Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Bulldog into your Purpose - Our Life in Review Lesson #6

Roxy being too cool for school
We recently adopted a 3-yr-old/ 80 lb American bulldog. Roxy has become the joy of our lives. Max, our 14-year-old Lab is a little annoyed at the new addition. We hope he knows we still love our old guy too. It’s just that Roxy is so full of spunk. Her whole body wiggles with joy when we come in the door. You can’t help but feel happy when she is expressing her love. Compared to old Max, Roxy is a bundle of energy.

But when Sophie, our grand-doggie shows up, Roxy seems like an old lady. Sophie is bulldog energy on steroids! She’s half Roxy’s size and double her energy. We lovingly call her Taz, because she spins like the Tasmanian devil from the old cartoons. When she arrives, I hear her nails rotating on the wood floor, like spinning wheels, just before I get knocked over by all 30 lbs of her cuteness.
Sophie lavishing her love on her mama! 

I now understand why people have characterized full-throttle aggressive behavior as being like a bulldog. We often use “bulldog” as a verb. Roxy “bulldogs” her way into the room, no matter who or what may be in the way. And when Sophie is with Roxy, their energy is multiplied. All Sophie wants to do is play. She gnaws on Roxy’s legs, jowls, ears…whatever she can get a hold of. They wrestle and tussle knocking into anything and anyone that gets in the way. When I watched Sophie playing relentlessly with Roxy yesterday, I laughed and thought, “That’s just her nature. She’s being a bulldog.”

Sophie playing tug-of-war with Roxy's leash
Sophie and Roxy are fully being who God created them to be.  They are happily living out their purpose: to be crazy, cuddly, funny, wild bulldogs. I can’t even get upset with them for wanting to wrestle and play all the time. That’s just who they are! Not to say we don’t train them to behave appropriately, but short of bad behavior, Sophie and Roxy are just being the bulldogs they were created to be.

That is what I want for my children. To know their identity in Christ and to do what God created them to do.

God created each of us with a purpose. In our worst moments we are behaving in our flesh nature. Undisciplined. Unrestrained. Sinful. But Jesus came to show us a better way. Not just show us a better way, but to give us His nature that we could rise up and fulfill the purpose He created us for.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Eph 2:10 NLT

As my children were growing up we told them over and over again that they were “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 138:14). God made them for a purpose and if they would stay in relationship with Him, God would lead them into the plans He had for them. And as strongly as I believe that, I’m more aware than ever that it’s not always so simple to figure it all out.

At 18 years old they have to choose a college major or career path that will dictate the direction of their future. What?!?! How many 18-year-olds know what they want to do with the rest of their lives? I surely didn’t. And as a parent trying to help them discern what they were supposed to pick, the pressure of getting it wrong felt a little overwhelming. But here’s the cool thing I’m still learning about God. He knows how hard it is for us to understand. And He’s exceedingly patient.

He’s able to lead and direct us even when we don’t realize it’s Him. And what we might call mistakes or missteps, God may have allowed or even led us into for the purpose of teaching us important lessons.

The biggest issue is not getting it all right.

It’s staying connected to Jesus.

Positioning ourselves to listen for His voice and His direction. Praying. Reading His Word. And as we develop this intimate friendship with God, we’ll hear His voice. And as we hear His voice, He’ll lead us to the purpose He created us for.

When we are walking out that calling, we will find our sweetspot.

I have felt called to write for as long as I can remember. But I have not always been obedient. I’ve often wanted more details before I’ll spend any time doing it. I want to know where this will lead. What are the plans? Is there any end game? But so far God has smiled (I’m just imagining that) at all my questions and petulant demands.  He is God and I am not. I have no idea what God’s plans are. For all I know, it’s just for Him. My audience of one. But whatever His plan, I’ve finally resigned myself to this…

I will never be fully me unless I am writing.

That doesn’t mean that I’m a great writer or even that God has great plans for my writing. It’s just what I know I was made to do. So I’m done fighting it. And trying to figure it out. I’m just trying to be obedient.

This week I heard someone say that we get upset with God when life doesn’t work out the way we want or He doesn’t seem to be fulfilling His promises to us. In my case it would sound something like this, “Lord I know you told me I would be a writer, but you aren’t bringing me a book deal!” To this the speaker said she could imagine God saying, “I wanted to, but you never got off your butt and started writing.”

Figuring out our purpose is just half the battle, the other is taking action.

A few years ago my sweet daughter wanted to encourage this desire in me to write. So for Christmas she gave me the gift of setting up a blog. I still have the note she wrote me. I keep it in my Bible.

