Friday, April 7, 2017

Good Reads: Nothing to Prove by Jennie Allen

In the last year, I've challenged myself to make margin to read good words. I've always made the excuse there's no time to read, but friends when we get intentional with our days there's plenty of time to commit to reading books.

Here are two guidelines I have for choosing books:
1. The topic must be one which presses into my current season.
2. The author should be someone who compels me better myself/life in some way.

Simple but intentional. Choose guidelines that fit your season and make margin for good words!

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to be apart of Jennie Allen's launch team for her Nothing to Prove book. I read Jennie's book, Anything, in the Summer of 2016 and it shifted my heart. So adding this book to my 2017 book list was an easy decision!

As I make my way through my 2017 books, I'll be sharing my favorite takeaways. Here's the top 20 from Nothing to Prove. Confession: I couldn't narrow it down to 20; you get 29 for this one!

"We've been deceived by the lies of an enemy who knows exactly how to twist our thirst to his purposes. And we desperately need to open our eyes to his perverse tactics."

"But now many of you are awake. You are in the Word and on your knees. God is moving through you, and you are getting dangerous. You are free and leading other people to freedom. The old lies are no longer adequate."

"The enemy promises water, but every time we go to his wells, they are empty."

"God is not after great performances or great movements.  He is after us! God already knows we are not enough, but He's not asking us to be."

"God is not surprised by our failures and disappointments and baggage. They are actually reminders of our need for God.  He will use whatever means possible just to get close to you and to be with you."

"What if we stopped doing things for God and started doing them with God? When we make that shift, we will be different. Because when you are with Him, you see Him for who He is and He changes you. This is a journey into greater faith.  Believing God and who He says He is and who He says we are.  it is a journey into a life not of trying so hard. It is a road to enjoying our abundant God rather than working so hard for Him."

"Jesus didn't come desperately needing something from us, He came to be with us."

"When we see ourselves the way God sees us, we don't have to strive. Being near to God doesn't produce pressure or legalism; it produces worship"

"The mundane parts of life aren't the enemy to God's movement; they are the soil for it."

"I want to be full of Jesus to the point He is pouring out of me."

"We have nothing to prove because we're living out of His abundance and letting it spill over into all the thirsty lives around us.  The point is this: to know God and to give Him away."

"He is enough so we don't have to be."

"The nearness of Jesus is enough to infuse joy in the midst of everyday experiences."

"We want to do things for God without spending time with God. It is an epidemic in the church, and we wonder why we are so empty and unhappy.  God built us for himself, and all our attempts to manage life apart from intimacy with Him only further expose our ache for Him."

"When we hide, we diminish ourselves, we diminish our worth, we diminish our belief in God."

"Being known is what happens when you realize you are already known, and because of Jesus, you are already accepted. You don't have to keep searching for what you already have. The living water that eternally quenches our souls is filling us up."

"Because God is enough and has enough, we can rest."

"Seeing need and knowing only God can meet it causes us to run full of confidence, which means we can rest rather than strive."

"Our confidence comes from trusting God can do anything, then stepping back and letting Him."

"But Jesus lives on the other side of our comfort zones.  And as we step out of the boxes we have built, our hearts wake up.  The Spirit of God stirs us toward a wild uncontrolled adventure, even if that plays out in the mundane parts of our lives."

"Emotions are designed by God to point to an ache for Him and for heaven.  Emotions are compasses, not destinations."

"Jesus pours His streams of hope into our suffering, and I believe we'll find abundance and life there."

"When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, God moves through you.  When you have nothing to protect and nothing to prove, you know freedom."

"Our inclinations to strive and prove ourselves point to our need to be rescued.  Our greatest needs begin to be filled when we admit we have a great needs and turn to the only One able to meet them."

"We are not defined by our worst or our best: we are defined by our God."

"The degree to which we believe and embrace our identity as a Spirit-filled child of God will be the degree to which His light shines through us. We are God's and He is ours. He is in us and through us and with us.  That is our identity. And that changes everything."

"When we aren't secure in our identity, our actions toward others become more about pride and performance than service and ministry."

"We do not change the world with might and power and creative strategies.  We watch God change the world when we pray and abide and believe."

"Make it your goal to love and know Jesus as much as humanly possible and ministry will happen."

