Dear Reader…

Autumn. Fall scene. Beautiful Autumnal park. Beauty nature scene

I begin this post with Dear Reader because it reminds me there is a flesh and blood someone on the other side of these words I hurl into cyberspace.

Where have I been, you ask?

This summer I did a lot of soul-searching and zero blogging. There was a fair amount of talk therapy splattered in there as well. I spent eight peaceful days alone in the woods contemplating my life and asking hard questions. I filled my journal with ink that told on my heart, revealing the conflict it contained.

Recently I had the joy of experiencing my two-year old grandson. His antics and adorableness make me grit my teeth in attempts at self-control. If given over to my impulses I would scoop him up and smother him with unending kisses. Though his tolerance for smothering gramma-affection has diminished, his desire for my undivided attention has not waned.

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Photo credit cjandjen.blogspot.com

We spent the morning playing and at one point in the back yard he observed and commented, “It’s windy.” For a poetic moment he stared off David Thoreau-like and added, “I like the wind. It blows the hot off me.” I could eat that boy up!

Though I enjoyed the occasional wind that blew the hot off me this summer, I more needed the wind of God to blow the dust layer off my outlook.

I took a hard look at my identity, my relationships, my purpose, my heartaches and my dreams. I also questioned my blog. (Ask a couple of my friends and they’ll tell you this happens on a regular basis.)

    • Why blog?
    • Do I have anything to say that isn’t already being said elsewhere?
    • What am I hoping to accomplish?
    • Do I have a theme and who’s my audience?
    • Do I have a readership?
    • Can I grow a blog while refusing Facebook and Twitter?
    • Am I too open and why for the love of boundaries do I freely bare my soul?

If you’ve read Grace Grips before, you know I’m intentionally transparent because I think people are tired of pretense, idealism, glossy rhetoric and religious cliches. Don’t you just want a place where make-up is not required?

One of my goals for this blog has been to acknowledge and share the messiness of mucking out my honest-to-goodness-real-life with its searing imperfections, frequent failures and side-lining discouragements.

I talk about living with depression and anxiety and PTSD and the effects of childhood sexual abuse. I talk about my relationship with God and share the things He shows me. And though I’m real, it’s not my intention to offer a steady diet of wallow and whine so occasionally I highlight the celebratory moments when It is well with my soul! 

I try to offer glimpses of Jesus in the midst of it all and illuminate the Grace that grips when I don’t feel I can hang on.

And, I just happen to think there are folks who benefit from some of this!

A couple weeks ago I listened to a new friend update me on her life. She’s a first-grade teacher taking a fully-loaded graduate course. All I could offer her in response was to say that I’m a stay-at-home grandmother operating in the self-termed ministry of availability–helping where I’m needed. I didn’t add: when I’m not stuck in depression that is.

While I cheered her, insecurity chided me.

Though I’m getting better, I’m a perpetual self-scolder. I tend to dismiss my dreams and habitually question my purpose. I work hard to push against the persistent voice of disqualification that has plagued me since childhood. I get lost between my feeling of not being enough and my fear of being too much. I stumble over my emotions. I get tripped up on the opinions of others. I fall flat when rejection jumps me. I wrestle with anxiety. I’m easily overwhelmed when two or more of these factors are present at the same time.

Mostly, I just can’t seem to keep a firm grip on who I am so I’m apt to look for clarification from others and wait in vain for permission to live my own life. And sometimes I isolate in a vacuum of self-effort while I attempt to work out a fix for my current version of broken.

One muggy August afternoon I whined to my therapist, “It’s like I keep taking courses but I never get the certificate and here I am at fifty-eight questioning my purpose and if I’ve wasted my life and where do I go from here…and I’m very, very tired.”

Pass the tissues, please!

The tissue-passer reminded me that I’m never going to arrive.  Her reminder was analgesic. This side of the gates I’m never not going to be broken, flawed and in need of transformation. I’m never going to be fully qualified or completely equipped. “But that doesn’t mean,” she added, “that you stop putting yourself out there.”

