The Mess of a Work in Progress

Y’all, I love a project. I mean I dearly love a project, especially if it’s for my home. Spray paint and chalk paint are my favorite mediums for almost-instant gratification. This project, painting my china cabinet to use as a bookshelf in my office, was one of my favorites.

Of course I started chalk painting with the LARGEST piece of furniture in my house. I’d like to say it’s because I’m a go-big-or-go-home kind of girl, but really I was scared to death. Thank heavens it turned out better than I dreamed! I guess you could at least say I’m an all-in girl.

Now I’m hooked, and I’ve just started a new project.

I know. Those of you who love old furniture are hyper-ventilating right now. I’m so sorry. Truly. But it was all banged up and need a little new life, so it’s going to be a gorgeous peacock blue soon. I’ll post the final product on Facebook if you want to join me over there.

Do you want to know the truth about my projects, though? The end results are usually great, but the in-between is a pure mess. I don’t know how it happens, but a project in one room takes over the whole house. Kind of like this…

And I’m a terribly messy painter, so I even have special messy clothes.

Can I share something with you? That’s what my insides look like right now, not just my physical surroundings.

For months, God has been doing a project on my heart. The true beginnings were back in the spring when I attended a conference. Although I enjoyed the conference, I didn’t find myself particularly emotional over any of the speakers. Until the end. By the end of the last session, I was holding myself together by a thread. The weird thing was that it wasn’t even the message I had heard. It was just a move of the Spirit. Making a mad dash to the parking lot at the end, I made it almost to my car before I started sobbing. I was still heaving with sobs when I got home.

Barry was panicked of course, wondering what in the world was wrong with me. I couldn’t even tell him. It’s not that I didn’t want to. I really didn’t know what was wrong with me. Finally, I blurted out, “I truly don’t know what’s happening. It just feels like God is plowing my heart.” 

It was like nothing I had ever experienced. Without getting all mystical on you, all I knew was it felt like I was being plowed for a planting.

For months, God has been uprooting and stirring and shaking, and yet I’m still not exactly sure what’s happening or where I’m going. I’m in between, and it’s a mess up in here! I’m definitely not unhappy– in fact, it’s a particularly peaceful season of life otherwise. I’m just waiting to see the end result of this Divine Project.

Here in the messy middle, I’m taking some steps. One at a time. You’ve gotten some hints in my last few blog posts, but I really don’t know what the end result will be.

What I do know is that I’m going to take a little blogging break for at least the month of July. You know that I do this almost every summer, but this break will be more intentional. It’s going to be a time to get quiet and see if God has more to tell me about what He’s doing.

Have you been in a place like this? A season when your spirit is unsettled, but you’re sure that God is remaking something in you for your good?

When I come back, I’ll share some of the steps I’ve taken to seek God. To sit with Him. I may only be leading from one step ahead, but I want to do this together. Let’s hold hands as we grow. Be back soon!

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When There’s a Missing Piece in God’s Image

About seven years ago, our church asked for volunteers to be on the pastor search committee. Our pastor of twenty-seven years had announced his retirement, an interim was in place, and it was time to look for the new person to lead our church. My response to that invitation? Who would sign up for that? It sounds like the worst job ever.

But God started whispering to my heart and then a woman I respect from our church urged me to volunteer. Since I was a relative newcomer, I was pretty sure I could volunteer and not be chosen. I thought I was safe. Obedience? Check! Being asked to join? Probably not. Win. Win. I wouldn’t have to do that wretched job.

But then I was asked to be on the committee… Bummer.

Pastor search committees are notoriously fraught with in-fighting and known for having criticism lobbed at them, so I braced myself for the worst. I thought it would be one of those times of testings that sometimes follows obedience.

I was wrong.

Serving on that committee was one of the best experiences of my Christian life. Surprised? I was shocked.

It was an amazing journey mainly for one reason. I’ve never worked with a group of men and women with such mutual respect and love. There were four men and two women, and I always felt heard. The guys gave us equal opportunity to pray and weigh in with our thoughts. Truthfully, I’ve never experienced anything quite like it in the church world, but it proves that men and women working together for the Kingdom is both possible and beautiful.

Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (NIV)

From the very beginning, God established the necessity of both genders in displaying His image. His perfect essence is shown through the strengths of both male and female. We see this truth woven all through Scripture. While I don’t want to over-simplify and stereotype, here are a couple examples of what I mean:

“The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name.” Exodus 15:3  Here’s an example of God being attributed with the warrior spirit embedded in the hearts of my brothers.

“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them.”  Hosea 11:3  God is also shown throughout Scripture as having the tenderness and nurturing spirit woven into women. (Love, love, love this Scripture portraying God as the parent supporting Israel as she learned to walk.)

