Year of Abundance

The year of abundance all started with wanting to feel His presence more than I had been. I knew from 2017 that He is an ever present Shepherd continually caring to my needs and preparing the way. So, it was a simple prayer: Lord, let me see you.

In the smallest ways I wanted to see Him show up. And He did.

In laughter with my husband. In heartfelt conversations with my son. In the timeliness of decisions at work. In the women who showed up for bible study week after week with great eagerness to know Him more. I felt my heart and mind being transformed little by little as He began to answer this prayer.

But I didn’t want to just see Him more, I wanted to understand His movements in a new way. It’s no small thing to ask the Creator of the universe, the Great Almighty, I Am, to see what He sees, feel what He feels, to understand His view of this abundant life more.

Abundance was my word of the year, the focus of my days. Jesus’ abandoned life for my abundant life. But what really did this mean for me specifically? With a holy fear I brought this petition before Him believing He’d be gentle in His response. That’s how a Shepherd tends to His sheep, with gentleness and intention. I was ready to discern and walk in this answer with Him.

From the Desk of a Seemingly Silent Writer

Guilt covered my heart as I came back to this place to process what God’s done this year. With one click the browser opens. Another click, the drafts tab opens. It’s all a reminder God told me to get back to writing, yet the year is almost done and the page refreshes with only a couple half-hearted published posts and some wholehearted unpublished posts.

There’s this flip-side that comes along with the gift of writing. I’ve heard it echoed by other writers the more I’ve leaned in to really listen this year. With the gift of words comes a surrendering of ourselves to others. In the context of a believer, we ask words to come from the Father and that He’d direct them as needed. And as sweet a communion as this may be, it means writers are often asked to share some of their most intimate moments with the Lord, the messiest parts of their hearts, all while trusting it’s for their good and His glory. 

In the still of my office I can’t help but ask God to show me what He did through my writing this year.

Learning to Lead

God told me this year would be different. I could feel it in my bones in January. He was clear: leadership would change and I’d need my gaze up to change with Him.

Even still, I couldn’t imagine what He’d do in this arena over the next 342 days.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

The way He moved so faithfully and kindly would ingrain these words from Paul into my heart for all time. I couldn’t imagine how God intended to move, but I knew it’d start with my own understanding of leading.

February brought the first instance of hearing a sermon that’s message was: 
Start where you are. 
Use what you have.
Do what you can.
Trust Jesus as the multiplier. 

This was the first of three times this message would be preached over me this year. In the ebb and flow of this ministry year, God knew I’d need to be reminded over and over it’s not my striving but my surrender He needs most. 

You see, the call to women’s ministry is one I still didn’t quite get. Why would God call up a woman who struggles with female friendships to lead the women of her church family? As such, I’ve been hesitant to claim myself as the women’s ministry leader. For several seasons I got away with the excuse I didn’t want to step on toes of teammates. We’d finally found our rhythm after a season of stumbling as a team. Surely God wouldn’t want me to throw a wrench in this gift of new rhythm. Right?

I’m thinking wrong. 

By October God stripped me of my team. Every last one of them. Might I add: they stepped aside for all the right reasons, too. He gave me no option in the matter. There I was. The last woman standing. And so it was: I was - am - the women’s ministry leader.

A Note to Jackson: Your 7th Birthday

Keep being who God created you to be; don’t shy away from the way He created you. This was my prayer on the eve of your birthday last year. In your year of being 6, I prayed you’d lean into this wild, caring soul you are.

You see, even at age 6 I’ve seen this world press on your heart to conform, but baby this world is not our home and being fully who you are in Christ means you’re going to stand out a little.

Even still, this year I saw you fight for comfort in your own skin. You set goals, developed skills, sought out new friends and claimed the freedom to be fully you. As your mama, it’s a hard yet rewarding season to see you step into.

A Look at the Heart of Lent

This week, the Church turned its calendar to Lent. This is a season near to my heart and walk as a believer. If you’re unfamiliar with the Church calendar, it’s simply a way for believers to structure our seasons and offers us an opportunity to mark our days by the life of Christ.

Observing Lent isn’t a requirement commanded in scripture. Rather, it’s a rhythm developed by the early Church to realign the posture of our hearts as we prepare for Easter. Lent is a slow, still season of remembrance and repentance as we look to the life of Jesus leading up to His death and resurrection.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and concludes with Holy Week, the final week before Easter Sunday. It’s a season spanning 40 days with Sundays serving as feast days (46 days total). Congregations observe Lent in various ways, but the overarching purpose of Lent is to return, repent and remember the life of Jesus Christ.