So this summer I laid my heart before God and somewhere in my contemplative exploration God turned the questions on me:

Does who you think you are carry more weight than who I say you are? 

Trust me, my only response to that was repentance.

As summer packed up for the year I had come to some conclusions. Most importantly I determined to identify myself as one dearly loved by God.

I am His chosen, uniquely created, intentionally-loved, perpetually-cared for recipient of unending Goodness, Mercy and Grace.

(Read that again, please, because it’s true of you as well!)

I decided to accept that His calling on my life is exactly that–His.

I determined to trust where He leads, no matter how seemingly incongruous the path.

I agreed to relinquish the outcomes of His initiations for and through me and to release my need to quantify their import or impact.

And I accepted, once again, the inescapable reality that I’m going to mess up and not everyone is going to like or agree with me.

Back to my blog. I’m going to keep at it even though it still scares me.

You might be a Grace Grip reader if you aren’t afraid of someone offering their vulnerable journey with Jesus through a messy life. My hope is to point to a life-simplifying relationship with God. In the process I hope to be relatable and to offer identification for those who think their struggles are unique and that they are alone.  I want to inspire courage for those looking at and dealing with the hard stuff.

Thank you, friend, for hanging out with me.

And, by the way, by taking a moment to comment, you join the conversation and broaden the impact—not to mention inspire trepidatious me.

Grace and Peace!

The Lost Art of Humility—Part 1

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I’ll be honest. My life hasn’t been pretty lately, which may explain my absence here.

Presently, I’m sitting among a stand of fir trees and taking in beautiful Dickey Lake in northwestern Montana. The setting is perfect for woolgathering.

When life and relationships get messy, I tend to pull back and pull inside myself. My voice shrivels up along with any permission I feel I need in order to speak or to be seen or to belong. I hear and respond to the accusing voice in my head that condemns. Why should anyone listen to anything you have to say; you’re life is shaky at best?

My (sometimes) wonky, dilapidated life and perspective have driven me into hiding. Again. Pride and fear send me there. Again, the voice: After all, Miss Messy Pants, shouldn’t you be a little further along by now—shouldn’t you have this licked?

I’ve been here countless times before and thankfully, by God’s grace, I do manage to drag myself—or does He pick me up?–back to the simple truth that often drives the seemingly beat-up truck of my life–and of this blog.

The Lord’s words spoken to an infirmity-beleaguered, conflict-riddled Paul give me courage. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

I lean heavily upon this promise as I return to the page and allow God to use my vulnerability and my transparency–some would say foolish, indiscreet openness–to invite others to look at their lives as well. Hopefully to become more inspired or encouraged.

I don’t think it’s too bombastic to say that we live in a time where isolation has never been more culturally prevalent. It may be a generalization but don’t we hide our stage 4-shame-ridden selves behind religious mantras and our social media updates while we attempt to buy time to tidy up our real lives enough to actually engage in real time, with real people.

We’re afraid of being judged, uninvited, or rejected because our realities don’t quite measure up to the ideals we’ve adopted for ourselves, borrowed from the glossy pages of the picture-perfect examples plastered all around us.

We hide. We don’t connect. We don’t engage. And this incubates and spreads the virus of neglect in the body of Christ. Have we become so introspective that we can’t see past our own navels to the lives and needs of others? Ouch!

In the rare glimpses I am given into someone’s real-time life I often hear the don’t-judge-me-but… preface to their hesitant transparency and self-disclosures.

We desperately want to connect, we want to be in loving and nurturing community but we feel inadequate. Our messy cars, the unfolded laundry piled on our couches, the pastries we swear off and then order with our skinny lattes, our failures, our excesses, and our perceived deficiencies keep us confined to our privacy–and to our pain.

We say, I’ll crack the door open to my life but you have to promise not to judge or reject me because my life isn’t the way I want it to be and it sure doesn’t look anything like what I think everyone else’s life looks like.

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All the naval gazing I’ve been doing lately has led me to think about humility. I guess you could say Jesus has teamed up with life and they’ve graciously handed me a not-so-free scholarship for another term in the school of Grace and Truth.