Although neither trait is given exclusively to one gender, you see what I mean. When we start to look at the character of God, we’ll see the prominent positive traits of both genders in Him. We humans display His image imperfectly, but it’s most complete when it’s displayed through both men and women. Here’s my conclusion:

That’s why I’m worried about the church world right now. It’s not my desire to debate titles or positions, but I  believe that women’s voices are largely overlooked by the leadership in many churches. Some make light of the problem or deflect blame, but when women’s gifts aren’t maximized and their perspectives aren’t heard, we don’t get a view of the whole character of God. Part of His image is missing. That’s a huge problem.

In our pastor search committee, I got to see what was possible when women are respected and their voices honored. Both genders brought their strengths to the table in amazing ways. From the very beginning, our committee decided that we wouldn’t recommend a pastoral candidate unless we were unanimous. Have you ever heard of such a thing? But God… we prayed, listened to God and listened to each other, and we were unanimous.

Four men and two women had seats at the table, and the result was great love, an amazing working relationship and unity. What a beautiful display of God’s image!

From the start, God has given me a ministry passion for deeper relationships, and I’m writing this because I long to see the relationships that I experienced between men and women on our committee replicated over and over and over again. Representing God’s image through the gifts of both male and female is a topic working talking about. Worth working for. Worth taking a stand on. Let’s lovingly use our voices to help others find the missing piece of God’s image in our world.

Tell about a time when you’ve experienced men and women working together in unity.

ps. Barry Carroll, my love, you make this truth happen in our home, and I love you forever. I hope others see God in the way we work together.

I don’t know if they’ll see this, but a huge shout out to Tony, Tim, Mark and Jim. You four guys, my partners in the pastor search, are exemplary and some of my heroes. Just thought you should know.

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When You Need to Wait (But You’re Dying to Speak)

I’m almost always a day late and a dollar short, so I’ll probably never have a viral post.

I’m not the girl with the fast reply or quick wit. I’m a ponderer. A processor. A pick-it-aparter.

But don’t let that fool you. Don’t think that I’m silent because I’m not passionate. The opposite is actually true right now. I’m quiet (for now) because I’m so passionate.

When I’m passionate and I speak out of the emotion of passion, I almost always regret it. I have friends who are thoughtful and eloquent under pressure and in the heat of the moment. I wish I were that woman, but I’m not. Instead, I tend to switch into “Action Amy” mode, and usually “she” wreaks havoc.

I earned that nickname when I was a college-student on a mission trip, and did I mention that it wasn’t a compliment? I was the assistant leader on a missions trip with “Praying Pam.” Pam was measured– quick to pray and slow to speak. I was impulsive and quick to jump in to make things happen. Guess who the teens we led liked and respected? Not much of a puzzle, huh?

I learned some painful but powerful lessons on that trip, and Jesus has continued that work in me over the years. He wired me this way, but He’s been growing me in how to manage that wiring. Jesus is teaching me how to harness my passion and measure my words. However, multiple times in the past year, I’ve found myself grieving over the words I spewed as emotion carried me away over something I felt strongly about. Good things. True things. Right things. But said in the wrong way.

Last Sunday, in a series my pastor is teaching on Daniel, I found the key I needed to lead me to a better place, a space in which I speak about my passions without blowing up the room and everybody in it. In the midst of a huge crisis with evil lurking the passage says, “Then Daniel responded with tact and discretion to Arioch, the commander of the king’s guard, who had gone out to execute the wise men of Babylon.” (Holmon) Knowing that he himself faced an unfair and near-certain death, Daniel didn’t explode. He responded to injustice with tact and discretion, or as my NIV version adds,  wisdom. There it is folks. It’s what I need… It’s what we all need in the midst of high-passion situations– tact, discretion and wisdom.

Some  people I know are gifted with these traits. God seems to have woven it into their DNA, but they aren’t just gifts for some. We can all have the gift of wisdom if we ask for it (James 1:5). God just seems to have wired me to need to ask and then wait. In the wait, He refines my words but solidifies my passions, just the combination I need.

All of that is leading to this…

I have some things burning on my heart. Some things that are consuming my thoughts. And I’m dying to talk to you about them, but it’s not time yet. It’s not time because I’m mad, not yet measured. It’s not time because I’m grieving, not yet full of grace.

My friend Michele Cushatt recently modeled a wise wait for me. I commented in Instagram recently on the link to one of her articles (below), and it opened a message dialogue between us. When I told her that I was too mad to speak yet, she told me that the article I love sat in her saved posts for months while she worked through it and refined it. Because of that wait, her post is full of tact, discernment and wisdom.

