Tag Archives: faith

You Are Valuable


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Do we know our value?  Do we know how much people need us?

Often I am so busy trying to be the accomplished one, the one in charge, the self-sustained one.  I think I’m doing it for so many altruistic reasons:  so that I can free up my husband to touch the world, so that I’m not a burden on anyone, so that my family is proud of me, etc.

I recognize that there are so many things wrong with this train of thought, and yet it is the thought process that I knee-jerk back to if I don’t intentionally steer my heart in the right direction.

When the quiet descends, my mind floats back to reality, and I reach the end of myself (which is the place where I truly see clearly), I have to confess that I’m not doing so well and that I have big gaping desires that are going unfulfilled.  And when those desires are silenced, so is my voice.  When my voice is silenced, then people who are waiting for my contribution are left hanging.  I recognize that, while the world doesn’t hinge on my being present, I do have a valuable contribution to make that others are waiting for.  We all do.

I have come to the conclusion that, if I am to accomplish the desires of my heart, I have to reorganize and shift my priorities around.

Since the beginning of the year, I have lost 20 pounds.  It didn’t happen because my body just simply decided to drop some unneeded weight.  The weight dropped off because I shifted my priorities.  It became more important to me to feel better, make myself healthier, and to look better, than to reinforce the habits that I’d been living by.

I figured that if I had let the immediate pressures of the day lie to me about how valuable my contribution was, then maybe those around me might have as well.  I recently wrote a letter to my husband.  Included in the letter were these words:

“What I want you to hear is that your time is highly valued to us.  We are sustained by your creativity, leadership and counsel.  We need you to steward us.  The kids and I have dreams that we can’t accomplish without you.  I’d love to say that we are fine so that you can turn your attention to the development of other things, but we’re not…we need continued development.

Your love, attention and time is so priceless.  It is the most valuable gift that I have.  I see the kids come to life when they receive it.  I see their hearts open wide when the possibility of receiving it is near.  If we’ve ever made you feel that you weren’t an intrigal, necessary, life-giving part of who we are as a family, then I apologize.  Deeply.  As the Lorax spoke for the trees, I speak on behalf of the kids and say that we need you.  Desperately.”

At the beginning of this year, my eldest and I created what I called Vision Boards. We grabbed magazines and began cutting out words, captions, or pictures that represented our hopes and goals for the new year.  When we had a table full of cuttings, we grabbed our glue and attached them to poster board.  What came out of this is a tangible reminder to me of what I am hoping for, what goals I have, and who I want to be this year.  It reminds me that I can’t get lost in the daily pressures and end up forgetting who I want to be.

VisionBoard

I share that with you also to remind you that you, your giftings, your voice, your contribution, are valuable.  Make the changes necessary to prioritize your dreams.  We all need your voice.

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Falling in Love Again

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I grew up in Nebraska, went to school in Arkansas, and moved immediately after college to Texas.  I birthed all of my kids in Texas and created a lovely suburban life in Texas.

Then, in an act that MANY thought was crazy, we moved our family to the northeast to experiment with life a bit.  After several months years of massive culture shock, I found a rhythm.  I fell in love with a city.  With her people.  With a region.  With an honest, raw life.
* We lived on an unusual street populated with people passionate about making their neighborhood better, committed to each other, and endlessly creative with ways to do both.
* We found a crazy-good church filled with open armed, lovely people who spent their energy attempting to draw my kids to deeper things, and attempting to radically transform our city with acts of service and love.
* My husband started a business that was flooded with accolades and honor, with nothing but fulfillment and financial potential.  It was the completion of a long-held dream and was a source of continual expression of his relational and professional gifts.
* We benefitted from the culture and brilliance of a town that was the home of Yale University.  We regularly attended jazz festivals in the town green, participated in arts and idea festivals in various venues around town, went to concerts and plays, got our kids golf lessons at the Yale golf course and found a Yale graduate as a Spanish tutor for our boys.
* And don’t get me started reminiscing about the breathtaking seasons, orchards, and ocean.

WE changed – were transformed by this place.  We were reintroduced to a reality from which we had insulated ourselves.  We were challenged by the tough questions of faith.  We were encouraged to rethink community, social mission, politics, social transformation, hospitality, traditions, among many, many others.  We aggressively worked to break down the “us” versus “them” mentality.  We fought fear, financial lack, and culture.

And then God asked us to leave it all.  Just when this foreign land became familiar and I became fluent in the language of the region, when the work that we’d invested was beginning to pay off and life wasn’t such a struggle, we were uprooting.