My human nature and some gray matter issues medical science has assigned a stigmatized label keep me in perpetual supply of humility-inducing opportunities. I don’t like it. In fact, I hate it! I often mount Self-sufficiency and try to outrun my own life and my reality. I try to overcome in my own power. I fail. Every time.

“When you think you stand, take heed lest ye fall.” (Doesn’t that sound more impactful in the King’s English?)

“God resists the proud (self-reliance and hubris) but gives grace to those humble in heart.”

When I get caught up in trying to please man or achieve man’s standards for acceptance, favor or approval, I know that I’m walking in pride. I know that humility has become a missing spoke on my wagon wheel. And I know I’m flirting with a religious spirit. And I’m terribly close to a face plant.

There’s a line in Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes that describes this propensity toward pride:

“The old wheel turns and the same spoke comes up.”

Pride is going to come up in our lives for as long as we breathe earth’s air. Only humility can displace it. Only humility allows us to see rightly.

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We need grace.

I’ve determined that I cannot live in grace if I don’t walk in humility.

Two things are necessary for this sojourn we call our lives:

Grace-reliance and Humility-dependence.

  • Humility gives us the receptors for grace—it allows us to receive the grace our insufficiency requires.
  • Humility quiets our perfectionism and releases us from approval seeking.
  • Humility opens the door to let others see into us.
  • Humility keeps us from promoting ourselves and our purposes; it enables us to serve.
  • Humility stifles our tendency to judge and our propensity toward cynicism.

Humility positions us rightly before God—it keeps us looking to Him as the Awe-inspiring recipient of our lives rather than the resource for our agendas.

On that note, I’ll break here for part 2 of The Lost Art of Humility and post it next week.

Intimacy, A Lost Treasure?

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Do you feel KNOWN?

Do you ever wonder if anyone truly sees you, the essence of who you are when all the filters are removed and the props are shoved aside? Even though we’re seen on social media I’m suspicious of our media-driven culture in that it can give us an artificial idea and sense of intimacy. It often leaves us with an inaccurate view of ourselves and others as well.

I think people are starving for true intimacy!

Douglas Weiss has identified what he terms Intimacy Anorexia. Desire for and lack of emotional intimacy is at the foundation of sexual addiction. Intimacy hunger also fuels other forms of addiction we cultivate hoping to fill our intimacy needs.

Not every Intimacy Anorexic acts out with sexual addiction but results in a lifestyle of withholding our true selves from others and manifests in a number of ways.

Our deep need is to know and to be known but we’re afraid of it–because what if we don’t measure up to the high and unrealistic bar set by standards that focus on appearances, acquisitions, accomplishments and accolades?  What if we expose the tender underbelly of our broken and flawed selves or risk revealing our hopes and dreams or dare express our truest desires and the end result is more base and painful judgment and rejection? And what if we haven’t even got a clue about what intimacy looks like, let alone how to achieve it?

We were created to know and to be known, by God first and then by others.

I spent years withholding my true self from God. Aside from my issues with binding shame, I was afraid to be in the room alone with Him. The nature of my abuse made it incredibly difficult to picture Father God as safe. Yes, He was my father but one who worked abroad and whom I never saw. I could count on Him to pay my fees at boarding school, put clothes on my back and possibly be available should I become gravely ill. But His important work on the planet made Him unavailable and uninterested in me. Thankfully, God brought me through healing and to this plumb line revelation:

Who I am is best understood in context of who He is. I was made in His image and derive my name and identity from Him. I haven’t got a clue of who I am if I don’t have an intimate understanding of who He is.

Intimacy: Into me see. Progressive: continuing, continuous, increasing, growing developing, ongoing, escalating, gradual, step-by-step, cumulative. 

God desires bi-directional intimacy with us. He sees into us and He invites us to see into Him as well. From this place of knowing and being known we experience Abundant Life and fruitful living. That takes me back to the Apostle Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10:

My determined purpose is that I may know Him, that I may progressively become more intimately acquainted with Him.