Nothing to Prove: Why we Can Stop Trying so Hard by Jennie Allen

*photos via Nothing to Prove Book tumblr

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Birthday Thoughts on the Eve Jackson's 6th Birthday

Sweet Baby J,

As we sat on the couch tonight watching Scooby Doo, your arm wrapped around me, it was the perfect end to your year. What a joyful milestone tomorrow will be.

This year was probably our most bittersweet yet. We weaved in and out of really hard days as God grew your personality. Your independent, caring self developed at a rate we were so unprepared for. So here's what we did, sweet boy, we laid it all at the feet of our Heavenly Father and asked Him to do His work in you. And oh my stars did He ever.

This year was not without tears and growing pains, but it also didn't lack in belly laughs, bear hugs and family stacks.

As we look to a new season tomorrow, your sixth birthday, I could not be more proud of who you're growing to be. Your little self is packed full of wit, courage, compassion and a love that wells up and overflows for your family and friends.

On the first day of Kindergarten back in August, Mrs. Jones had us write you a note on a little heart. Here's what I wrote you: God is mighty in you.

This was both something I knew as true and prayed God would plant as truth in your heart this year.

He is so mighty in you Jackson! God's power is made perfect in our weaknesses. Don't ever be afraid to embrace those weaknesses and see how greatly God will be glorified through you. I pray you never forget that! Over and over this year, I watched as you embraced the fullness of your personality and it has been my greatest joy.

Keep being who God has created you to be; don't shy away from the way He has created you. That's my prayer for you as we look to celebrate your sixth birthday.

The season ahead for our family is one of transitions and change, and you're already embracing this new season with hope and contentment. Thank you for encouraging me to love others well, to wonder at our God and trust that there is joy ahead even on the hard days.

Tomorrow we'll celebrate with your Thursday night dinner at Lady's house. Friday you have your belt test at Karate for your yellow belt. Saturday you've intentionally invited a handful of friends for Hi-Wire and pizza.

Let the celebrations begin! You are worthy of celebrating!



p.s. Thank you for still allowing this mama to call you her baby. It's good for my soul.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year's Eve Annual Interview with Jackson

With Jackson being old enough to really begin reflecting on his year and looking forward to the days ahead, I wanted to start a new tradition this year: annual New Year's Eve interviews. He knows how much I love this stuff and did pretty well answering the questions this year. Praying this will be a good way for him to reflect on his years as he grows.

What is your happiest memory from this past year?
Going to Disney World.

What is the best part about being your age?
Watching TV.

Describe yourself in one word:

What advice would you give your parents?
I'd say thank you for food and our house.

If you could be any animal which one and why?
A tiger because they have sharp teeth.

Describe the funniest thing you saw this past year.

Who is your favorite person and why?
Sullee because she let's me do a lot of things.

What is the nicest thing you did for someone this year?

What is the nicest thing someone did for you this year?

What were some of the best places you traveled to this year?
Disney World. Nashville.

What was the hardest part about this year?
Starting a new school.

What do you want to learn in 2017?
How to grow vegetables. How to start a garden.

What do you want to become better at in 2017?
Playing Pokemon

Where do you want to travel in 2017?
Disney World. Chuck E. Cheese, the beach

How can you serve God in 2017?
Give more grace to people. 

2016 Word of the Year Reflections

So much of me wants to skip past this post. To just start documenting all the things God is working for the year ahead, but the Spirit is telling me to slow down. Savor the good works of the year. So that's just what I'll do.

2016 was my year of Wholeheartedness. It only felt natural after a year of Surrender (2015's word). And as I partnered with the Spirit to mind the gap of a divided heart God showed me the abundant life of John 10:10 right here in the meaningful mundane.

We had just one big plan, one big milestone at the outset of 2016: Jackson would celebrate his 5th birthday in March and start Kindergarten in the Fall. I knew everything else in this year would pale in comparison in stewarding these milestones well.

But God.

He kept showing up in the margin. He kept pursuing us in the unexpected. He kept bringing us into ordinary, hard moments of doing life and asking us to choose obedience instead of complacency.

Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek him with all their heart. Psalm 119:2

My goals for 2016 were simple. Mainly they each stemmed from wanting to grow in my own obedient response to the Gospel. To know Him more. To deepen my joy in marriage and motherhood. To plant the seeds of deeply rooted friendships. To steward our finances well. To simplify our home and my perspective of remaining in our first home longer than planned. To loosely hold out the small business God called me to back in 2014. For my life to become Christ in action. 