When the initial job offer was received and I quieted myself enough to ask God what His vision was for us, the direction He gave me was, “If this earth is your home, of course you’d stay and reap the benefit of your years of toiling; however, if heaven is your home, then I’m asking you to take what you’ve learned and build up another work of mine in Dallas.”

I fully believe that my investment on this earth is to build God’s kingdom, meaning that my efforts are directed towards eternal things.  To me, it is pretty clear delineation – this earth is not my home.  There were other reasons that formed a case as to why we felt that we should move, but this directive was always in my mind.

So we moved.  We hit the ground running and I felt really hopeful about what might be here for me and my family.

downtown-dallas-from-the-trinity-river_l

But the other day as I was reflecting on our short time here, the Lord stopped me and exposed a part of my heart to me that I had effectively covered. I’d moved – but if I was really honest, I hadn’t allowed room in my heart for ALL that Dallas is.  On the surface, I was helping my kids land well, showing them the joys of living in a large metroplex, exploring our new environment and investing in our church community.  But on the inside, I realized that I was looking over my shoulder quite a bit.  I was resenting the warm temperatures in winter and was envying my northern friends every time that it snowed.  I was allowing myself to be cynical when I shopped for produce, recognizing that it wasn’t as fresh as if I had picked it myself.  I was realizing (and didn’t like the fact) that it is way too easy to be isolated in this spread out city.

I know those are silly and/or petty issues, but my lack of wholehearted investment left room for resentment to creep in.

HOWEVER, I recognize that I’ll miss out on SO MUCH that God has for me and my family if I don’t fall in love again with this city.  I will never really connect if I am looking over my shoulder.  I’ll not be effective in our new mission if I don’t intentionally put myself fully in.  If I’m looking back to what was, I’ll put out a vibe that I’m not really available.  A part of me will be withheld from truly investing, and that missing part will be noticed.  Relationships will stay shallow, and I’ll be a fraction of the person I am intended to be.

All of the above is not to say that Dallas hasn’t warmly welcomed us, or that I haven’t connected with people here.  I really have, and I see the potential for such deeper relationships.  I know that God is in complete control of my growth, and that this new place has as much to add to my journey as the former place did.  In fact, I believe that the parts of my heart that became awakened to His love for His people and His earth will be some of the gifts that I have to give to this new place.  I just recognize that for all of this to happen, to a great extent, it is up to whether or not I fully embrace this city.

This is a lovely city filled with lovely people.  I am eager to see what God has in store for me as I learn to put myself out there even more!

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Fasting and Writing

IMG_5238Our church is beginning the new year with a 21 day corporate fast.  They believe that when we humble ourselves in this manner, God is lifted up and can transform His church and His people.  The new year is always an opportunity to reflect on the trajectory of our lives, to dream about the coming opportunities, and to shift our priorities.  It makes sense to set aside the first few days of the new year to reflect on why we’re doing the things that we’re doing, to press the pause button of our life-pace and allow ourselves to reflect on something other than the urgent.

But that really isn’t what this blog post is about.  Well, kind of.

About a week before Thanksgiving, my husband (who is on staff of our church) asked me if I would write a 21 day devotional for the fasting time.  It would be a booklet that gets into the hands of our members so that we are able to share this fasting experience with each other.  That way, we’re focusing our times of prayer towards the same targets, linking our hearts towards the same needs, and receiving the same kinds of encouragement. We will all be walking through similar struggles, experiencing victories and breakthroughs, and able to lean on each other.  It will allow us to form deep bonds and stay connected as we journey.

That isn’t even really what this post is about.  Maybe a little.

What this is about for me is stepping into who I am.  It is about putting myself out there for people to see.  Blogging to a limited audience is one thing.  Never really seeing peoples’ reactions to what you write, not sitting across from them as they read what you’ve written and scrutinizing their faces, and then, realistically, being forgotten soon after they read it, has grown to be a part of my comfort level.

But stepping out in front of my church community, caring about what they think about my identity as a writer, intimately being a part of their lives for 21 days, guiding this process that is so sacred…that is a whole other level of vulnerability.

Since I was a young girl, I knew I was supposed to write.  I had all kinds of dreams, and each one of them hovered around crafting a good story.  Not verbally telling one, in which one shoots from the cuff, but writing a story, playing with the words until they evoked an emotion or a memory.  Working on the cadence of the words so that the beat of their rhythm drummed up a connection between people.  I dreamed.

