Finding Fulfillment

“There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink and make himself enjoy good in his labor. Even this I have seen is from the hand of God.” Ecclesiastes 2:24

I used to manage a coffee shop. There were things that I  genuinely enjoyed about it-the hustle and bustle of busy morning rushes. Making a quality drink for someone to enjoy, chit-chatting with the regulars that came in, and working with a fun team of people. There was a comradery that I still think about and miss from time-to-time. But there was so much more that I didn’t love about the job than what I did. I found myself complaining at home about it a lot and wishing I didn’t have to work at all. I felt restless inside and longed to stay home with my kids. I wanted to write and communicate God’s truth to others, bringing hope and encouragement. I’d tell myself I could do it all. I can work my job, be there for my husband and six kids, AND work on my dream of communicating God’s word to the world. But as each day went by I never could seem to find time to work on my writing, which is what I really longed to do. So I continued on, dissatisfied with my days work and longed for something more.

Until finally I came to the realization that I could not do it all. I had to make a decision, because if I didn’t, I feared that I would eventually be an old woman sitting on my death bed full of regrets. Just wishing that I had chased my dream. Was I going to continue to work and be discontent because I was afraid of the sacrifice that I’d have to make in order to chase a dream?

After taking the time to really press in to God and seek His counsel, I felt it was time to let the coffee shop go. And can I just tell you, I have never regretted it. I have not for one day wished that I kept that job. Just the opposite happened, I have never loved life more than I do in this moment.

Fulfillment comes when you are obeying God’s will for your life. When you are doing the very thing you know that He has called you to. You will work hard but there is a sense of satisfaction that comes when you give yourself and invest yourself fully into something that you know can make an eternal difference.

Time is a valuable thing.  Once it is spent, it gone forever. So let me encourage you today to take inventory of how you’re spending your time.  If you have peace about what you’re doing, then keep at it! But if you don’t have peace about what you’re doing and you find yourself complaining about it, this could be a big indication that it’s time to lay it down. If it doesn’t help you further God’s calling on your life then its time to get out the pruning shears and take it out of your schedule. If it’s not helping you move closer to the goal, then it needs to go.

 

Use Your Talents and Doors Will Open

His master said to him, well done, you upright and faithful servant! You have been faithful and trustworthy over a little; I will put you in charge of much. Enter into and share the joy which your master enjoys- Matthew 25:21

Have you ever wondered if what you have to offer is enough? If your gifts and talents are of any value to anybody at all? Maybe, like me, you don’t feel all that talented. Even if you feel less than, I promise you that you do in fact have talents and abilities. God created each and every person full of potential and you are here on earth for a reason. You matter!

When I look at the parable of the Talents found in Matthew 25,  it encourages me that even though I may not feel like I have much to offer and am scared to risk offering what I do have, God can take what I give Him and multiply it to use for the good of others and for His glory.

The parable in Matthew 25:14-35 is about a master who leaves talents (money) to his servants while he is away. He expects his servants to invest the talents so that the master will get a return on his money. The master gives one man five talents and that man invested them and made five more talents, doubling what his master had given him. He gives another man two talents, that man also invested and gained two additional talents, doubling his money as well. But the last man was only given one talent and he was afraid of losing it so he buried the talent in the ground thinking it would be better to keep it safe than to invest it and loose it all.

So often we can do the very same thing with our gifts and talents. We become paralyzed by fear. What will people think? What if I’m not good enough? What if I make a fool of myself? What if I fail? So we hide our talents away for nobody to see or enjoy. If you don’t use what you have, you are guaranteed to receive nothing in return. If you do use your talents, you will most definitely gain more. I don’t know about you, but I would rather do my best to work with what I’ve got than never try at all and be guaranteed to get nothing in return.

If we are faithful to develop the potential that we have, God can take what we offer, no matter how small it may seem, and multiply it in such a way that we get a return on all that we had invested.  When we are faithful with what we do have, God will be faithful to give us what we don’t have. More opportunities, more resources, more talent and more skill. It is our responsibility to steward what we have well and use our abilities to serve others and better society.