God knows us and He created us to know Him–to know His heart, His plans, His ways, and His delight. Knowing Him gives us insight into ourselves and into others, it fuels our effectiveness in impacting the world with the Gospel and in helping to transform lives.

 

 

PURPOSE does not equal IDENTITY

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In my early twenties I was the wife of a ministry student and the mother of three children born within 2.5 years. We had one car and dozens of cloth diapers. In the brain fog of watching my husband come and go between school, work and ministry—between loads of laundry and the care of my babies, amid the creative stretching of every single dollar and my homespun wardrobe I found myself sinking deeper into a hole of perceived insignificance.

It seemed all my time at church, family gatherings and ministry ops were spent corralling our hyperactive toddlers and shifting my baby from hip to hip. I watched with no small amount of resentment as my husband chatted it up with other purpose-driven, passion-filled folks thrumming to hog tie the devil and save the masses.

I distinctly remember standing at the stove one morning in my well-worn-holiness-compliant-soon-to-be-pastor’s-wife denim skirt stirring oatmeal and tearfully reminding Jesus of my address.

What about my dreams, Lord? My call? I want to be in Bible school, I want to be out ministering and making a difference in people’s lives—dang, I’d settle for ten minutes of uninterrupted quiet time. Sometimes I felt like I was doing hard time in domestic solitary confinement, trying to find significance in mundane duties while feeling virtually invisible to everyone except my needy brood. “Me time” in those days was an evening trip to the grocery store without children.

But let me back up the train and take you to my early teens. I was a high-functioning dissociated mess walking out an abusive childhood in an alcoholic and emotionally chaotic home. My core belief was that I was created and existed for the sole benefit of others—God’s little Cinderella on planet earth. My identity was inextricably tied to this purpose.

I leached self-worth from pushing other people’s carts and lapping scraps of accolades and approval in the process. I told myself a lot of If Only, Then stories. I will feel worthwhile when I am married, preferably to a pastor or missionary, have babies, a home and I am happily June Clever-ing my way through life. (For you younger readers, June Clever from the television show Leave it to Beaver was my generation’s version of Pinterest.)

With complete humility I confess that the next three decades of my life were a series of B rated sequels to the If Only, Then story I told myself in adolescence. How do I say this without sounding crude—I pimped myself out to every church or para-church opportunity that presented itself. If you had asked me then, I would have said—with conviction—that I felt directed by God. But nothing ever stuck and none of it ever quite filled the hole in my soul for identity, purpose, validation and worth. A backward, time-lapsed glimpse of my journey would have revealed me working my way up an incredibly long smorgasbord sampling various offerings of This Will Fill the Hole entrees.

There was a popular book back in the day called Search for Significance but I never actually read it because the title told me enough—people are hungry for significance. I was famished. I realized that even as a Christian who believed she loved Jesus, I was still actively looking for significance and purpose in hopes of finding identity and worth. The church helped feed that lie.

Can I just say it out loud? Purpose does not equal identity and significance doesn’t fuel worth. If I could infuse just one thing into your process today, it would be that truth and here’s why: Our significance and purpose hinge on the assurance of Who’s we are and not from our perception of who we are. Feeling satiated on artificial purpose and the approval of others is like trying to satisfy hunger by viewing a menu.

Not everyone comes from my particular petri dish of shame and brokenness but I can confidently say that shame and brokenness have been cultivated in every single one of us. Shame drove me toward self-appointed significance. I believed I could somehow atone for the deep-seated belief that I wasn’t enough, that I had to earn love, work for belonging and barter for acceptance. This exhausting and unfruitful process failed to eradicate the erroneous, and unbiblical, perception I had of myself.

Even though bible head knowledge said otherwise, my internal shame grid would not allow the truth of my worth, value and lovability in God’s eyes to take root in my soul and feed purpose in life.

When I finally stepped back from trying to fit into a mass produced ministry matrix and started living out of an organic place of intimacy with Jesus, my beliefs about purpose shifted.