“You’ve read other people’s blogs, now go write your own! Write as it happens! Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. Picasso This is your chance to be published. Don’t forget to post it all on Facebook! Love you! Get writing!”

So this is me bulldoging into my purpose! It still took me a couple years after that sweet gift. Wasted time. But I’m pushing my way through now. Trying to figure out how to be the most authentic me. 

How about you? Is there something that’s been tugging at you for years that you feel you’ve been made to do but you’ve been too afraid to do it? 

Now’s the time to start. Let’s get at it!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Our Life in Review: Lesson #5 This too shall pass…

Every morning is a mystery. I never know what the scene will be outside my kitchen window. I love the ocean. I find it calming. Peaceful. Alive. After retiring from the transient life of the Air Force, I wanted a home with a water view. But alas, beachside is not our lot in life. However, marshside is!

So every morning I wander down to my kitchen to grab my cup a’ joe. I look out the window over my kitchen sink and wonder, “Will there be ocean or mud?” The water in the marsh rises and falls with the tide. This morning was the most beautiful, chilly fall morning. When I glanced out the window, my heart filled with joy. No literally. Seeing God’s amazing creation brings a smile to my face and I’m filled with gratitude.

Attempt #1 The white in the distance are the diamonds! But I guess you just have to trust me.
Just beyond my fence, the tide was so high that the water almost touched the tip of our kayak on the bank. The sun, which has been hiding for a few days, was reflecting off the water, looking like a million diamonds dancing over the surface. Something about that view filled my heart with hope. Today was going to be a good day. I grabbed my camera to try to capture the view. But honestly, I failed. The picture doesn’t convey what I saw.
Attempt #2...nope. You still can't see what I saw.
I sat down on my deck to soak it in. And as God often does, I felt Him teaching me something in this moment. I was so taken with this view because it doesn’t happen every morning. I’m not sure that I would ever take it for granted. I’d like to think I wouldn’t. But I may never know. Because that’s not my life. On the mornings the tide is low, I wake up to mud.

This morning I thought, “The sparkling water is so much more beautiful because I know what the marsh looks like without it.”  

And such is life.

I’ve mentioned before how much I dislike discomfort. If I could have it my way, every day would be easy. No pain. No discomfort. Never too cold. Never too hot. Constant perfection. But here’s the reality. If life really was like that, we wouldn’t appreciate the good in our lives. Without something to compare it to, life would be bland. Boring.

Challenge and change are the spice of life.

When my husband used to have to go on extended TDYs or deployments, I dreaded the pain of that separation. It was hard. I’m glad those days are over. (Not to confuse you, we just traded those struggles for new ones.) But in the struggle, I grew. I learned I could do more than I thought. I didn’t enjoy it, but I survived. And on the best days, I thrived. God was faithful. We got through it. And when we were reunited, the joy of having my husband home was heightened because I knew what it was to be without him. The contrast made me appreciate his presence so much more.

Have you ever been so hungry that whatever you eat tastes better than you ever remember it tasting before? "One who is full loathes honey from the comb, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet." Proverb 27:7. 

Or when you've been sick. That first morning you wake up feeling normal again. You never realized how great normal felt until you were running a 101 fever and couldn't keep anything down. Suddenly "normal" is amazing! 

Like the ebb and flow of the tides, our lives are filled with good and bad. I look out at the mud when the tide is low and think of how muddy and messy life is sometimes. Some days I’m tempted to wallow in that mud. To even start believing that the mud is all there is. Until the tide comes back in. 

Even though I don’t understand them, the tides have a God-given schedule. They happen twice a day. But to me they seem random. I don't understand them. They aren't on a 12 hr schedule. And so it is with my life. I don’t understand His timing, but I trust that He does. Believing Him to be all-powerful, I know that all He has to do is say the word and my circumstances would change. But His ways are higher than mine.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9

If I can trust that God knows what He's doing, then I can work through the hard times believing they are producing something good in me. James 1:2-4 puts it this way.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

Dear friend, no matter what you’re going through right now, this too shall pass. There are better days ahead. The tide will come in. The water will sparkle again. And when it does, what joy will fill your heart!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Our Life in Review: Lesson #4 God is good. Trust Him with everything

Ephesians 3:20 Scripture Wall Art / Printable by BethAudreyDesign

Expect the worst – prepare for the best. We’ve all heard that advice. It’s conventional wisdom. I’ve heard it 3 times in the past week. Conventional wisdom also says that bad things happen in threes. Or is it good things happen in threes. I don’t know. I just know that when I hear something from different sources 3 or more times, it’s my cue to sit up and take notice. The same message in many ways. I've read that the number 3 points to God's sovereignty. God just might be speaking. 