God revealed Himself to me little by little as I pressed into Him and abided in Him all the more. Never have I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit so clearly as I have in 2016. Never have I also sat in such deafening silence of the Lord and learned that in his quietness there is room for good growth for His glory.

In this year of Wholehearted pursuit, God gently guided me into the margins of my own story. He pointed me away from the worldy expectations and deep into the opportunities He'd already given me to steward well.

The unexpected happened all in hand with the expected:
We went to Disney World to celebrate the 5th Birthday of our wild child, our wild miracle. And it was pure heaven. The sweetest of trips that would not have been possible without the offerings and presence of my mom.

I pushed back against the enemy's lies of not-enough and began leading a women's Bible study at our local church. This was a turning point of hearing and responding to the Spirit. This beckoning to brave obedience is not something I will soon forget. And the fruit of this obedience? The Spirit in me grew so much good fruit in response to this step of obedience: joy, peace, faithfulness.

This step of obedience opened the door to an opportunity to be apart of planting the women's ministry at our local church. I have prayed for years that our church would have an active women's ministry. Never did I think I'd have a hand in our women's ministry taking root and in just six months seeing God move mightily through our community of women. Never did I think God would so sovereignly place me with a team of women who are so different in this life but so similar in our burdens for the women of our church and reflecting Christ well.

When we least expected it God made a way for Brandon to be promoted within his company. Promoted! When we least expected it God was on the move. Exactly one year after he pursued this same position and had been turned down, God reopened the door. I could not be more encouraged by the way Brandon responded to this opportunity. The way he sought the position with grace and then transitioned into his new role with humbleness and hope.

Jackson finished pre-school and began Kindergarten at a new school. This is where our refining both individually and as a family has become a turning point in the year. God prepared my heart all year for this transition and honestly I didn't understand why until we were in the thick of it. The transition to Kindergarten has been one of our most trying moments yet. Through partnership with our pediatrician, our counselor and our family and church communities we've made progress. Two steps forward, ten steps backward some weeks, but at the very least we have made progress in knowing who Jackson is as a child of God and releasing him over to God. I will steward Him well, I pray to disciple him well, I will be his advocate as fiercely as I am able, but ultimately I have released the grips of control to God and told Him that this is His child and I trust Him. Motherhood continues to be the hardest, most refining gift I never knew I needed in this life.

I decided to close the doors to the shop God called me to open two and a half years ago. I surrendered myself over and over this year asking God to guide me, and for most of the year I sat in silence to counsel on how to move forward with our small business. Gently, over many month, God has shown me that with everything there is a season and now in this season I am being called to disciple well in my home and my local church. So, with the close of 2016, we'll close our first small business venture. As my husband said, it will likely not be our last. In the eyes of the world, our business was not a success, but in the eyes of my Father I know the fruit born from this step of obedience will multiply in my story for years to come.

This year the mundane became meaningful. We pursued gratitude and joy in the little things. In worship while doing dishes. In praying through never-ending laundry. In trusting that this messy, beautiful life right where we are is God's will for us in Christ Jesus. There in the mundane God showed off His glory, and I now savor the meaningful margin buried in moments I once counted as unremarkable.

I've seen first-hand that my life truly can be Christ in action. When I know Him and who I am in Him and when I'm brave enough to lean in, get vulnerable and live wholeheartedly my life can be a light for the Kingdom in the meaningful mundane. My every day becomes an opportunity to live on mission right where I am in the beautiful ordinary mess because Jesus is always good news.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Lessons from Influence Conference April 2016

When the Influence Network announced their first 1-day conference would be in Charlotte, almost local to me, I jumped at the opportunity. For four years I've watched #InfluenceConf be shared wishing we could've afforded the opportunity for me to join this community at the conference to celebrate and grow in their God-given influence. It was an answered prayer!  
For friends not familiar with the Influence Network, it's a membership community exploring God-given influence right where we are. You can follow along for free with their social media as a point of encouragement, but I highly recommend becoming a member (more on this in a future post!). 
Today I'm sharing my personal takeaway from the overall conference message along with quotes and scripture references. I'm getting vulnerable with my reflections in this post for a few reasons. First, the message is one we all need. Second, I always wanted in on more details of the conference. So, this is for the sister who wanted to be there but couldn't! Last, I want to open the conversation on these topics for our #heartinthehustle community. 
Speaker topics and scripture focus varied throughout the 1-day conference, but sweetly woven into the fabric of the day was the message of God's rich grace and power in these areas: our vulnerability, our influence and our testimonies. 
I'm excited to continue to the conversation post-conference! Now onto conference lessons!