God beckons each of us to a quiet, reflective season of fasting and repentance. Every person will approach Lent differently just as congregations do. It’s a personal time in the walk of a believer that can’t be compared to one another.

Jesus' cross at Calvary made a way for us to return to the Father. So, we return in acknowledging our sin nature and remembering that we fall short of the glory of God but are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:23)

As we return, we enter into the refining practice of repentance. We humbly bring our sin before God in confession and turn toward Him with our whole hearts (Joel 2:12). We repent and turn to Him not to dwell in despair, but so times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19-20). Lent is an invitation to sit in the tension of the weight of our sin and the depth of His grace.

There’s always much talk about giving up something during Lent. The practice of self-denial or fasting isn’t one we should take on flippantly. It's an opportunity to intentionally fast from things of the world to feast on the Word of God and work of Christ. Through prayer and supplication we should seek personal discernment for how God wants us to observe Lent.

Fasting and self-denial are practiced during this season to reflect and engage with Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. It’s not a time to outdo your brother or sister in Christ. It’s a personal conviction the Lord will be faithful to reveal if you ask Him. Fasting or self-denial is an opportunity to elevate Christ over self.

“For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ.” Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Through spiritual disciplines and quiet reflection God uses the season of Lent to renew our minds, transform our hearts and restore us to the joy of His salvation.

My pastor once challenged us to begin each day at Calvary. Can I renew this challenge to us during this season of Lent? As our feet hit the ground each morning may we be a people whose eyes are fixed on the Cross.

"After all it is meant to be the church's springtime, a time when, out of the darkness of sin's winter, a repentant, empowered people emerges." Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter

Wholehearted Finishings: February Goals

It took me a few seasons to embrace goal setting as a spiritual discipline. Through surrender, discernment and perseverance I've found a joyful rhythm in goal setting. Monthly goals, even annual goals, aren't about checking off a list rather it's about bridging the gap between professed Gospel values and practiced Gospel values.

Wholehearted Finishing is all about taking off the old self and putting on the new. Each month I breakdown my big-picture annual goals into actionable monthly, weekly and daily items. Little by little progress adds up. And in evaluating the little by little margin to see God's faithfulness is created. 

Good Reads: Church of the Small Things

Sometimes the biggest things God does start out in the smallest most ordinary acts of daily faithfulness. The things we do so often and with so little fanfare that we don’t even think about them anymore. We can spend so much time wondering and worrying if we’re fulfilling God’s primary will for our lives. Yet, ultimately God’s will isn’t about the things we achieve it’s about the people we become. Life is more about how He uses us to make a difference to the people who cross our paths even when we’re just going about our normal sometimes boring lives.

Cultivate What Matters: My Word for 2018

The revelation of Jesus as my Good Shepherd shifted everything for me last year. It shifted how I know Him, how I trust Him, but mostly how I’m satisfied by Him alone.

Though 2017 was a hard year of pruning and suffering, in Christ alone it was still blessed and abundant. To dwell at the Well with my Savior is the place I'll return over and over knowing He is the wellspring of eternal life, fully satisfying to my soul.

I've prayerfully reflected on 2017, gained clarity on where I stand and unpacked what matters most to me. So where does this leave me looking toward 2018?

Cultivate What Matters: Uncovering a Word of the Year

"Experience doesn't make you wiser. Evaluated experience makes you wiser," Andy Stanley. 

I sat across from a mentor in November as she shared this nugget of wisdom with me. This encompasses so well why I spend time intentionally evaluating the year behind and what matters most to me before landing on a word or goals for the year ahead.

Before knowing where the new year will take me, I must first know where I've been (see Part 1). Intentional time spent in prayer and reflection over the last twelve months is a fruitful practice I've come to love.

Cultivate What Matters: Know Where You Are

Somewhere along the way I was introduced to Lara Casey's annual Goal Setting series. I jumped all in with her in 2013 jotting everything down in journals and some on this blog. In 2014, I began using Powersheets to more intentionally make progress on what matters most to me.

God has used this process over the last handful of years to break strongholds, build up purpose and allow me to live a surrendered life for my joy and His glory. I'm going to let you in on pieces of my 2018 Powersheets process and the goals over the next few days.