And then a guidance counselor triggered an avalanche in my heart that buried those dreams.  He proclaimed over me (and in front of my classmates) that I wasn’t creative.  I believed.  I took that declaration, compared myself to others, and deemed that he was correct.

What that did for my future was to redefine my identity.  To write original works, to tell original stories, one must be creative.  And since I clearly wasn’t a creative, I must be relegated to editing.  I would still be a part of the writing community, but be the one that takes other peoples’ creativity and makes it polished.  I wouldn’t be illuminating my own ideas, I would be translating other peoples’ ideas so that they were clearly understood.

I didn’t write.  Ever.  Not even journal.  A well-crafted thank you card every now and again, but that was the extent.

And then, over time, that strongly-held belief started to crumble a little.  Very slowly.  I would hear something about the character of God that made me realize that He was creative – and if He was creative, I just might be.   A little piece of the foundation wavered.  Or I would read something that was published and realize that I just might have been able to produce something as good or better – couldn’t I?  A tiny rock of foundation dropped off.  Then, someone who loved me would challenge my belief on my creative-less-ness and call out deep reserves of hope that I might actually be able to produce creatively, well-written material.  And the foundation started swaying.

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It was at this point that my blog began.  I figured that I could safely experiment with writing in a forum that was quite shielded from the general public.  There are so many blogs in the cyber-universe that I knew mine would go unnoticed.  And yet, it gave me a reason to practice, a chance develop my writing style, and an opportunity to see what would come out of me when I disciplined myself to try.

We’ve now come back to the 21 day devotional.  A public expression of a private discipline.  An encouragement for a practice that I believe and hold so dearly.  And a request to create something that could be of benefit to several.  I couldn’t pass it up, and yet I couldn’t really do it.  Could I?

I said “yes”.  I told him I would give it a shot, and spent the next 3 weeks pulling away every chance I got, creating space to research and read, to outline and write.  Just this morning, I sent the finished document to our church for layout and publishing.  Holy smokes. What have I done?

I can’t adequately express what an act of faith this has been. What an act of obedience this has been.  And when the new year rolls around and this devotional is placed in the hands of my church family, you might just find me hiding under my bed.  Wherever I am, I know I’ll be a little closer to being who I was meant to be.  I’ll be a little closer to living out the expression of who I am. I’ll be one step nearer to expressing His identity in me.  And that is amazing.

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Saying Goodbye

When we left Dallas years ago, one of our last events was to take our family to a spot in the city that overlooked downtown and thank  God for all of the favor He had given us during our time there.  Our children had been born there, we had matured through most of our 20s and 30s there, and had seen an enormous amount of blessing and love come.

When we arrived in the northeast, one of the first things we did was to take our family up to the highest spot in town and ask God to give us the favor and blessing that we’d seen in Dallas.  We knew nothing would be accomplished if He wasn’t guiding and touching our efforts, and we committed ourselves and our adventure in the northeast into His hands.

So as we decided to move from New Haven, we returned to that city-overlook to thank God for all of the amazing favor we had received.

Seriously, this was the sky on that day.

Having been in Dallas now 6 weeks, I see daily how much my time in New Haven changed me and my family.  I am eternally grateful for the years that God allowed us to be there.  They sure weren’t easy, but times of growth and change rarely are…

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Serene Saturdays #35

Madison is at college, and the younger kids are a spiritual retreat this weekend; therefore, the house is quiet.  Ken and I are lounging around this morning, him Skyping a friend from England, and me relaxing with my computer and reconnecting with the world.  Every time I think I could get used to this kind of quiet, I remind myself that I can enjoy this thoroughly, knowing that my kids will return home soon.  If they were permanently out of the house…it would be a different story.

Anyway, I find myself reflecting on our new life in Dallas.  I am dreaming about how to craft the rhythm that we want, how to stay connected in a city that tends towards isolation, and how to replenish myself by pursuing my hobbies and passions.  Those are big issues to me, but ones that could slip into oblivion if I don’t strategically and intentionally create them into existence.

So this morning, I am thankful for:

*  Bright red pillows on a cream couch.

*  The chill in the air.

*  The space to create and dream.

*  Fall decorations.

*  New beginnings.

I pray that you can insert more of yourself and your dreams into your day today!

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We’ve Arrived!

After all of the packing, all of the prayer, and all of the miles logged into our van, we have moved into our new home.  The journey was so intricate that one might be discouraged to make it; however, we were sure of our decision and took the complications one step at a time.