In this post, I want to do two things. I want to give you the gist of what God is doing in my heart, because I think it’s part of a move of the Spirit that God is doing in His people. It’s my desire for us to join that move here. Also, I want to give you some links to those who are addressing these things well so that you can dive in and prayerfully think about these issues. I’m not ready to unpack all of it yet, but I don’t want to be silent either. These things are too important to me.

Here’s the list in a nutshell:

  • The thread that’s binding all my thoughts and heart-movement together is that we are all made in the image of God. Not one race. Not one gender. ALL.
  • #metoo sisters, I haven’t experienced what you’ve experienced, but I stand with you. Time really is up… and it’s about time. It’s time in the secular world, AND it’s time in the church for changes in attitudes and behaviors toward women. (Not change in biblical truth, but changes in attitude and behavior. I want to urge you to please, please resist the email that might be making your fingertips itch.)
  • I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the divisions of race in our country, but that can’t ever be an excuse. I’m learning and listening.
  • Finally, I’m learning that I don’t have to agree with every point of every voice that’s speaking in a movement, but in order to grow, I have to listen to brothers and sisters with voices outside of my limited experience. I refuse to reside in an echo chamber any longer. That only keeps us stuck.

For my whole ministry life, I’ve been about deeper relationships with God and each other. The list above is only an extension of that passion. The only change is that circle just keeps getting bigger.

I’m watching closely how people of faith are facing these issues, and I’m seeing some who are modeling the way I feel called to move . Others are responding in ways that I don’t feel comfortable emulating. If you’ve been feeling the weight of some of these issues or are now curious about who is influencing me, here are some messengers that I’ve found tremendously helpful (click on the link to watch, listen or read):

Trip Lee from MLK50

Jackie Hill Perry MLK50

A panel from Matt Chandler’s church 

Beth Moore “A Letter to My Brothers”

Jen Wilkin “More Pressing Than Women Preachers”

Michele Cushatt “The Gap of Christian Woman Leaders”

I love each one of you, sisters, but I know that some of you are worried about me after reading this. 🙂 Can I reassure you? Jesus and I are good. So good. And I’m searching the Scriptures as the source of answers, not just reading blogs and watching YouTube.

I want to urge each of you to do the same. Commit to let God’s Word reshape you. Commit to allow God’s Spirit to move you (even into uncomfortable places). Commit to listen and learn. Commit to exhange political ideology for Truth.

When I’ve waited and I know I’m being led by wisdom, tact and discernment instead of emotion and passion, I’ll write more about these things. Until then, let’s journey and grow together as sisters.

The Winners:

Thanks to all of you who left comments in the last month. I read and treasure each one! Here are the randomly chosen winners:

The Spirit Led Heart    V (5/24/18 5:25 pm)

Breaking Up with Perfect gift package     Sharon C (5/20/18 9:33 am)

Audacious gift package      Shirley (5//18/18  1:11 pm)

Me, Myself and Lies gift package   Tina Hubbard (5/18/18 12:00 pm)

 

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One Powerful Step to Increase Your Happiness Quotient

How would you describe your life?

For decades, I would say I was mostly happy. During a 5-year period, however, God led me through a process to take one step that shot my happiness quotient through the roof.

My problems didn’t all go away, and every circumstance wasn’t smooth. We all know the perfect life is only a myth, right? The change that amped up my happiness wasn’t external at all. It was purely internal.

When I let go of a thousand small expectations, my happiness increased in ways I never imagined.

Letting go of my unrealistic expectations, the “pictures of perfect” in my head, was a step that changed my thought patterns and my attitude. It was a step that overflowed positively into every relationship in my life. If you’d like to take this step and increase your happiness, click here to learn more by listening to my interview on Focus on the Family.

Back in January, I had one of the most fun opportunities of my ministry life. I got to do an interview with Focus on the Family, and I’ve been dying to share it with you ever since! Here’s a little sneak peak at my time in Colorado Springs:

I have to brag on how kind the whole staff is at Focus. These producers made me feel cared for and right at home from the first email. It was great to get to meet them in person!

And these guys… I know I look like a deer in the headlights in that last picture, but it’s just post-stress exhaustion. (This interview was bigger than this small town girl.) 🙂 They were so warm and made the interview like a conversation between friends.

Have you taken the step to banish the “pictures of perfect” in your head? How did it change your life?

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Lies, Half-Truths, and Truth that Sets Us Free

There are some friends so dear that you can’t wait to connect them! My precious friend Suzie Eller is someone I’m over-the-moon excited to introduce to you.