Every life-transformative encounter recorded in the gospels was born out of an intimate and personal exchange with Jesus. He was face to face when he probed Peter’s heart, “Peter, who do you say that I am?” You see, for years I answered that question largely based on what I had heard others say about who He was.

What would be your answer if you sat face to face with Jesus, His eyes peering deeply into your soul, and He asked you the question He posed to Peter? If you peeled from your response all the rhetoric and sound bites and insights of others, answering only what you know for sure, what you have personally received—what would your answer be?

Let me ask you to consider joining me in asking Jesus a question. “Lord, who do you say that I am?”

Can I encourage you to pause, step off the hamster wheel you’ve found yourself on and simply sit at the feet of Jesus like you just met Him.

I’m convinced that He wants to clear up any misunderstandings you’ve acquired along the way—misunderstandings about your worth, your purpose and your significance.

As Staci Eldridge says,

“You don’t live a purpose-driven life, you live an identity-driven one.”

ONE TRUE SENTENCE

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“The writer’s job is to tell the truth.” Those sage words of Ernest Hemingway have guided the pens of good writers for decades. While in a writing slump Hemingway once encouraged himself with these self-directed words, “All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Anyone who has read this blog more than three times might note that I readily and frequently admit that I’m a mess. My days are sometimes a long string of over-introspection marathons: what’s wrong with Sherrie, what’s broken and needs fixing, what needs to be addressed before she can really live the life God has called her to. I write about my life in a way that might cause some people to wonder why in the world I would, not only expose, but publish my underbelly like I do.  I’ve talked about my shameful childhood, my failures, my martyrdom, my mental illness and my pursuit of God.

One of the reasons I’m so raw with what I share is because I want my pain and my losses to be repurposed into a giant arrow that points people to HOPE. I can’t bear the thought that the road paved by my experiences will be of no value to anyone following behind.

As I take steps toward my dream of becoming a viable writer with a relevant message many obstacles crop up and I can become lost in the forest. There are many days, like today, that I just don’t know what I’m doing. I am afflicted an acute case of Second-Guessing Syndrome. Some days the direction I felt so sure of yesterday feels like a mocking vapor today. Poof! Just kidding—you can’t do this!  

We recently took a long road trip to see new places and even with GPS and a good map we felt lost and disoriented at times. One morning we were facing the goal of heading into a well known city with a bazillion points of interest. Before we embarked on our journey the obstacles loomed larger than life: we’re in an RV, how would we maneuver the city streets, what if we don’t get the sequence of stops in the right order, where will we park, what if we get towed, at which point should we start, what if it rains, what if we get lost, etc.?

I’ll do just about anything to avoid the possibility of an anxiety attack so I’m sometimes inclined to bail before I begin.

When the details of pursuing my goals pile up around me and I’m afraid taking the next step will cause me to fall and break my neck—or otherwise make a complete butt-in-the-air fool of myself, this is my truest sentence:

I am His.

That’s it. Some days that’s all I know for sure. And thankfully, it is enough. I sit with that one true sentence and breath it in slowly, rhythmically. I let it settle over me and work the hyperventilation out of my soul. Before long I’m adding another sentence of truth:

He is in control

One by one, the sentences accumulate into that unalterable simplicity of Truth that all other truths are subjected.

Friend, no matter where we are in pursuit of our goals, in the fulfillment of our purpose, in the brave telling of our stories, in the development of our skills, or in the healing of our wounded-ness—let’s allow TRUTH to renew our thoughts and re-direct our paths.

Hemingway had it right; when stuck he simply talked truth with himself. What is the truest thing you can say to yourself right now?

I want to be brave and vulnerable enough to allow God to weave my story into His BIG FAT REDEMPTIVE STORY!  No matter how many times I trip over the jabillion details or succumb to fear or muck about in confusion—I go back to my one true sentence: I am His.

Whatever season of life you are in, whatever seed of purpose He has deposited within you, wherever you are on your path, if you feel like a small child lost in the crowd, if everyone feels like a stranger, if no one even notices you’re afraid; take heart! You are His and He won’t leave you unclaimed in the Lost and Found room at Grand Central.

