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the slow turn

Where we choose to turn our heart slowly makes us what we are…

This was what I wrote on Facebook February 8, 2011. What a precursor to the life that was coming like a freight train. At almost 36, I was six months pregnant with my first LONG awaited child. In the next 8 months, I would birth a child, go through the craziest day of my life when we husband was accidentally drugged on the day we came home from the hospital, crawl through the darkest days of depression and feeling of hopelessness with postpartum, try with a legalistic fervor to feed my child correctly breastfeeding and have to deal with the shame of failure in that, and would prepare our house to go on the market and to move. Those are just the highlights.

Where we choose to turn our heart slowly makes us what we are…

Adulthood has been systematic disarmament of my charms, my armor for coping, and my plans. I have mountains of journals that document the wrestling of my nature to turn my heart toward myself and other comforts of what I can do and control and His nature that tells me, come to me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. It is not my natural bent to trust Him and to examine my heart for false loves. It is my natural bent to pick the false loves and props, though. I want to be admired. I want things to be easy. I love to numb away reality, and that satisfies for a moment until the emptiness of it crashes down and I see the fruit of what my choices have produced.

I turn only when things stop working for me. That sounds impressive, huh? I bet you identify.

When my job at an urban school (that I loved) ate me alive because I had no boundaries and tried to over perform, I burnt out. I had nothing left. Where did I choose to turn my heart?

When I didn’t know how to communicate and connect in marriage after a few newlywed years when things got real, I floundered. Where did I choose to turn my heart?

When My Daddy was struggling with Parkinson’s and I literally did not recognize the man he was becoming or know how to deal with the needs he had. Where did I choose to turn my heart?

When the last two weeks of my Dad’s life surprised us and he was taken to eternal healing, where did I choose to turn my heart?

When months turned into years of trying to have a baby with no results, I began the deepest journey of turning to Him to His word, His character, His plans, His ways and not mine. This was when the narrative switched in my life from an underlying performance to the hope of the Gospel every day. Slowly over years of time letting His word inform me, seeing the big picture, studying, praying, teaching it, my character was changed. My hope was trained to look beyond circumstantial to eternal. That serves me to this day–in parenting, in business, in changes, in conflict, in tragedy.

I would never have chosen this on my own. That is the sad truth. I am fickle–I love a new adventure–I want a new high. Life really worked for me for a long time. My journey in college began to show that all was not shiny underneath. Jennifer Cox did not have all the answers or the performance or the “goods” to make it in this life with a gold star. I did not know what to do with the weariness or low-grade depression that came. I did not know what to do when I royally messed up relationships and disappointed others and I couldn’t charm my way out of it. It got messy–I got messy. And, frankly, I did not love what came out. I did not recognize the person I was. All my constructs fell.

At the beginning of my Senior year in college, I wrestled with the picture of the depravity in my heart. I remember camping in Romans 1and 3, Ephesians 1. The way I viewed God had always been about me in some way. How could this verse help me? What was God leading ME to do? What guy was for me? It was the first time that I was challenged to look at it being about Him. Where we choose to turn our heart, slowly makes us what we are…

Each of these situations, struggles, needs, informs me of where my heart naturally turns and where to turn it for True Life and Hope. Where we choose to turn our heart, slowly makes us what we are… In a couple of months, I will turn 44, and I can look back at the slow turns in my life–maturity directed by HIM, informed by HIM, found in HIM with a long long long way to go. A long obedience in the same direction…Today I remember the truth that where I choose to turn my heart in the small slowly makes me what I am. What will I choose today? What will you choose?

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Your personal state of the union

Nope–not gonna get political, however, I am going to get personal.

There are an amazing amount of moving parts in our lives. Mixed with an inordinate amount of information coming our way, and the more we know, the more we can be paralyzed in the execution. We can feel like we “should” be doing more or getting better results ALL THE LIVE LONG DAY!

As I hear stories and see patterns in my life and the lives of others, my heart and mind turn to the word Simplify.  This is not in reference to minimalism but to paring down and being aware of what is going on in our hearts and how we are executing leadership and life.

Simplify: to make it easier to understand; to remove the things which make it complex

As women, we tend to have lots of plates spinning at once…and part of that is a necessity.  The problem comes when we do not consider what adding plates will do to our hearts and effectiveness–we complicate things. 

