Your True Selfie – The Relentless Pursuit of Who God Created You to Be

Day One

Our family had just completed our cross-country move from Los Angeles, California to Nashville, Tennessee, driving through rain, sleet and snow with five children under ten years old, a packed minivan and pet bunny. Whew!

After one month on the road, eating way too much fast food and living out of various hotels, everyone in the family (including the bunny) had frazzled nerves, testy tempers and fragile emotions.

To escape the cramped quarters of our hotel room (yes, ALL seven of us were staying in ONE room), one night we thought we’d head out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants. Why we dared to venture to a semi-nice restaurant at this point of the trip, I have no idea – we were clearly borderline delirious.

Your family has probably never had this kind of experience, but at the risk of being vulnerable – my pain will now become your pain.

Our three boys conveniently chose to expend an entire month’s worth of energy during this one-hour restaurant break, making LOTS of noise, bouncing up and down in the restaurant booth, wrestling, arguing… you get the picture. As I was getting the “stink eye” from the other restaurant patrons, our one-year-old daughter conveniently chose to this moment to produce her own “stink” in the form of a toxic poopy diaper.

Yes, we were THAT family.

On the verge of tears, I ventured out to the bitter cold to scrounge the floor of our minivan hoping to find a diaper hidden amidst piles of toys, luggage, and fast-food trash. My husband, Gregg, in an exasperated tone, handed me the keys told me,

“If you don’t come back, I understand.”

We laugh about it now, but at the moment, we were second-guessing our decision to uproot our family from a comfortable house, stable job and close friends to venture into this unknown territory of big belt buckles and country music.

This wasn’t what we had signed up for. The picture didn’t look as glamorous as we thought it would. In fact, it didn’t look appealing at all.

It would have been easy to give up, turn around and go back to what was familiar.

This was difficult.

Tiring.

Painful.

Lonely.

Uncomfortable.

As a little girl, I remember having lofty aspirations and dreams of what I would someday become. I had big plans to change the world and high hopes for what God would someday use me to accomplish.

Yet, that stormy night, I unexpectedly found myself in the middle of a snowy parking lot in an unfamiliar town, searching through my incredibly messy minivan for a clean diaper while my other four kids wreaked havoc in a neighborhood restaurant.

Did God forget that I have a college education?

What happened to my plans to be different, my aspirations to make a difference? Where did the passion and determination that I could do or become anything go?” What happened to this wonderful plan God had for my life?

Perhaps you can relate. Have you ever felt sidelined, left out or overlooked by God, wondering what you have to contribute? Feeling stuck? Thinking maybe you missed your opportunity to make a difference? Or perhaps you feel your mistakes disqualified God from using you?

You’re not alone in your thoughts. In fact, throughout scriptures, we see many sincere God-followers ask the same questions. Read the love and tenderness God expresses to his children through the prophet Isaiah…

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me. Isaiah 49:14-16

See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands... Isaiah 49_16

As God tenderly reassures the nation of Israel, God persistently affirms his love towards us, gently, continually reminding us of his care and faithfulness. Prodding us to look to him.

God has not forgotten you. He created you, knows you intimately and has a great plan for your life – one that will bring glory to his name. As you seek him and allow your life to be shaped by him in an increasingly greater way, He will lead you.

Things may not always turn out the way you expected, and you may find yourself trapped in a restaurant during a winter storm with energetic toddlers, but you can trust that He is good and He hasn’t forgotten you.

Take a moment…

  • When have you experienced a season when you felt a little empty on the inside? Feeling that you were made for more than you’re currently experiencing?
  • What does this verse say about God and your incredible value to Him? How can knowing and meditating on the fact that God loves you and never forgets you breathe hope into your weary soul?
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Oh No! Not YOYO Night!

My kids are hungry – A LOT. In fact, I think they’d be thrilled at the prospect of me staying in the kitchen all day aspiring to be the next Pioneer Woman.

Pioneer Woman’s kids have it made. Think about it. They have the Food Network’s test kitchen in their house every day! A teenagers’ dream.

But I’m not Pioneer Woman. I have a job, things to do, errands to run.

You probably do, too.

When my kids were younger, it was essential for me to feed them several times every day. If I didn’t feed them, they didn’t eat. If they didn’t eat, they wouldn’t grow and become healthy.

Now they’re getting older and it’s important for them to learn to feed themselves because I can’t accompany them to college to pour their milk and cut their meat.

I’ve been feeding them their whole life – they’ve come to expect it. They desire it. So when they don’t see me in the kitchen by 5:30pm, a look of dread melts across their faces. Their eyes become glassy and the color begins to drain from their faces.

Eventually, one of the kids will sheepishly ask, “Mom, are you going to cook dinner tonight?”

And if I reply, “Nope. It’s YOYO night!” their response usually resembles, “UGH! Not YOYO night!” (Insert gigantic sigh with the dramatic tossing back of their head.)

Because in our house, YOYO night means, “You’re On Your Own.”

In other words, I’m not cookin’.

AKA, Feed Yourself.

For the kids, this usually means throwing something from the freezer into the microwave or cracking open a can of soup. If they’re feeling particularly ambitious, they may pull out the toaster.