Vulnerability is the new black. 

If you’re looking for 2016's buzz word this is it: vulnerability. I’ve never delighted and feared a word so much! For months I’ve been peeling back what it means to get vulnerable in our stories and our daily routines through Brene Brown’s Living Brave Semester, and the Influence ladies brought a good word and affirmed what I've uncovered on the topic.
Vulnerability is not weakness, it's courage. It's free-falling into the arms of our Savior trusting that as we show up only armed in His truth goodness will flow and Kingdom seeds will be planted. We delete the lie of the enemy with the truth of the Gospel as we show up and allow ourselves to be seen as daughters of the King: chosen, redeemed, remembered, and able. 
Scripture References: 2 Chronicles 20, Deuteronomy 6:10-15, Psalm 23, Romans 11:36
“The way that He made you is already good.”
— Jess Connolly
“God will give us more than we can handle, and that’s where we can see Jesus.”
— Ashlee Proffitt
“God’s word shows us we already have what it takes.”
— Renee Swope

Your story matters, and so does hers.

Our influence is void of impact without our testimony. It’s going to take vulnerability to show up with our messy hearts and let our testimony influence others. The pretty stories and styled squares of social media are only surface level. If we’re going to know the joy of the Lord deep in our bones we need to step out of the shadow of doubt into the light of love with all of our mess.

Vulnerability +  Wolehearted testimonies = Influence for the glory of the Lord

I think it’s that simple. Jesus finished the work and that changes everything. When we look to Jesus’ life we see him fully embrace his purpose, and little by little it influenced others and ultimately pointed back to the Father. Isn’t that what want? Time and time again Jesus emptied himself for others in humbleness with great empathy towards their stories.

Jesus knew our stories would be just as influential for the Kingdom as his.  Let's take off the fleshly armor of worry and comparison to speak eternal truths over one another. My story matters for the Kingdom, and so does yours. Let’s link arms, enter into the mess together and build for the Kingdom.

Scripture Reference: Philippians 2, Luke 7, 2 Corinthians 8:12, 2 Timothy 1:12, Revelation 12:11
“You have life-changing glory stuck in your story.”
— Jess Connolly
“Jesus constantly emptied himself of his privilege to make room for others.”
— Christina Cleveland
“We must be willing to bring the works of our hands, the worship of our hearts, and the words of our testimony. ”
— Renee Swope
“You were born into your story for a reason. Your story is part of your purpose for His influence.”
— Jess Connolly

Your have influence right where you are.

We can shift the focus off of potential future influence and onto our surroundings right where we stand. Influence happens here in our everyday hustle. Instead of harping on interruptions we must simply open our eyes to God's opportunities. Our hearts become enabled to see God and to share our testimony of His grace as we allow others to interrupt our agendas. Let's inspect our hearts, what opportunities have we brushed off as interruptions? 
Gretchen sweetly reminded us there’s no measuring stick in the Kingdom. This message was layered throughout the conference. Whatever your season it is good and it is for His glory that we lean into our God-given influence. Tending to littles with piles of laundry, car-pool lines and time-outs. Launching a business, blog or book. Showing up to your 9-5. Serving at your local church. Getting your mail. Going to class. Swinging by the supermarket. We have influence right where we are in Jesus name.
Scripture Reference: Matthew 27:51, 1 Corinthians 3:16, Hebrews 10: 19-25
“It’s not about who you lead, but who you follow.”
— Gretchen Saffles
“The enemy would have you believe only the big things matter, but to God the little things are just as impactful for the Kingdom.”
— Gretchen Saffles
“Defeat should be a short-term destination. ”
— Jess Connolly
“Let your life be interrupted for others.”
— Ashley Brooke
“Worship prepares our hearts for battle as it shifts the focus off of us and onto Christ. ”
— Ashlee Proffitt
It has taken me over a week to process the message from the 1-day Influence Conference, and I'm sure to reference this post frequently in the coming weeks. The 1-day event was special time of fellowship, and the overflow of community can be felt so sweetly. If you attended the conference I’d love for you to chime in below, or if you missed out let’s keep the conference conversation going here!
For more information on the Influence Network, visit their website and Instagram.