My question for you is, are you using the talents that you have? Are you working to develop your potential? Gifts and talents are like a muscle, we need to work at them to develop them. What talent can you give to God as an offering so that the Holy Spirit can take what you have given and multiply it. He will bless you with more when you use what you have.

Your Calling is Irrevocable

But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow do not despair for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day. Habakkuk 2:3

It’s clear that God works through people to accomplish His purposes. But the pathway to living out your calling is more about who you’re becoming than where you’re going and what you’re achieving.

Life can be unpredictable. God rarely takes us straight from point A to point B. The journey to destiny is riddled with crooked paths and zig-zagged motions. We may go around and around the same mountain filled with confusion and delay. We wonder why we haven’t reached our promised land yet.

It may look like nothing’s happening but God is at work even when you feel stagnant.

Fulfilling our God-given assignments don’t usually unfold quickly and promises are rarely produced without struggle. Our journey as Christ followers is much like that of a caterpillar who transforms in the secret place of a cacoon into a beautiful butterfly and then struggles to break free and fly. Some of you may be in that secret place–hiding at home, doing dishes, caring for family, stuck in the mundane, serving faithfully  behind the scenes. You feel like nothing is happening. But it’s there, in that secret place that God is transforming you. Changing you to be more like that butterfly–more like Jesus. Maybe you feel stuck or forgotten about but beloved, you are neither one. Your day of breakthrough is coming. It may be just around the corner.

Even though it may look like nothing’s happening, something’s happening.

You are in the process of becoming–becoming Christ-like, sacrificial, mature, wise, Godly, bold, strong and courageous.

God knows right where you are and His word says that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in Christ Jesus.

There are many biblical examples of when our heros of the faith could have felt completely rejected and forgotten about by God.  So don’t get too down–if you can relate, you are in good company; it’s just a part of the process.

So often we stress about trying to control our life. We strive to try and make things happen on our own. We try to be at the right place at the right time. We network in order to make the right connections. We only hire people with an exceptional resume and lots of experience instead of believing in their skills and potential. We want to prove to everyone that we are strong, intelligent, gifted and capable.

We control.

We strive: harder faster and stronger than before.

But none of that is necessary. We don’t need to strive to make things happen. God orchestrates the events in your life. God knows right where you are at all times. He hasn’t forgotten you. He’ll find you when He needs you. He will put you in the right place at the right time. So stop trying so hard and just breathe.

Often times it’s when we lay our dreams down at the feet of Jesus that He picks them back up and hands them to us. Because the truth is, that we can love our dreams more than we love the dream giver.

Moses was called to deliver the Israelites out of slavery. He knew that this was Gods plan even as a young man but instead of waiting on Gods timing he took matters into his own hands; killing an Egyptian who was mistreating a Jewish slave. After that, instead of being accepted by the Israelites as their hero he was rejected by them and fled to a remote desert. He ended up tending sheep in no-mans-land for forty years.

But God had not forgotten him. During that time, God was humbling Moses, pruning Moses. He broke him down so that He could build him back up. He was molding him into a person of character that the Holy Spirit could work through.

Take Joseph for example–he was called to be second in command of Egypt, giving counsel to Pharaoh during a very difficult famine. God gave Joseph that vision when he was just a teen and after he received the vision, he was thrown into a pit by his own brothers. He was sold into slavery, falsely accused and then imprisoned. Probably not what Joseph was expecting after receiving a vision like that from God. But God hadn’t forgotten Joseph or the plans that He had for him. Instead, He allowed these circumstances to happen so that Joseph would be at the right place at the right time and prepared for the task.

Like Moses and Joseph, God has work for you to do. He has a specific purpose for which he created you but so often we want to rush ahead of God and do it right away- before we’re ready for the task and before the task is ready for us. We need to be prepared for the work that God has for us and that takes time and appointed circumstances.

He gives us our vision long beforehand so that we can train and prepare for it.