But by their reaction of despair, you would think I was asking them to kill and prepare the fatted calf from the family farm! (No, we don’t live on a farm and no, we don’t have any fatted calves. Just the occasional feral chicken, but I digress.)

They don’t want to do the work of getting their food. They want me to feed them.

As Christ followers, I think sometimes we have a similar approach regarding our relationship with God.

We love it when our pastors, books and small group leaders feed us. And they do. And they will.

But they can’t be the primary source of our spiritual food.

Your church, your small group, your friends have an important part to play in your spiritual growth. They build into your life, but they can’t be the sole caretakers of your spiritual life.

You have to do that. You have to take responsibility for your spiritual growth.

Eating a great meal once or twice a week might keep you alive, but you won’t flourish. You won’t be strong. You won’t grow very big.

In Jeremiah 17, the prophet Jeremiah tells of a tree that was planted by the riverbank.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. 8 They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear whe

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8

The tree was intentionally planted by a water source.

The tree did the hard work of digging its roots down deep.

The tree never failed to bear fruit, even in times of heat and drought.

The tree wasn’t looking for someone to water it. The tree took responsibility for its own health and growth.

The Bible is the power of God. It has the power to transform your life. It has the power to cause your life to flourish even under adverse circumstances. You have to plant yourself by this healthy water source and do the hard work of digging your roots down deep.

When you’re physically hungry, you go to the kitchen for food. When you’re spiritually hungry, you go to God’s Word. (Not Netflix or social media) 🙂

Spiritual growth doesn’t happen from a distance. It happens as you dig your roots down deep.

Dear friend, feast on the abundance of God’s Word. It’s rich, fully satisfying and will never leave you wanting.

You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water… Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you… I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you. Psalm 63:1, 3, 5

What would your life look like if you gave God the first of your day? Your time? Your thoughts? Before you looked at your phone to check for messages, you paused and gave the day to him and said, “Thank you.”

 

 

Ten Minutes till Impact – What I Learned from the Hawaii Missile Scare

January 13, 8:07am. A day and time that will forever be imprinted in my memory as the morning when over one million people received this startling alert…

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No need for your morning coffee when you wake up to this!

My phone conveniently decided to stop working the night before; so, when my husband told me in his calm Japanese demeanor, “An emergency alert just came to my phone,” my usual Italian “level ten” freak out reaction was reduced to about a 6.5.

Within seconds, our peaceful isle of paradise spiraled into a panic. People racing through the streets to find shelter. Families hiding in bunkers and bathrooms. One of my sons, who was at his paddling regatta, said the scene at the beach was reminiscent of the apocalypse – hundreds of people running to their cars trying to escape the imminent threat.

Thankfully, it was an error. Apparently, someone pushed the wrong button.

While those 38 minutes were quite traumatic – and a message I hope to never see on my phone again EVER – in a strange way the whole experience was kind of a gift.

Let me explain…

Our community, for 38 minutes, collectively captured a glimpse of what’s truly important.

Faced with the realization that within ten minutes we may be entering into eternity brought laser focus to our lives like nothing else possibly could.

My hurry and hustle, necessities and needs suddenly didn’t matter. The projects, the cleaning, the laundry, the errands – my “urgent, don’t-get-in-my-way to-do list” was reduced to…

  1. My family
  2. My family
  3. My family

All I wanted was to get home to my kids. Nothing else mattered anymore.

I wasn’t alone on this.

In my conversations with others about their experience, all of them involved gathering together with the people you love for a few words of prayer, love and comfort.

No one’s focus was on their stuff. It was all about people. Helping people, serving people, calling people, being with people.

I can’t be sure, but hopefully, some of these calls and conversations were between family members who hadn’t spoken in years. After holding onto years of offense, perhaps, this experience created an opportunity to lay aside differences and offer reconciliation?

Scripture reminds us of the urgency of the times in which we live. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul admonishes the Thessalonians,

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

Suddenlyunexpectedly… When you least expect it, Christ will come. You don’t know when, so be ready. In other words, don’t get so busy with your life that you schedule God out of it.

It seems the apostle Paul understood this pretty well and lived with a level of urgency and awareness that life is a gift to be used wisely, with great care and intention.

Paul continues on this thought to the Thessalonians by finishing with these words,

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Perhaps the urgency with which Paul lived is what continually inspired him to encourage the early Christians to live in unity with one another? To be a light to a dark world? To offer hope to the hurting? To turn their focus from their wants and desires outward to the world they were called to love.

You can almost hear him pleading in his letters, “Put aside your pettiness, prejudices, preferences and politics and be the Church to a world that is hurting and searching for hope.”

Because when nothing else matters, people still do.

Which caused me to consider, what if I learned to live with this urgency and focus every day?

To receive every day as a gift, being fully present, truly enjoying and valuing the people in my life? Not taking them for granted. Not allowing little things to drive a wedge into my relationships? Not allowing my busy schedule to take precedent over the joy of gathering with those I love?

  • Is there a phone call you need to make? Make it.
  • Is there forgiveness you need to extend to someone? Extend it.
  • Are there words you need to say? Say them.
  • Is there something you need to do? Do it.

Because when nothing else matters, people still do.