Consider what you are spinning in your life—are you a spouse?  Are you a parent?  Are you caring for a parent?  Are you dealing with a chronic illness?  Are your kids in a lot of activities?  Are you working?  Are you chasing success?  Are you pursuing friendships?  Are you moving?  Are you volunteering?  Are you (GULP) building a house?  Are you looking for a new job?  Are you dealing with intense conflict?  Are you in charge of the chores at your house?  Are you meal planning and cooking?  Are you attending to your spiritual growth? Are you in charge of something(s)? Are you involved in activities at your church?  Are your kids in travel ball?  Are you in school?  Who is depending on you? how are you treating money?

Breathe and come down from the ledge. 

Some of these things are part of the choices in life that we have pursued…and some are chosen for us. The biggest choice is how we react to these.  Do we see them as opportunities to steward?  Do we have a cohesive heart and mind in how we choose what to add and what to say “no thank you” to?  What are we choosing to make more complex in this season? And where are we hurting ourselves and our families in the midst?

I could tell story after story of that one GOOD thing I added to my plates since being a mother that put us all over the edge. Usually, it involved me leading a Bible Study or a child participating in one more thing or getting out of balance with boundaries–GOOD things, but it spread me too thin and affected all my people in the worst of ways.

Cohesive: consists of parts that fit together well and form a UNITED WHOLE (integrated)

Oftentimes, we do not sit down to examine OUR SEASON and OUR HEARTS and THE NEEDS OF OUR FAMILY and how they fit together. Our lives look like a mosaic of different activities that we think we “should” do or that we “have to do to be a good parent or person” or “that’s just the way life is.”

The sum total of our lives are bearing fruit…and the question is “what is blooming?” Is there a stench or a fragrant offering? Does it offer life or death? Light or dark? Non-GMO organic apples or rotten apples? Healthy relationships or toxic relationships? Is there godliness (more of his character) or selfishness growing there?

Beward of false teachers…”you will recognize them by their fruits…Every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. THUS YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM BY THEIR FRUITS.” Matthew 7:15-20

So, it is so important for all of us to examine the State of our Hearts, our families, our patterns of life. They get easily complicated and disintegrate in purpose and direction. That is where our flesh and this world points us. “Our hearts are deceitful above all things”(Jeremiah 17:9). They are idol factories. We begin to see good things as the ultimate thing–our success, our parenting, our marriage, our status, our leadership…all can get way “out of whack.” God says “have no other gods before me,” Exodus 20:3, and we are experts in how to fashion gods. And, most often, they are made up of admirable things and that complicates our examination. He calls us to “examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize that this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you. “ 2 Corinthians 13:5

I come to you with hope. God simplifies this process in us by the power, life, death and resurrection of Jesus–when we come before Him with the reality of our complex lives that are not cohesive in loving Him fully (which is the greatest commandment). We have to recognize and admit the state of our union/heart…If we do not realize there is a problem, we are calling Him a liar. He is Truth–there is no darkness in Him. When, we go to Him, turn away from our other “loves,” we are given the gift of forgiveness and a new heart and a new life. We still struggle with making other idols/loves, and, even still, He NEVER forsakes us if we are truly in Him. This is why He says to REMAIN in Him everyday–He helps us simplify our motives, our plates and helps to bring cohesiveness to our patterns of life–what we put in, what we take out. He helps us understand–in this oft-times confusing life.

My prayer for me and for all who know Him: That we recognize today where our hearts are wandering and trusting other things and where our lives are bearing bad fruit. And, in that, that we may draw near to Him and the power of the GOSPEL that “by grace we have been saved through faith and this is not our own doing–accepting God’s gift–not a result of works, so that NO ONE may boast. I pray we remember that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10 May we remember that “there is no condemnation FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS.” Romans 8:1

My prayer for those who do not know the beauty of knowing God: I pray that you graciously open their eyes, Dear One. I pray that you awaken their hearts to Your worth. Lord, I pray that you cause examination that they consider their fruit–and their hearts. May they experience the freedom of being adopted as your Child…

Posted in Anxiety, authenticity, God's word, grace, humility, the gospel, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Contrary to Popular Opinion…

You are not enough.

You read it right.

That’s offensive, huh?