Your destiny is waiting for you, believe it. God is not finished with you yet!

You may not be able to foresee it in the natural realm but that doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen.  Joseph wouldn’t have seen it from the jail cell nor would Moses have seen it from the wilderness. But God knew right where they were, He didn’t forget about them and He hasn’t forgotten about you either.

Will You Carry My Burden?

Carry each others burdens and in this way fulfill the law of Christ -Galatians 6:2

What if we took everything that we learned in church and lived it out with radical obedience? I wonder what kind of impact we could make. If every Christian actually did what the Bible told us to do, we would be unstoppable! A true city on a hill shining bright for the whole world to see. What if we were known for our love? A love modeled after Jesus himself. A love that moves beyond lip service and takes action to meet needs. A love that is so much more than a feeling, it’s a choice that involves sacrifice.

The needs are everywhere

There are over 415,000 children in the foster care system in the United States.  There is a person on my street, an older women who has weeds growing rampant in her yard.  There is discrimination. Poor, depressed, drug-addicted and lonely people. If we only open our eyes we can see that there are many needs to be met. Some of are big needs and some are simple, small and easy to meet. It’s so natural to go through our day and not worry about the plight of others. We don’t have a conviction to speak up or help out until we have had to endure a similar hardship of some kind. Maybe if we suffer in some way, we would become more aware of all the needs. Maybe if we struggled some, we would feel compassion and understanding instead of judgment and criticism.

We need you to stand up for others

Until people start to care about the plight of another person without having to experience it for themselves, the situation won’t improve. It’s easy to criticize  another’s depression and anxiety and write them off as being weak and negative until you experience the debilitating effects yourself. It’s easy to say that racism and gender discrimination don’t exist if you haven’t experienced it. The world needs people in position and power to start caring about those less fortunate. Change is always difficult, but it is our obligation as followers of Jesus to be the ones to fight for the powerless, voiceless and oppressed. Change needs to take place in order to make progress. Progression is hard but it is necessary.

Everyone has something to offer

You can make a difference. If you don’t think you have much to offer, I promise that there is always someone who has less than you. You can be a friend to the lonely.  You can give someone a compliment.  You can speak up for a cause.  You can give to the poor. You can encourage. You can meet a need. Use everything that you have been blessed with to be a blessing to others. If you have a house and steady income, you can welcome a child from the foster care system. You can do yard work for the widow and if you are in a position of power, you can stand up against gender and racial discrimination.

You can change the world around you

You have power. You have influence. You may not realize how much weight you carry but you do. Your voice matters and your actions effect others. Choose to be the one to love others well and bring hope to your community today.

To Know God

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to have a closeness with God while others seem stuck or stagnant in their walk with Jesus? Have you ever felt like you have a lot of head knowledge about the Bible but not a lot of tangible experience to hold on to?

I sure have…

I remember when I first got saved. I was eighteen years old. I had accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and said the sinner’s prayer. I believed in my heart that Jesus died for me. It started me down a path.  A pursuit to know God and learn more about Jesus and Christianity. I joined bible studies, small groups and read the word. I started to serve in church and lead.  I liked it, the community I had was like nothing I had ever experienced before. To be a part of something bigger than myself felt good. But if I’m honest, I think I fell more in love with the social club that I had going on at church than I did with Jesus.

At the time, I could say that I “knew” God but to know about God and to know God personally are two very different things. You could do research on any public figure but does that mean that you really know them? All that does is give you head knowledge and head knowledge does not produce personal knowledge.

To truly know God is not to fill yourself up with a bunch of bible facts and stories. Don’t get me wrong, knowing scripture is very important, but God wants us to apply what we have learned. If we know the information but never do what it says, then what good is that? In James 1:22 it says “do not just be hearers of the word but doers of the word”. Jesus said to go and make disciples. A disciple is a follower, to follow is to do what Jesus did.

It isn’t until you get to the point where you’ve reached the end of yourself, a place where you lose interest in your own plans and selfish ambition, wanting to do God’s will here on earth more than your own that you really come to know Him. It’s in that place of complete surrender, with a heart that cries out “I want God’s will to be done. So take my life God, lead me, transform me, help me to become more like you and do with me what you wish. My life is yours.”

