

Last week, I wrote about the commodity of time in our lives. Mainly, I’m interested to explore this further because I live in the middle of a great paradox.

Most of the time, I’m running around, doing a million things and getting crazy amounts of things accomplished: running a home, working a part-time job, shopping, cooking meals, washing laundry, keeping gas in the car, getting to doctor appointments, haircuts, soccer practice, Girl Scout events, and church every week.

Yea. The family runs. Sometimes smoothly. Sometimes bumpy. But we—for the most part—stay on track.

But then I’m confronted with all the things that are not done: bulging closets that need to be organized, creative writing projects, unfinished baby scrapbooks, date nights, cleaning (ahem!) the house. Blogging and my online business.

Some of this quandary comes because I’m a Type 1 woman. I’m full of ideas and plans and see the myriad possibilities in everything. I really don’t think linearly very much; I’m a much more global person, which can be exhilarating and immobilizing at the same time.

Another thing that comes into play is my creative bent and my introvertedness. I really need the benefit of quiet and solitude. I need to disengage from structure often to keep my sanity. I have to be alone with my thoughts—stay inside my head for awhile—until I can reemerge energized and ready to tackle another project or do that routine chore (that has the tendency to bore me to tears).

So, to some, I know I look like I am “wasting time” or misusing the time I’ve been given. I struggle with this judgement on myself, as well.

One of my favorite websites is Grace Gems that features writings from the Puritans. I love to read these nuggets from hundreds of years ago. There’s something about the way they use language that sharpens me and always causes me to think of life and faith in a new light.

What do you think of this one, in light of modern-day time management? If you are juggling a million things and can’t seem to get your time to dovetail properly with your priorities, what can you learn here?

12 Time-wasting Thieves!


by Richard Baxter

… making the best use of the time. (Colossians 4:5, ESV)

… so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10, ESV)

Thief 1. One of the greatest time-wasting sins, consists of idleness or sloth.

Thief 2. The next thief or time-waster, is excess of sleep.

Thief 3. Another time-waster, is an inordinate adorning of the body.

Thief 4. Another time-wasting thief, is unnecessary pomp and extravagance in household furniture and domestic entertainments.

Thief 5. Another time-wasting sin, is needless feastings, gluttony, and drinking.

Thief 6. Another time-waster, is idle talk.

Thief 7. Another thief which would steal your time, is vain and sinful company.

Thief 8. Another notorious time-wasting thief, is needless, inordinate sports and games–which are masked with the deceitful title of recreations.

Thief 9. Another time-wasting thief, is excess of worldly cares and business.

Thief 10. Another time-waster, is vain, ungoverned and sinful thoughts.

Thief 11. Another dangerous time-wasting sin, is the reading of worthless books, plays, romances, and novels. And also unprofitable studies, undertaken but for pride and vain-glory, or the pleasing of a carnal or curious mind.

Thief 12. But the master-thief that robs men of their time, is an unsanctified, ungodly heart; for this loses time, whatever men are doing–because they never intend to do anything for the glory of God.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31, ESV)

As I read through Baxter’s list, I’m smacked with the truth that these “time stealers” are those pursuits we do for selfish motive and selfish gain. When we engage in behaviors or thoughts that we use to make us feel better, look better, or numb our pain, we are, in effect, stealing our time. Why? Because we are trying to control our situations apart from God. We are longing to solve our problems. We want to depend on anything except God.

Yes. I will do anything to wiggle out of my dependence on God. And in doing so, I create more hurt, more heartache, and more—wasted time.

Think about this: God created time. God offers time. When we use that which he made for us and gives to us for HIS good purposes and pleasure, won’t it be more abundant, more useful, and more effective?

Yet when we fill God’s time with our sin, it’s no wonder our schedules, priorities, events, and goals become a mangled mess, while our health and sanity dissolve into casualties of our obstinance.

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Great Ideas for Better Time Management

Wish you had more hours in the day? Want to be more productive and efficient? Looking for new ideas for time management?

I highly recommend  Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews. And … this e-book is on clearance for ONLY $2 (regular price $12).