I am NOT saying you do not have worth. I am NOT saying that you do not have value. I am NOT saying you cannot do hard things. I am NOT saying you are not tough. I am NOT saying you are a failure. I am NOT saying you are less than your neighbor.

I am saying that the voice inside you that feels behind, that sees you cannot spin all the plates, that feels less than adequate for all the adulting, that is constantly on a performance wheel that seems to go nowhere…there’s a reason it is there. Our reality and our experience show us that we fall short all the time. We cannot be all things to all people doing all the things all the time. Period.

Maybe the quote should read–you do not have to perform to someone’s version of enough to have value. OR, your value is not defined by the world’s standard or by your performance.

When we feed ourselves the line that we are enough, we are lying about a huge reality in life. We are incomplete, and at the core, I think we know it. That uncontrollable longing that you feel (or run from) when your mind slows, that anxiety in your belly when looking at life, that wondering in your mind about the deepest questions of the universe, that thing that you have tried to overcome over and over and keep missing, those monumental regrets…all of that is pointing to something more and our lack. It is a need we cannot meet or problem solve.

What happens when we grasp the reality that we are not enough?

We don’t want to face it because that tears apart the scaffolding of our lives. We all try to make sense of and build our lives in different ways with the same problem. We may think if we do it perfectly, or if we are useful to others , or if we produce and achieve enough and gain status, or if we dig deep within enough we can construct meaning, if we learn and conquer knowledge, if we come up with a plan to secure life, if we experience life to the fullest and adventure, if we take charge and lead the way for the underdog or if we can bridge the gap for peace that THEN we will be enough. We will be complete.

There is huge freedom in accepting the reality we are not enough even though it is uncomfortable. I think that this is when true Life begins and is lived. We then see a need for truth, strength, and meaning beyond ourselves. We can quit performing and striving and listen.

Why can we not be enough? We go back to the beginning. We look to the Creator who created in His own image; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27) The Image of God: That is very worthy. And, Then, something jarred everything…made it hard, less clear, brought toil, separated us from the Beauty of God and the peace of being WITH God: The whole process began with “did God really say?” “Surely He didn’t mean…He’s lying to you. He is keeping power and honor, love, fulfillment and glory from you–your rightful identity.” Then, the three letter word was born: Sin. We took understanding into our own hands. We defied the One who lovingly created us to commune with Him. We said: We are enough without You.

That leads us to today–the anxiety, the striving, the loneliness, the frustration, the gaining ground only to fall back down, the one-second glories that take longer and longer to achieve. The line of fulfillment we were fed was a bald-faced lie. Our “freedoms” enslave us all the more. It is grace to see that we are not enough.

There’s a problem: We cannot make it better on our own.

The beautiful part of the truth of God’s word? The promise of redemption was hinted at in the same chapter that the Fall of enough occurred. AND…the Old Testament gives the picture of what enough is through the Law of God. That law is the picture of perfection–of God’s character, otherness, set-apartness (I may have made up a word). AND…trying to be WITH and like God by performance was an epic fail. The way we are reconciled to God is through the enough of Jesus…in fact, the perfection of Jesus’s life on this earth AND His death in the place of ours. There were dire consequences for our rebellion and insurgence–death and separation. God, who is rich in mercy, made Jesus who knew no sin, no rebellion, to be sin for us. He was punished, killed, separated from God (whom He had communed from eternity past) in order that reconciliation might be made and in order that those trusting in Him may be called children of God through the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead. For those who see they are not enough and put their trust in Jesus work on the Cross on their behalf, they are given new hearts and lives. The One who is more than enough lives in their spirit, guides them, encourages them, reminds them, strengthens them, renews them.

So, in ourselves, we are not enough. We do not have the tools. We do not have the heart. We do not have the strength.

In Him, though. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. We find joy, freedom, grace, no condemnation, identity, purpose, hope, and deep and abiding love In Him. That helps us take a deep breath. It helps us feel lighter even when things are HARD and the way is very CLOUDY. We are able to see others in the grace afforded to us instead of railing against them for not being enough. There is freedom in this reality and in the power of God in the midst.

So, where are you today? Striving, surrendering, exhausted, or at peace? I pray that you take your heart and your life to the One that is More than Enough.

Posted in community, grace, New year, parenting, thankfulness, trusting God, Uncategorized

2018 Year-End Ebenezer Awards

My counselor often says–“take time to write that down, Jen.”