It’s in those shaky, uncertain places that God shows up the most. It’s in the get out of the boat and attempt walking on water moments where the Holy Spirit is at work. It’s not that He’s not with us if were not doing those kind of things. He’s always there. It’s just that we don’t need God to show up for us in the play-it-safe spaces of our lives. We need Him most in the messy,  broken and the scary places. We need Him most when we take a step of faith.

To know God is to love Him and to love Him is to obey him. If you aren’t feeling close to God I want you to ask yourself, “have I obeyed God? Am I pressing in to His word so that I can know His heart? Am I being obedient to what I feel he is telling me to do? Have I truly surrendered every part of my life to Him?” If you don’t sense Him speaking anything, then ask yourself, “when was the last time that I felt the Lord speaking to me and did I do what He told me to do?” If something comes to mind, start there.  Do the last thing He told you to do. I have known many people who felt a distance from God and when they thought back to the last thing they felt God was leading them to do and did it, they started to sense His presence and leading again.

Let’s be people who are willing to take a risk and step out in faith to follow Him in absolute surrender. It is in that place where you will feel His supernatural peace, confidence and presence that equips you for His work. When you do what He is calling you to do, He will meet you there. His presence will strengthen you to difficulties and empower you to do great things.

Losing Myself in Mommyhood and Finding Myself Again

For over a decade I have dedicated myself to the beloved task of child-rearing. It sounds glamorous doesn’t it? I can do the majority of my job in my pajamas without brushing my teeth or combing my hair because there is a good chance I won’t see anyone outside the four walls of my house in a day. I’ve changed more poopy diapers than I care to count. I’ve bandaged scraped knees, read bedtime stories, helped with homework, been a taxi driver, a cook, a house-keeper, a cheerleader, a scheduler, a launderer, a personal shopper, a nurse, a counselor.  The list is endless.

And don’t even get me started on house cleaning. Trying to keep the house clean with six children is like trying to keep a tidal wave back with nothing but a broom and dust pan. Many days I am doing things non-stop, but by the end of the day I often feel as though I were just spinning my wheels or chasing my tail. Trying so hard to accomplish something but feeling as though I had gotten nowhere. I have to remind myself that the kids are alive, provided for, they were fed, loved, read to and we made it through another day. In this season of life getting through another day is something to celebrate.

Don’t get me wrong, Motherhood is an absolute gift and my family is by far one of the most important things to me. A source of joy and comfort. But to be honest as much as I love motherhood, it can be hard and lonely. While dedicating youself to staying home to play a supporting role is a noble task and something I have felt called to for over ten years. It is not noble to be a martyr and not take care of yourself.

After twelve years of doing very little for myself, I’ve found that I had forgotten who I was or what I liked. My body hurt, I was tired, cranky and negative. I had neglected myself and my marriage and have gotten really good at throwing myself pity parties. A hobby? who in the world has time for such luxuries? A date night? Way to much work in this season of life. Going to the dentist or doctor? I’m not hiring a babysitter for that. After some time of yearning for something to look forward to, something that excited me,  I have decided to embark on a journey of self discovery and maybe it’s time for you to do the same. So I ask you, what are you good at?  What excites you? What causes do you care about? What dream do you need to chase? What fuels you and energizes you?

I’ve decided that it is not selfish to take care of myself. The better and happier I am the better and happier my family is. You know the saying, “If momma aint happy then nobody’s happy”.  I need to work myself into my schedule and that includes the things that fuel me and give me energy like reading, exercise and time spent with friends.

I need to find and do the things I am good at and care about. Not only will it be good for me but it will be a good example for my children.

So let’s do this mommas; let’s put ourselves on the schedule.  Let’s take time for us, to create, explore, have an adventure, plan a date night, a friend night, a game night. Let’s pursue passions and hobbies and dreams and let’s get excited about life all over again.