Suzie is both funny and wise which is a winning combination in my book, and she’s written a book that will rock your world. The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith without Borders is about the gift that so many of us have missed. It breaks my heart how controversial the topic of the Holy Spirit has become, dividing denominations instead of uniting God’s people. Suzie takes a Biblical approach that will leave you empowered with all that the Spirit has to offer.

Please welcome Suzie to the blog today! (And don’t miss an opportunity at the end to read two free chapters as well as to win a copy of the book.)

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My friend and I sat on the curb, sweaty after a long walk. For the past few days, we had been studying Romans 8. As we walked, she spoke out loud the words in Romans 8:38-39.

Nothing can separate you from God’s love. 

Then it became personal.

Wait, nothing can separate me from God’s love.

These were words that, until that moment, felt like they were for everyone else. Have you ever had a moment when truth is suddenly clear? You’ve tried to figure it out on your own, perhaps for years. It feels as though everybody else “gets it” except for you. That’s how my friend felt until the message in Romans 8 leaped from the pages and settled into her spiritual DNA.

Why did she believe it?

The reason that any of us fall for a lie is that it feels true.

For my friend, a lie had led to an assumption, which become a belief, which produced actions (or inactions) that impacted her life and identity.

This is one lie we often believe.

You can never change.

Maybe an adult spoke that over you. Maybe you started to believe that lie because you tried to change, and it didn’t work. Perhaps that one mistake still haunts you, even though you have changed.

So you begin to tell yourself: This is just who I am. That’s the assumption. It settles into your identity as truth. You hear scripture that tells how much God loves you, and you point out all the ways you don’t deserve it. You try to do everything well, but you make a mistake so you beat yourself up. Or maybe you just give up entirely.

How do we counter these lies?

We counter them with truth. The lie might be, “You can never change,” but this is the truth:

We are free to be exactly who God says we can be.

When I was younger, I didn’t let women get too close. If I was in a grocery store and saw someone I knew, I’d make a beeline for the dog food aisle, hoping they’d go the other way.

Why?

Because of a lie.

The lie was that I didn’t have a lot to offer. I didn’t have anything important to say. I worried that I’d say something goofy. I was shy. I was introverted. . .  the list of my beliefs was long.

Some of these held some truth. I was a little shy. I am an introvert. I might even say something goofy (that can still happen). The problem is that I had accepted the lie that I didn’t have anything of value to add to a friendship. That somehow I was “less than.”

The truth is I am free to be who God made me to be. Sometimes shy. Mostly introverted. But also a really great friend. Loyal. Fun (that’s the goofy part). As I confronted the lies and assumptions with truth, my belief system shifted and so did my actions.

The words I spoke over my own heart changed. As I accepted me, I was able to accept others as sweet friends, because the truth is we all have quirks or differences, and we all have strengths. There is no perfect friend, or perfect woman.

What is that half-truth or outright lie that has weighed you down?

Ask God to help you recognize it. Confront it with truth. As you do, it will begin to shift the way you think, which shifts the way you live, for when you know the truth, you are free to live the truth.

Suzie Eller

Suzanne (Suzie) Eller is a Proverbs 31 Ministries writer, a bestselling author, speaker, and blogger. Suzie has written a new book, The Spirit-Led Heart: Living a Life of Love and Faith Without Borders. This book shares that we have a Helper. We have what we need to live with a Spirit-led heart.

Download two free chapters at www.tsuzanneeller.com/spiritledheart

 

The Giveaway

Today we have a treat! Bethany House and Suzie are giving away a copy of The Spirit Led Heart. To enter, simply leave a comment sharing a truth that you’ve used to combat a lie or say “The Holy Spirit leads me to truth!”

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Thankful for a Breakthrough!

I hope you enjoyed today’s devotion, From Breakdown to Breakthrough!

Just for fun, I wanted to add a little follow-up here before we get to the giveaways.

Here’s a pic of my friend Nicole and me about six months after the story in the devotion.

Isn’t she a cutie?! I share this because I want you to know what kind of friend she is. The Saturday before this picture, I dropped by her house to see if she wanted to make a Target run with me. When we were there, we bought the same jacket and decided to wear them to our neighborhood Bible study that week. TWINNING! And totally goofy. So much fun!!!

Can you imagine if I had acted like a brat over our dinner misunderstanding? I would have spoiled our closeness and missed out entirely on this moment with my tender-hearted, loyal friend.

Sisters, life is too short to be short with the people we love. I’m just like you, fighting my flesh every minute of the day. Battling to be kind instead of selfish. Resisting the desire to insist on my own way.