How can we so easily forget the beautiful provisions and lessons that are so life changing? We have amnesia of the moment.  Whatever is right in front of us gets our attention.

So, I am writing it down–“blogging it forth”–“setting the Ebenezer up” to remind me of moments of thankfulness this year.                                                   It has been a huge year in my heart–growth-a-palooza with a side of a long way to go.  

In NO particular order, the Ebenezers go to…

*A reentry back into writing.  My soul was missing the way that writing makes me dig and process.  For a 7 on the Enneagram (which tries to avoid all pain), you can see this is a healthy practice for me.  I can take myself WAY LESS SERIOUSLY than I did when I started this blog 11 years ago January 1.  

*517VADWLEqL._AC_UL160_514-Br1DhSL._AC_UL160_The Enneagram.  Seriously, I think in terms of these 9 numbers now.  If you are thinking…”oh yeah I took this cute little test on that,” Stop. Right. Now. and get “The Road Back to You” by Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron.  There are several good podcasts too! A test will not suffice.  This is a helpful tool for understanding and growth!

*The growth of new and seasoned Business Partners on the Rodan + Fields journey.  It has been exciting and such a joy to encourage and grow with these women and my team all over the country.  Even more than ever, I realize that God expanded ministry opportunities through RF instead of closing me R&F(1of1)-59off to them with the disbanding of Women’s Discipleship Concepts 4 years ago.  The highlight was a retreat for some of my directs in April. It ended up, through the Spirit’s leading, to be a time of rest in the Lord, an encouragement for souls on the journey, and time of forming a deep community.

*Puzzles:  I am so thankful that I got a “hankering” for a puzzle one day, and the rest is documented in a big pile of puzzle boxes in our downstairs bedroom.   I know I am a nerd.  Yep.It is a practice that makes me set aside time to just be.  That is sooo important for our hearts, mommas.  (and, PS, I am donating some to an assisted living–in case you think I need to add “puzzle hoarder” to my profile.)


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*The freedom and financial ability to do some fun trips with the boys AND do Boat Club as a family. A little Chattanooga trip to explore for Spring Break, A full-fledged vacation to the beach for a week (first legit vacation we have paid for), some Smokey Mountain fun for Fall Break at Dollywood, Season Passes to Dollywood…  I want presence, experiences, and adventure with my boys.  Who knew that everything would be so expensive???  This has been a HUGE blessing from my continued growth in my RF business.

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*A special trip with my Mom and Sister to go to my nephew’s wedding in Spokane, Washington.  What a beautiful part of the country.  I am so Thankful for time with family.

I loved the enriching conversations that this trip brought with strangers.  I am reminded that God wants us to engage the world with His Beauty and Truth, and we get so bogged down with what’s right in front of us that we miss out.

*My oldest son’s Kindergarten and 1st-grade year…I was so scared.  Sensory Processing Disorder is no joke, and we have worked so hard to help him build resiliency and coping skills. I am beyond thankful for our school, the wonderful teachers and community, our OT, ac6646139525ea749b261b878deb0577Mrs. Kathy, the children’s ministry at our church, and family friends that have encouraged our little guy so much.  He is a different kid than when we started this journey over four years ago.  The motto around our house is “you can do hard things!”  Including the parenting part for Greg and me.  There was a HUGE marker in this journey in December as we got to reflect on how much growth has come in our buddy–HUGE thankfulness to God!

*RF Convention in New Orleans.  It was a beautiful and fun week with 30 members of our team, countless dear friends that are sideline sisters, and friends from all over the country that I have made on this journey.   It was so fun to walk the stage and go to spectacular parties.  Dressing up is fun, and I rarely do that in life! However, It was a IMG_9351monumental week in my heart for none of those reasons.  God intricately brought restoration to so many parts of me, and I straight up was overwhelmed by His Fathering, His pursuit, and His deep love for me.    Someday I might tell the bigger story, but I do not feel released to yet.  I am reminded that He can use anything anywhere to do His work in us.  Hilariously, I had a worshipful time in a city known for its darkness reminding me that His light pierces through our darkness.