So I asked God, what do I need to learn? Is there something wrong with this thinking? The first time I read this statement, the writer said, 

“Expectation is a form of faith. Your expectation is the belief that what you’re hoping for is actually going to happen, not your backup plan to take care of yourself in case it doesn’t.”

Can we hope for God’s best if we’re really believing in the worst? If I’m expecting the worst, is that what I’ll end up with? What is that saying about what I believe God can or will do for me? And will my lack of faith interfere with God moving in my situation? These are all questions I’ve been pondering this week.

We raised our children to know God. Not just know ABOUT God. But know Him as a friend. A good father. Someone to have a vibrant ongoing relationship with. In order to have a good relationship with Him, we have to believe that we can trust Him and that He’s good. This week, I think God was refining that belief in me.

I don’t consider myself a control freak. (Don’t ask my husband or kids though. Let me stay in denial.) I don’t find it too difficult to go with the flow in group situations. I can follow when the moment calls for it. I don’t always have to be in charge. (OK, just sometimes.) However, when it comes to trusting God, I’ve learned that one of the hardest issues of trust for me is surrendering my control. When it comes to expectations, if I can’t control the outcome, I can at least lower my expectations, thereby controlling the emotional fallout. Still an illusion of control. If I don’t expect a gift on my birthday, and someone forgets, I won’t be disappointed. That makes sense, right? (Silly illustration, but you get the point.)

In many situations I don’t even know what my expectations are until they go unmet. That’s a hard one to prepare for! Consequently, I’ve found myself thinking through scenarios and lowering my expectations, so I won’t be hurt or disappointed. (Wow, to put that down in black and white is a little jarring.)

But this week, I feel like God is showing me that I’ve traded potential joy and opportunity for false or perceived security. The second place I read this statement, the author was explaining how believing God for the best actually sets us free. What happens when we see God’s way, expect the best and prepare for the best? “We become free from apprehension and filled with anticipation.” What?! I want that! To actually look forward to good things happening? Yep.

In my best moments I know I’ve experienced that. Filled with faith, I pray and actually believe that God is going to do good things. The problem is I can’t control the outcome. If what God decides is a good thing, doesn’t coincide with what I want or define as a good thing, disappointment follows. Preparing for the worst really exposes that I don’t believe God is going to answer my prayer. Or worse, that He’ll answer but He’ll disappoint me. When did I stop believing that God is good. And that His plans for me are good?

What about Eph 3:20 “Now to Him who is able to do EXCEEDINGLY ABUNDANTLY above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us”… Like He had to use two really big adverbs so we would realize He really means business.

If God’s word is to be believed, it looks like He has plans that are way way way above anything I can even imagine! Now that’s something to get excited about.

If Peter had expected the worst, but hoped for the best, he would never have stepped out of the boat when Jesus told him to come to him on the water. You could argue that he started to sink shortly after he took his first step, but he had to have expected initially that he would be able to do exactly what Jesus said he would do. And Peter sinking was not Jesus failing to do His part. Peter only started to sink when he looked at the wind and the waves. Fear of the worst interrupted the amazing experience Jesus had planned for Peter.

And what about Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God - those whom he has called according to his plan.”

Even when the worst happens…your child gets sick, you lose your job, that storm hits. Can you believe that God will use it for something good in your life? I got fired from a job once. No amount of preparing for the worst and hoping for the best was going to save me from that situation. Because in hindsight I understand that God was working things in my heart and my faith that required that outcome. I grew exponentially through that very painful situation. And holding onto trust that God was going to work it together for my good was essential to me coming through that experience whole.

The 3rd time I heard this statement this week was out of the mouth of a detective on a TV show. I laughed out loud. Like the moment in the Bible when God spoke audibly through a donkey. He can speak to us through any means He chooses. Call me crazy, but I know God was getting my attention. He is adjusting a wrong way of thinking that has wormed its way into my psyche.

I will work on consciously expecting the best, and preparing for the best. I will trust that God is good and if things don’t work out the way I want, at some point I will understand. In this life or the next. Hard things must come in life too. They are good teachers. Sometimes the best. But God has my ultimate good in mind even in those situations. I can trust Him in everything. He is GOOD.

Bulldog into your Purpose - Our Life in Review Lesson #6

Roxy being too cool for school We recently adopted a 3-yr-old/ 80 lb American bulldog. Roxy has become the joy of our lives. Max, o...