He claims us.

He calms us.

He carries us. 

He causes all things to work for our good and His glory.

THE BEAUTIFUL MOASIC OF BROKENNESS, A Story For The Telling

Laura Harris, Mosaic Artist
Laura Harris, Mosaic Artist

I have struggled immensely with identity issues.  So, who hasn’t you might ask? Everyone has or will at some point wonder who they are or will question their purpose on this planet. As a victim—I wish there was a better word—of child abuse, my emotional, psychologically and personality development was profoundly interrupted. That’s not a cop out for bad behavior or an excuse to live by a different set of rules, but it can be the very real consequence of childhood trauma, particularly unaddressed trauma.

For years I wasn’t able to put my finger on what was lacking in my personhood, I simply knew that I was different from others. I seemed to view life rather than live it. The world was on one side of a giant window, I was on the other. I felt empty, nervous, rigid, guarded, analytical, calculating, reactive, reserved and artificial–mostly I felt disconnected. I felt like a shell that housed a reasonable amount of intelligence and a handful of natural talents but no core identity to speak of. I was in a perpetual state of confusion and uncertainty–I second-guessed virtually everything and everyone.

I filled in the blanks and gaps of my ambiguous and unanchored personality by studying people and situations. Like an understudy on Broadway, I played out the roles I had considered. I imitated, parroted and scrutinized social behavior. I did this without realizing that I was simply trying to discover what was missing inside and figure out how to install it. I not only needed a program upgrade, there were large chucks of code missing as well.

To make up for the identity and self-esteem I lacked, I focused on others. I had an ill-proportioned commitment to their good, their success, and their happiness. I jumped on their bandwagons, rode the wind of their interests and championed their causes all while modeling behaviors appropriate to the need.

I had no problem whatsoever believing in the dreams and aspirations of others. Sometimes I could spearhead their projects and ambitions better than they could themselves. I readily saw their potential, equipped them with helps and encouraged them vigorously. And it didn’t even matter to me that my name wasn’t printed on their Acknowledgement page. When it came to me–to my dreams, I needed others to convince me of my possibilities, potential and purpose–when they did, it was never enough.

Helping others was what connected me, made me feel alive–it’s what anchored me. I altered myself according to the current needs of those around me. I was brilliant at acquiescing, pleasing and placating.  It was the only way I knew to fit in and function relationally. I hid my empty self behind the ego of others. As you can imagine, it was a cheap substitution for living. It also further damage me, I had unwittingly added my own name to the list of my abusers.

All this impostership culminated into rage. A fire was being banked inside me. The tinder lay un-kindled for many years, hidden behind duty, loyalty, obligation and fear. Predictably a spark ignited and I became an angry, angry woman. The accelerant to my harsh words was deep, unaddressed pain. What others experienced was simply an angry, hyper-sensitive, reactive woman. Naturally, they backed away and I felt more rejection and disqualification.

I couldn’t articulate preferences, I couldn’t voice my opinions, I didn’t have confidence to dream or to aspire. I didn’t have personal boundaries or the ability to recognize when I was being taken advantage of and if I had, I didn’t feel courageous enough to refuse what others required of me.

It would be difficult to characterize my soul malaise in one word. The pervasive sense of emptiness and disconnect could be described as invalidity. Invalidity doesn’t dream dreams, and when dreams percolate to the surface they are disqualified. When dreams surfaced in my heart, like writing and speaking, I reasoned they were insignificant and inconsequential–why try?  Dreams weren’t permissible for someone like me. My life was better utilized by serving the dreams of others.

I may have refused myself permission to dream, but God would not allow the ember of me to be extinguished.

My sense of vagueness meant that my life, my self-esteem, and my dreams required the invitation, initiation and approval of others to buoy validity and give me permission to be–whatever that may have looked like. In other words, I couldn’t step out into my life and all its potential without the permission and approval of others; my husband, my family, my friends. Who has the energy to perpetually huff and puff at a smoldering fire?