IMG_8481IMG_8484*Y’all…I did a scary thing that I dreamed about.  I got the opportunity and encouragement from my friend and business partner, Lindsey, and I pressed go LIVE on a training platform for 180,000 RF consultants. The topic in April was “Times I almost quit: Building the art of resilience,” and the topic in August was “Get Real Thursday: examining the posture you are taking toward business and life.”  I am amazed at the personal growth in public speaking I have gotten over the last year and a half, in particular.  Every time someone asked me to stretch to speak at something new, I thought 2 things:  1) that is not my strength–I don’t do this!  and 2) I don’t have anything special to say that anyone has not said (aka someone else could do it better!)          Here’s the truth…both of those statements are probably true, but we only grow when we stretch to new things.  It is uncomfortable, exhilarating, challenging, full of anxiety, and yet, if I had listened to my fears, I would have missed out in sad ways.        Note 1: Live videos always choose the greatest screenshots–eye roll here.  Note 2:  I also discovered the spray tan the 2nd time around. 

* The growth of my sweet, sassy, smart boys.  I am so thankful that Greg keeps a running list of their hilarious quotes.  Every day I think about the slipping time, and I am sobered by the responsibility and privilege of being their Momma (yep–over my dead body will they call me anything else!!).  Greg is an amazing Daddy–I need him for balance:). As I have read back over the earlier years of my blog, I remember that there was a time that I surrendered that they would not be here.  Maybe it’s my age, their preciousness, or my period of infertility, but I am so thankful for their lives and this opportunity.  

The truth is, as I reflect more, I will remember more.  Why?  I so easily forget the beauty of God’s hand in my life.  What about you?  What are your Ebenezers for the year?   

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Questions that make you squirm…

These last few weeks, I have been quite aware of my blind spots.  We all have those areas where our view is obstructed–others see it, and we have no clue! Oftentimes, we need a moment of example or a failing or a check from our car to ding and tell us that we are in danger.

I have spent almost 4 years thoughtfully building a business.  I have painstakingly tried to guard integrity, to guard the hearts of those I am working with, to guard relationships over a sale or a business transaction, and to guard against my identity being intertwined with my business (and it is not). It has cost me speed, but things that are worth doing with integrity and intention cost us some kind of gain.  I have been at peace with that fact.  Even so, sometimes that cost stings, and I have to remind myself the true Purpose of why I live my life and why I build a business.

In business, relationships, childrearing, etc, there will always be someone who seems to “get it better” and “be excelling more”…that is a true fact and perception.   Comparison will suck the life out of us. We have to make a conscious decision to stick to our path, to stay in our lane, and to keep moving. We have to remember the heart of why we are doing what we are doing.  That heart, for me, is as unto the Lord for His renown and for His glory.  When I allow comparison to stain my perception and my intention, I have lost a huge battle on so many fronts.

Irony happened to me these last few months.  I have had several people approach me to tell me how they have been inspired and encouraged by how I have been conducting my business. Many of these people have told me that they would be taking on entrepreneurship in a business of their own.  Part of me was thankful for their encouragement, and part of me felt like a failure that they didn’t want to join me in business (The ridiculousness of my heart is that I had not asked them to join me in business).  I know, that sounds gross, doesn’t it?  It is a gross picture of my heart.  Blind spot encroaching!!!!

In the process, I had an interaction where somebody treated me like that.  They were disappointed that I was not benefitting them instead of relating with me as a new friend.  God whispered into my heart…”jen, this is exactly where you have allowed your heart to go instead of rejoicing with others.”   GULP.

I had to step away from a personal perception that was selfish and really look at the intention of why I am doing what I am doing.  My “why” is to help others come alive, period.  My heart’s cry is to glorify God and to encourage others in their journeys with Him–no matter what they are doing.

Do I want the best for others and their families?  Yes.  Do I want people to become entrepreneurs and to grow?  Yes.  Do I want people to be in better places of provision?  Yes.  Do I want women to grow in gifting and in confidence?  YES. Do they all have to play on my team?  No, not at all.  Am I happy that I can be an example and encouragement to others?  Yes.  There was my answer: Rejoice and encourage these women not just outwardly but inwardly from the heart entrusting my business and theirs to the Father.  Period.

See, I have been feeling this “us v them” thing for awhile.  Everyone has a stake in the game, a position they are promoting.  It doesn’t feel good to be the “them.”  When people make their “role” the “it,” we are all losing.  EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. OF. US. When you are defending your brand, your business, your church, your party, your schooling, your philosophy on health…we forget to encourage one another even if it costs us.