Click here to buy now.

Two dollars, people. That’s less than you’d pay for a gourmet coffee.

Amy Lynn Andrews takes you through the process of prioritizing the things that matter most in life, and then assigning time chunks to them. This book gives real-life examples and offers blank worksheets for personalization.

I bought Tell Your Time back in December, and it has been a great resource, especially for thinking through what’s really important to me and how I should spend my time in line with those goals.

Amy Lynn Andrews is releasing an updated version of the book on August 1, so you’ve got another few weeks to get the original e-book at the clearance price of ONLY $2!

Click here to visit Amy Lynn Andrews.

Once you’ve had a chance to work through the book, stop back here and let me know how it has helped you.

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What’s Your Focus for the Journey?

Yesterday’s sermon was a piercing one for me. My pastor said something along the lines of this:

I simply want to be focused on God himself—not on the destination of the journey on which he has me.

That has resonated in my soul for the last 24 hours or so. Because I, too, am on a journey. I feel completely and chronically unsettled. I’m not always sure what “great thing” God wants me to do. Mostly, I’m convinced I am to be “ordinary” and, honestly, that frustrates and bores me.

But it’s not about the end result, the final outcome, the next big thing, or penning the Great American Novel. Why?

Because I already possess the highest prize and the greatest of glory, as I identify with Christ. This journey is not about me, and it never has been. Yet I continue to obsess over the details of the trip, as if one ounce of my planning, my ideas, my energies, or my participation can affect the outcome.

What is the secret to this life? Well, I paraphrase from another pastor, to whom I listened recently:

The secret to this life is really easy. It’s a continual decrease and decline of self so that you become invisible and people only see Christ, not you.

My prayer is that as I decrease and Christ increases, I would more desire the things of God.

And so, I continue the journey, struggling against my sin to move forward in blind faith, while craving so badly an inch of control. With everything I have, I want to engage in cause and effect behavior.

Yet God saves me from myself, moment by moment.

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The “Look Inside” Mentality Will Change Your World

What’s In Your House? Weekly Link-up

Oh, friends.

I’ve been doing a lot of “looking inside my house” lately.

I made a commitment at the beginning of the year to change some things that I didn’t like about the way I was living life. Primary was to strengthen my relationship with Christ and pursue him more doggedly. I was also determined to find ways to feel better and work smarter (within the framework of God’s will and guidance).

Have I perfected this? Absolutely not!

Have I persevered and am I making baby steps every day? I think so.

I’ve decided to slightly change the direction of the weekly link-up. I still want you to link-up (if you want to), but just write about whatever you wish. Look inside your house, your heart, your garbage can—whatever.

This “look inside” mentality is changing my world. That’s why I want you to try it, too.

A look inside my heart reveals a deepening need for my Savior. A look inside my pantry reveals too much junk food. A look inside my computer reveals a love and zeal and gift for the written word.

I hope you get the idea. Looking around, inside, and up and down is something I don’t often stop to do. I’m way too distracted with “junk” to actually notice what makes me feel good, productive, and helps me meet my goals. I’m way too satisfied with cheap imitations of happiness to pursue something deeper, more meaningful, and more glorifying to God.

So, each week, I’ll simply challenge you to “look in your house” in whatever way works for you. Just take inventory, dig deeply, sit quietly. Listen to God. Listen to your body. Listen to your family.

Are you really and truly “stuck” in a rut? (I have been.) Do you feel as if you’ll never break free? (Yep. Me, too.) You know what?

Life doesn’t have to be a rut.

I have been taking an online whole life cleanse course from Lisa Byrne. I signed up almost as an afterthought. Thankfully, God prompted my husband to encourage me and assure me that though it was a monetary investment, it would produce results that the whole family would enjoy.

It has been incredible.

Once I’m finished with the course, I’ll post an entire review for you and instructions about signing up for Lisa’s materials. She’s a busy mom, so she knows how to teach to busy moms.

