Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Inadequacy, meet your match!

I know this may come as a newsflash to some of you, but life can be crazy.

Obligations pile up.

Kids get sick.

Money doesn't come through.

Plans change.

And you know what?  I'm powerless to fix any of it.

The last few weeks have sought to knock me down and highlight my inadequacy, and it's taken all I've had just to keep my head above the water.  In just about every area of my life, I've been reminded that I'm not strong enough... not smart enough... and just plain ol' not good enough.

But do you know what else I've been reminded of?

I'm never going to be enough, and that's okay.

"Be strong and courageous.  Do not be discouraged because of the king of Assyria and the vast army with him, for there is a greater power with us than with him.  With him is only the army of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us and fight our battles."  And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said.  2 Chronicles 32:7-8

All we see is what's right in front of us.  The fears.  The doubts.  The dashed hopes and shattered dreams.  And we see the army charging toward us, closing in with every failed attempt to make things right.  And while it's natural to want to cling to what we can see and hear and touch, it's the unseen that counts.  It's the power of the Spirit within us that heals and strengthens and overcomes.  Not us.

We are but flesh; He is Almighty.

Recognizing our humanity, knowing that we don't have to carry the burdens of life alone, is when freedom starts. So what if I don't know what I'm doing?  So what if I don't have all the answers?  So what if this is all too hard for me to do on my own?  I don't have to fight this battle.

And the good news is that I was never meant to.

God knew the things this world would throw at me, and yet He chose to make me with weaknesses and inadequacies because He knew that those things would be what would save me from myself.  If He'd given me power and knowledge and answers, I'd rush head first into every plan my brain could conjure up, and I'd end up so far off the path He wants to me walk that there'd be no way of getting back.  As it is, I'm afraid to take a step without asking Him first because I know darn good and well that I don't know where I'm going.  It's great!  It's freeing! It's what saves me when things get crazy.

So while the last few weeks have reminded me that I'm not good enough to succeed on my own, I have an undeniable peace resonating through my soul.  Every inadequacy I face is met with His power.  And in light of Him, the One who is my Everything, my nothingness becomes just that...


Whatever battles you're facing, whatever fights you're trying to win on your own... won't you let Him take over?  You'll never be enough to conquer it, but never forget that there's One who is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Mandalas in Color (and a giveaway!)

Think of the last time you talked to God.

And now think of five adjectives to describe the time you spent with Him.

If you're anything like me, you likely have at least a couple of words like these: hurried, distracted, bored, disjointed....

In a world of technology-obsessed, multi-tasking overachievers, it's sometimes hard to put our screens and to-do lists to the side in order to just be.  Reflection, meditation, Bible study, prayer... heck, even sleep can leave us feeling guilty for not getting enough done in our day.  But at the end of that day, when every chore has been completed and every Facebook post has been read, we know that those quiet moments between us and God are the ones that keep us going.  Without Him, we lack the strength or motivation to fight our way through tomorrow.

Over the years, I've tried numerous things to make my prayer time more fruitful.  I've tried taking a walk and kneeling beside my bed.  I've written in a journal and had reminders pop up on my phone.  I've prayed outloud and in small, dark closets.  Each of these methods have their merits, of course, but none of them seemed to work for me.  What has worked is coloring my way through my God time.

Yep.  You heard me right.  Coloring... as in colored pencils and a coloring book.

I'm not sure if it's my creative nature or just my inner preschool teacher, but coloring is one of my favorite past times.  There are few things more relaxing than turning a black and white page into something beautiful.  Needless to say, I was all over it when my pastor encouraged our small group to color a prayer mandala as "homework" for our class one week.

I knew that coloring could be therapeutic, but what I hadn't noticed before was the way that keeping my hands in motion freed my mind from it's constant running.  When I'm focused on the color patterns and the physical act of staying inside the lines, my mind doesn't have time to wander.  Each time I put down a pencil, pick up a new color, and start on the next section of the picture, my thoughts are brought back to the task at hand.  Combining this exercise with prayer has allowed my time with God to be focused as well.  Suddenly the prayer and meditation time I struggled to hold together for 10 minutes before my mind raced down any number of rabbit trails can now go on for nearly an hour before my ADD kicks in and I have to get up and start doing something.   Unfortunately, I don't have time to color every day, but it's become my go-to activity when there's something God and I need to talk out or when I just want to take time to listen.

Because I love my prayer mandalas so much, I want to give YOU a chance to discover them, too!  If you'd like to win a copy of Mandalas in Color * (pictured above), simply comment here or retweet my post on Twitter- or both!  Entries will be accepted through midnight on Thursday, and the winner will be announced Friday morning. Good luck, and happy coloring!  :)

Monday, December 1, 2014

Can't live with it... Can't live without it!

My friend Jodie is hosting an Advent series over on her blog, and today's devotion comes from Exodus 3:1-20. She asked everyone to share about a time when God asked us to do something that maybe we weren't crazy about, and for me, that something was writing. The following is a post I wrote a year or so ago, prior to the recent smack upside the head that told me to get serious. This has obviously been an ongoing process and to be honest, it's something God and I are still working out....

I have a love/hate relationship with writing.

Up until four years ago, I wrote when I had to. Period. I didn't mind doing it for school (and in fact, I typically did very well on writing assignments), but never in a million years would I consider it a hobby. It just wasn't what I did. I was not a writer. Or so I thought.

If you know my story, you know that God had other plans. He decided to prove to me that, yes, I was a writer whether I wanted to be one or not. In the beginning, He literally had to pull the words out of me, and it wasn't uncommon to hear me pounding my fists on the desk and crying I don't wanna do this!

I got over it, though. Eventually. And now I'm pretty willing to admit that I was wrong.

Over the years, I've decided I'm fine having writing as a hobby. If I happen to find myself with nothing else to do, then by all means, you can most certainly find me in a cozy coffee shop with my Bible and notebooks strewn about, happily tapping away at the keyboard. Those are the times I love it.  But the thing is, those coffee shop moments are rare. It's not very often that I have that time. And I'm totally okay with that. I love my job and the ministries I'm involved in, and I don't mind staying busy.

But every now and then, I get restless. I start feeling like there's this huge part of me that's missing. Like life isn't going the way God wants it to. Every time that happens, I pray for direction. And every time, God reminds me of those early days, the days when I wrote purely for Him, not because it was fun. The days when I was knee-deep in blogging and pursuing publication. The days when I relied on Him for each and every sentence that came from my hands. 

It was glorious.

Time and again, I try to tell myself that it was my walk with God that fulfilled me, not the act of putting words on a page. And while I know He absolutely comes first, I simply cannot escape the idea of writing.

I've tried. Over and over I've tried. I kicked and screamed. I gave in and gave it my all. I ignored the longing. But every time, He says This is what I want you to do. And it's not enough to make it your hobby.


It's nice, in a way, to know what your calling involves. But when it's something you have to work really, really hard at and whose business side kills your creativity.... it's much more fun to keep it at arm's length. Writing for fun doesn't come with the pressure or responsibility or expectations that writing “for real” does.

And I'm not sure yet how I feel about going down that road again. If I'm being honest, those are the times I hate it. As much as I want to do God's will and be faithful to the gifts He's given me, part of me simply wants to keep it as a hobby, something I can enjoy on my terms.

 It's safer that way.

Still, there are times when I come across something I've written in the past, words that hit me as though I've never heard them before, and I know I can't play it safe. God had something to say back then, and somehow, He managed to say it through little ol' me.

What if He wants to do that again?