I’m gonna go here…and I cannot believe it.  We all have a need to stop, to think about which kingdom is the “ultimate,” to think about encouraging one another as brothers and sisters.  Woe to me if I, in my heart, words or attitudes undercut a brother or sister in Christ.  I have lost sight of eternal things.  When I am more concerned about building my little “kingdom” than His…that is a devastating blindspot.

So, I ask ALL of us…where are we letting competition and personal gain undercut loving others?  This is my first foray into business, but it is not my first rodeo on the comparison circuit.  For those in real estate, can you rejoice when another realtor is thriving and serving others in a beautiful way?   Pastor, can you rejoice when another church is gaining traction in the community by serving and loving others and sharing the Gospel?  Business owner, what happens when someone you are called to serve is in competition with you? Will you undercut them, question their practices, down their products, or will you treat them with respect and dignity?    Momma, what if a friend chooses another way to feed, to educate, to provide, to birth, that is in direct opposition to your stance?  May we all breathe, align our hearts with His, and remember what we are ultimately called to be about.

 

 

Posted in authenticity, discernment, Uncategorized

branding and the heart

Persona:  The aspect of someone’s character that is presented to or perceived by others

The buzz these days in business, in ministry, in the non-profit world, in sports, in politics, and on social media is building a personal brand.  We all have one, and some of us are experts in tapping into it and being strategic about it.  In my business, I have a lot of interest in coaching people to understand and to develop their personal brand in order to connect genuinely with their audience.  In reality, I see it as helping them know and examine themselves and their strengths and to embrace themselves and what they have to offer others.  I find that many women do not know the beauty of who they are and do not think they have anything “special” to offer. I enjoy encouraging people to live bravely and authentically as themselves.   Sometimes our “brand” is born naturally and sometimes it is painstakingly crafted. I can read somebody attempting to build a brand pretty quickly, and I can read and smell authenticity and the opposite.  I have embraced more of who I am and realize that my brand was there without too much strategic thought.  Truthfully, me living as me on social media has opened up opportunities for me to help others.

I have spent some headspace lately thinking about how much of the true self comes through with social media and the “spin” we execute when building our personal brand. How much of our energy and thinking goes into this?  I’m thinking…what if we actually invested that in our actual character?  Lately, I have heard several people speak of loving the persona of someone but being disappointed with the person in real life–maybe there was some false advertising:).   And, 2 dimensional never translates to 3 dimensional, therefore, it is impossible to share everything.

One of the downfalls of our “branding yourself” society is this:  we can easily spend more time constructing our persona than growing as real people and investing in and serving real people.  In fact, It’s not even just business these days.  With Social media profiles, where we build a following and build a personal brand, we can easily become absorbed with self.   Our hearts and minds can be consumed with what we will say about the hottest topic or how we will be funny or how we can best capitalize on a picture or experience to fit with our “brand.”  We can become obsessed with the “response” of people to us and to our message.  We can equate our worth with how much we are “seen” and “liked.”  It can be a slippery slope to self-promotion where we miss the message that we were created to carry.

The problem is as believers our allegiance is not to promote ourselves.  Our purpose is not to magnify our self-worth.  I began writing this blog last night and was reminded this morning in corporate worship that our mark of faithfulness in this life is in servitude to Jesus and in stewarding the mysteries of God (1 Corinthians 4:1).  Think of the humility of God coming to earth as a man.  Philippians 2 speaks of Jesus considering equality with God something not to be grasped and making Himself a servant and becoming obedient unto death all for the glory of God.   In John 5:41, Jesus himself said “I do not receive glory from people.” All throughout John, Jesus speaks of listening to the Father and seeking not His own will but the will of Him who sent Him.

So, what are we to do with these conflicting ideas?  Do we run from being business owners?  Do we divorce ourselves from all social media?  Do we cloister ourselves away from all things that can become snares and temptations to us?  Do we not write or speak or create for fear we are self-promoting? This is sometimes the knee-jerk reaction to seeing our sin.  We fear, and then we shut down and pull our voice and influence away.   However, we are called to be a city on a hill, salt and light in a world that desperately needs to see The Glory of the One and Only full of grace and truth.  So, we have to learn the balance of examining our hearts and surrendering our own wills.  We can easily be deceived–we deceive ourselves quite well.