But if we’ll choose to listen for God’s gentle whispers. If we’ll decide to follow Jesus, becoming more like Him in the way He loved others. If we’ll prioritize our people over pushing our plans…

Then we’ll have more precious moments like the one in the photo above.

Giveaways:

In celebration of friendship, I’ve got three giveaways today! To enter to win one of these packages, leave a comment either about a time God helped you with a breakthrough in the middle of a breakdown OR just write a friend’s name that you treasure.

 

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How Can I Be 50 and Still Bad at THIS?

I’ve been sent back to Kindergarten by God AGAIN. In the past, I’ve had to go back to relearn the basics like love and trust and belief.

It’s happening in a new area these days. These new lessons are painful, but I’m thankful that I’m finally learning to listen.

But I’m wondering… how can a woman like me who loves people–I mean really loves people (!)– get to the age of 50 and be such a poor listener?

Several months ago, Lisa Allen, my fabulous leader at Proverbs 31, approached me about being part of a new group at the ministry. It’s a group that’s going through a curriculum called What LIES Between Us by Lucrecia Berry that helps Jesus followers wrestle with issues of race, seeking to create a space where believers of different ethnicities move forward together in unity.

I was thrilled! Lisa’s invitation was an answer to a desire of my heart. “How can I be part of the solution?” I cried out over and over as I’ve watched the news the last few years. I believe racial reconciliation is a place where the church should be leading the way. Love between all believers is something the church needs to be known for when the world sees us as standing against so many things.

I believe it’s true, and yet I’ve been paralyzed, not knowing how to start and being afraid that any move I made would be the wrong one.

God has done a lot in both my mind and heart in the last few months through our group, and I’m excited to share here with  you as things unfold. But there’s one essential element that I’m having to go back and refine an element that I’ve been almost completely missing before I can really move forward. I’m learning to listen even when the conversations are hard. Even when the ideas clash with my preconceptions. Even when the differences seem insurmountable.

Watch the video below“How to Enjoy People Who Aren’t Just Like You” (or click here) for more of what I’m learning such as:

  • The difference between debate, discussion and discourse.
  • A couple of simple scripts to use when you get in a difficult conversation.

Did you catch it? I hope you’ll work on this with me. More to come on this topic as I learn. What is God teaching you about building bonds with people who might see things differently than you?

This is a baby step toward change in me and toward the change I believe I’m responsible to create, but it’s an essential step toward developing a crucial skill.

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Congratulations to the winners of the giveaway packages!

  • Julia LaRue (4/9/18 6:42 am)
  • Myrna (4/9/18 8:22 am)
  • Laura Aranda (4/9/18 9:28 am)
  • Stacy (4/9/18 10:00 am)
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A Celebration of Flops

In my devotion today, I talked about plans that flop, and I know that might be a trigger for you. It sure is for me! I’ve had plenty of plans that flopped… or at least went awry.

A pregnancy that didn’t happen on my time schedule.

A job I wanted but didn’t get.

A dream fulfilled that I thought would be glorious ended in pain.

But here’s what I’ve learned. For every flop and failure, there’s still joy and learning in the journey. I want to flip our flops today and insert a little fun in celebration of the joy along the way.

I’m really visual, so I thought I’d share some of the happiness of the day I described in the devo. Here are some pics of Cheri and I on the day that I didn’t make it to the place where the seals hung out. We still had a great time and burned a bunch of calories to boot!

Cheri and I resting after our battle with the tide. Tired but happy. How can you not smile in the CA sunshine?

The quiet waters in the marina were my jam!

See our cute little otter friends? I was in love.

You can probably see how much Cheri and I enjoy time together, and we’d love for you to join us for serious conversation laced with giggles! After you enter to win a prize package by leaving your comment, click here to listen to the latest episode of our Grit ‘n’ Grace podcast.

As an author, one of the most fun times of my day is to go to the mailbox and find a sample book from a publisher. These have built up at my house beyond my bookshelf capacity, so I’d love for you to give them a good home! There are four chances to win, and each gift pack includes three books, a gift item and piece of jewelry. What girl doesn’t find a little joy in new jewelry? 😉

To enter to win one of these FOUR FABULOUS PACKAGES, tell about a time when you found a moment of joy in a flop OR simply leave a comment saying “Joy in the journey.” 

 

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How to Grow Into Your Calling

Do you feel stuck and frustrated?

 

Is your heart full of purpose, but you don’t know how to get to the dream?

I felt the same way eight years ago, but I’ve learned that calling is more about steady growth than sudden leaps forward. I talk all about it with Mimika Cooney in this interview. There are 3 simple steps I share along with a free handout that I believe will help you move forward.

Click here to access the interview. There are lots of great interviews at the summit page, so check them all out!

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