The first bump in the road was the house itself.  My husband had driven many miles and hours with a realtor to find us a rental home in Texas.  While he found one on which we put an application (and had the application approved), less than a week before we were to begin our drive to Texas, the home owner pulled out. That left us scrambling to find a place in Texas, while Ken was back in Connecticut.  Our amazing realtor, knowing what kind of home we were looking for, found us another home TWO days before we were to leave.  It is lovely, and has room to fit our big family!

Now that we’ve been here about two months and I’ve had a few quiet moments to reflect, here are a few of my unedited observations of Dallas.

Dallas is HUGE.  I mean, populated, spread out, and intricate.  Thank GOODNESS for GPS on my phone.  It has saved me.

Dallas is BUSY.  The energy with which people travel and move is dizzying.  One of my sons said, appraising of the massive road system (during a non-rush hour time frame), that it looks like there has been a mandatory evacuation of downtown and people are fleeing home.   There seems to be an unspoken sense of urgency that my family is feeling and observing, but in which we are not participating.

Dallas is DIFFERENT.  The city that I left seven years ago feels foreign.  I attribute that to several factors:
– I/we have changed so much.
– We’re living in a different area of town.
– The city has grown and changed quite a bit.
– Very few of our former friends have reached out and talked to us/invited us over.  (I don’t say that resentfully or with hurt feelings…just stating a fact.)
We’re making great new friendships with the community with whom my husband is working, but it isn’t like stepping back into a familiar set of old clothing.  One other element to this feeling could be that, when we lived here before, my world was very small.  I didn’t travel very far outside of my neighborhood, and certainly didn’t travel downtown.  This time around, I am living in every inch of the city, venturing to places that I would have never dreamed of journeying before.  (Thank you New Haven for making me brave!)

Dallas is BARREN.  This is probably the only point that really is a criticism, the only point that has been soul-crushing (at the risk of sounding too dramatic.) After having lived in New England, complete with more trees than can be counted, an ocean as a landmark in town, bicycle lanes wildly used but taken for granted, orchards and pick-your-own places less than 1/2 hour away, and hiking as an ever-present option, Dallas is lacking.  The problem is that we moved at the beginning of Fall, when New England comes alive, when all activities are centered around the outdoors – acquiring pumpkins, picking apples, going through hay mazes, driving around to look at the stunning backdrop of changing leaves and enjoying the crisp temperatures – to be dropped in a region where the climate doesn’t sustain orchards, there are very few outdoor activities (it is still to stinkin’ hot!), a sweater is the last thing you’d think of, and the leaves on the trees don’t change colors – they just burn up and drop off.  It is surprising to me how much I breathed in the activities of that region, and how I find that don’t breath quite as deeply down here.

There have also been a few lovely surprises.

The new community that we are developing is welcoming and warm.  We have jumped into a new church meeting in downtown Dallas that has welcomed us with open arms, and I feel the potential of a few great friends here.

Our kids have found friends pretty quickly within that new community.  They’re not linked as heart-friends yet, but at least they have found kids their ages with whom they can spend time and be accepted.

Our home is great, and our landlord is amazing.  He has permissioned us to really live in the home and make changes if we wish, and greeted us with a welcome basket and a $50 gift card to a local restaurant.

The area in which we live is diverse and convenient.

We have enjoyed visiting some of the places that were familiar when we lived here before.  We’ve visited parks, our former homes, and favorite restaurants, watching the kids’ faces as they stretch back in their memories for anything that they recognize.

No change is easy, and yet, we are thriving pretty well.  I am challenged to completely embrace my new city and see what God has for us in this new environment.  I’ll keep you posted along the way!

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Spring Once Again

Scenes from my backyard.

And the crazy thing is, until my kids and I dedicated our morning to getting the backyard weeded, raked, and cleaned up, I hadn’t even seen the quiet beauty of it all.

It was a distraction to the busy-ness of wrapping up another school year.
It was the weight of guilt of a project uncompleted.
It was the regret of not having started veggies and herbs from seed this year.
It represented a part of me to which I couldn’t tend.

And then we started cleaning.  Mowing.  Raking.  Weeding.  Blowing leaves. Trimming trees.  Laying mulch.  The process of reclaiming part of what is yours – part of your territory.  When we stepped back to see our work, what was left in the wake of energy, arguing, exerting, cleaning, was an representative of the best of nature.  Things we hadn’t noticed before.  Things that were ignored because the path to see them was covered with the product of an area untended.

The effort of reclaiming and purging freed us all to enjoy our backyard again.  It gifted us with excitement about spending time outdoors.  It allowed us to dream of cookouts, fire pits, entertaining, and growing.  It allowed us to recognize spring once again.

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