I have learned that some do not have the skills and bent to know how to examine their hearts.  So, I will present several helpful questions we can ask ourselves:

1) Where do your thoughts camp? Do you invest more time in building your persona (thinking about what you will post or how you will promote your business) or in living less of you and more of Him?   Are you spending time being shaped by the Word and the Lord and living out of that?

2) What is your purpose in building a brand or persona? All things can be done and leveraged for the glory of God, and all things can become an idol.

3)Has your “schtick” become the “it” and not your original purpose? Ask your good friends what they see in you.

4) Look at what you are saying and doing (social media and publically).  How are you leveraging your life for the sake of the Gospel message? Is it more about you and your message or His message?

5) What part of your life are you serving others?  Are you using your gifts and brand for the benefit and service of others?

Do not give up your voice.  Work to find the voice and the service God created in you to steward for His purposes.  This takes work and prayer and looking in the mirror.  I champion us all to wrestle on!

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The making of confident girls

I was given a gift.  I did not seek it.  I did not deserve it.  I had no idea its worth until it’s initial presence was gone, and I reflected with wisdom.

I reflect on this gift this week.

I have two small boys that do not know real want.  They have warm beds, warm hugs, abundant clothing, a variety of nutritious food (whether they choose to eat it or not), educational resources, invested adults, and hearts and words pointing them toward Jesus.   They experience security in ways that many children in our country and world do not. They need it, but they did not seek it.  They did not choose it–it was chosen for them. They have NO idea the gift they have that is an ache in the heart and bellies and souls of children across the world.

Last night, I looked at my four-year-old, Luke.  He crawled up in my husband’s lap and snuggled with no fear; he knew that he is welcome. I think of that sweet confidence I had of crawling in my Daddy’s lap at two, four, ten, sixteen, and, yes, even thirty.  At the age of thirty, I experienced that love, affection and deep care from my Daddy for the last time.  However, the deposits were everlasting.

Oh, how I miss his affection, but his investment built a foundation in my heart, in my mind and in my confidence.  I never feared to approach him.  I never wondered if he cared for me.  I never had to guess that he enjoyed me being around.  You know what makes my heart burst?  I know he shared that care and investment to pour into boys and girls that did not have present fathers as he was a minister of the gospel at our church.  That investment reverberates into the lives of moms and dads investing in their own children and so on.

His simple presence in my life and the lives of others made a distinct difference.  It brought peace, laughter, encouragement, and fun.  Was he perfect?  No way.  Was he loving and present and hilarious and goofy?  Yes.  Did he know how to connect with me always?  No way.  There were awkward conversations and missteps in our relationship. I reflect on some mechanical conversations at a Mexican restaurant when I was 22.  Did he make me cry?  Um….yes.  All he had to do was show disappointment or lose his temper.  In fact, I often exasperated him when he tried to discipline me, and I immediately cried.

In all my 42 years, I have witnessed many father-daughter relationships as a school counselor, a minister, and a human.  I have seen how the absence of a father, whether physically or emotionally, sculpts the confidence of a child (male or female).  There is a space in all of us that a healthy male figure needs to fill–that is the design we are made for.  Sometimes it is our earthly Daddy and sometimes it is another male caring figure and sometimes it is painfully absent. It points to our need for our Creator and his imprint–both masculine and feminine.  When that relationship is absent, it is very evident as a thread of need throughout one’s life.

As I look at the reality of relationships in this world, I realize the humbling gift I was given in the presence of my Daddy and my Heavenly Father.  There is a thread of confidence within me that I can trace to the stability and the love and the investment of my Daddy.  As I reflect on his death 12 years ago tomorrow, I miss him terribly.  However, I am so thankful for the years I had with him.  I am thankful for his legacy which is shown in the ripples of investment he made in others.  I do not take the gift of his life lightly.  I can only pray that my investment in others point to my Heavenly Father like he did.  And, I encourage those Daddies young in the game–it is not too late to ask the Lord to give you guidance, to give you a heart for your children, to give you the heart to turn from a heart of self-preservation to one of love and authenticity and hard work.  You are important and a vital part of your children’s lives and the lives of people around you.