One of the main benefits of taking the course has been learning more about how inundated my life—physically, emotionally, spiritually—is with “junk.” Noisy, useless, bankrupt, deceptive garbage. It poses as nourishing and satisfies for a short time but then leaves me hungry and tired—whether it’s food or media or culture or self-seeking efforts.

For me, the real way and best way to a healthier and more satisfying experience is by Christ. Through that filter of Christ, then, I’m liberated to explore ways to break through the bondage in the other areas of my life.

So, take a look inside, write your post, then link it below.

What’s in your house that’s informing you?

_________


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Housekeeping Routines and Maintenance Are No Fun, But They Work

I discovered something last week.

No truer words have ever been spoken than:

A stitch in time saves nine.

You see, I have fallen off and on the wagon of daily routines and housekeeping “maintenance.” I have been a FlyLady devotee—and I have wallowed in my dirty laundry. (I’m great at exploring all places on the spectrum.)

But last week, I decided to try something.

I decided I would put on my big girl panties and just. do. it.

Just. Do. It.

Empty the dishwasher before your day begins.
Photo credit: vilhelm from morguefile.com

Wipe out the bathroom sink, make the beds, and empty the dishwasher before the day begins. Keep the laundry moving (OK–it’s not all folded and put away, but it’s in process) and the dining table cleared of debris. Keep the kids’ backpacks cleaned out and papers put in the right places.

And you know what? I did it.

And I learned what I knew all along. FlyLady is right. If I just do the bare minimum of maintenance every day, I’m not faced with creeping junk and visual clutter. And I finally timed myself to see just how long it really takes to straighten beds and wipe down the bathroom counter. About 10 minutes. The dishwasher takes me about 10 minutes and my own bed takes about 2 minutes to make. If I really hustle, I can have all the areas cleared and tidy in about 15 minutes total.

15 minutes.

Really? I’ve been neglecting a 15-minute task and in doing so, my motivation takes a beating all day long. Not doing these things really impedes my productivity in other areas, especially my writing and blogging.

You know what I’m discovering?

It’s hard to see anything in your house when there’s clutter, junk, and debris obstructing your view.

So, put on your big girl panties and just do it. Yeah … you may not like it, but it will help you see more clearly inside your own house. I promise.

_________


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Do You Know Your Limits?

I was a little bit surprised to hear some words come out of my own mouth the other day:

“I know my limits.”

To which my husband replied, “Yes. But it’s taken you a while to get there.” (And, for the record, I am still a work in progress and struggle every day. The difference now as opposed to this time last year is that I’m more aware of the process.)

Finding and respecting limits of mental, physical, and emotional reserves must be an intentional process. Our fast-paced culture will not slow down for us saying, “Oh, I’ll wait right here with my demands until you can cope with me.”

Our responsibilities, concerns, and obligations will suck every last ounce of goodness out of us if we aren’t careful.

This past year has been a crucible for our family; all sorts of challenges have produced great periods of fiery heat and those impurities are melting away. Some of those impurities include my delusions that I’m super-human with limitless ability to love, serve, and work.

What about you?

  • What would happen if you faced your limits—and respected them?
  • What would happen if you surrendered to the inevitable and instead of fighting it, you embraced it as God’s perfect call for you?
  • What if you delegated responsibilities to others who enjoy and are good at them?
  • What if you concentrated on doing one or two things to the point of greatness instead of spreading yourself too thin?
  • What if you got enough sleep and laid off the fast food?
  • What if you prayed more and spent more time with God?
  • What if you pursued meaningful work within your gift and skill set?
  • What if you simply eliminated destructive distractions and instead focused intentionally on living in Christ?
  • What if you refused to be controlled by the tyranny of the urgent?
  • What if you looked around your house to notice God’s blessings and sincerely asked him for guidance in being a steward of his creation?

Dear readers, I pray that you (and I!) would prioritize and recognize that some things are just more important than others in this life. We deny God’s graciousness when we equivocate temporal “stuff” with everlasting souls.

Keep pushing decisions and responsibilities through that grid of priority and continue to evaluate. My guess is your limits—those beautiful boundaries of protecting restraint—will become vividly apparent.

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photo: Jenny Rollo