The apostle Paul tells Timothy to do his own fanning into flame! (2 Tim.1:6).

My life unfolded in what seemed like a meaningless course on a Packman Screen (that certainly dates me). I scurried about trying to keep from being eaten, proverbially so. My purpose seemed random and chaotic at best. The rules kept changing, the path redirecting. Finally, in extreme fatigue, I hit a high and unyielding wall.

I dropped in an exhausted and frustrated heap of surrender, exactly where God wanted me—where He had been waiting for me all along. 

I wish I could say that all the pieces of broken Sherrie came together in some miracle version of Humpty Dumpty. They did not. Much like people who have had catastrophic injuries, God employed divine triage with a specific hierarchy of care.

I know a pilot who experienced a horrific airplane crash. For a while it was uncertain if he would survive the ordeal. After intensive surgeries and recovery time, it was discovered that the persistent pain in his face was from a knob from the airplane’s control panel that had lodged upon impact inside his mouth then hidden within his swollen facial tissue. The knob wasn’t initially discovered because the focus of his treatment was on life saving measures. My injuries were treated the same way, based on urgency. My recovery came in stages.

That Knob represented for me Connectedness and Purpose. While I was preoccupied with the pain of feeling invalid–disconnected and without purpose, God was focused on revealing to me His fathomless love for me.

A revelation of God’s love must be the genesis of purpose for any of us, regardless of where we came from.

God held me in the most gracious of mercies. Layer upon layer He has been reconstructing my life with the very Breath of His Own. I believe I’ll always be in the process of restoration, it’s the nature of psychological trauma in early childhood–it’s part of being human in a fallen world. BUT today I have confidence that my life matters—that I matter. I have conviction that I’m not only responsible to live my life fully, I have divine permission to do so. And I have the compass of an intimate relationship with Him by which to navigate life.

My path doesn’t look like hers and your path won’t look like mine. But if I have learned anything on this broken road it is this: each life has value and each life has purpose. Unquestionably. No matter how busted up your life may look or how bruised your soul may feel, would you just take a moment to consider something?

God does not glue our shattered souls and broken lives back together in some haphazard, makeshift fashion. He graciously handles each jagged piece, one by one, and creates an intricately designed, light reflecting mosaic of His grace, for His glory. He puts us on display, beloved! That is a story that waits to be told.

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CALLING CARD

CallingI marvel at those who can confidently identify their calling and describe when and how they received it. I’m sure I gaze into their dazzling certainty like a deer in the headlights. I’m inching toward my sixth decade and have yet to Sherlock my way through the mysteries of my calling. It eludes me. My quest to unearth it has frustrated the liver out of me.

In my twenties I was convinced I was called to be a pastor’s wife. Apparently the call was a wrong number because the pastor no longer needed a wife nor wanted the pulpit.

After several years of single parenting I felt a call to missions so early into my third decade I followed that call. I quit my job with the two-hour commute, sold my home and its entire contents, packed up three mini-me missionaries and rode Anticipation all the way to Montana. After completing the prerequisite training for the proffered position that call was abruptly disconnected and I was left with a certificate, a dial tone and no Plan B.

Bless me, a new call began ringing off the hook! Remarriage. I decided my bungled mission quest was actually a God-orchestrated detour to my true calling–Mrs. Farmer. I threw myself into that calling: wife, mother, homemaker, grower of our food, baker of our bread and volunteer of every para-church opportunity that presented itself.

Years eased into decades. My forties brought an empty nest, grandchildren and an inability to answer the oft-asked question: So, what do you do?” I was busy but I couldn’t summarize what it was I did. I became discouraged by a sense of undefined purpose.

My call remained undefined in my fifth decade as well. While friends were reinventing themselves with post-childrearing calls my call was still undiagnosed. I began entertaining the notion that I was too flawed, too old, too a-lot-of-things for God to waste a call on me. I struggled with the fear of having wasted my life with nothing significant to show for His kingdom. Depression set in.

Through the years I had investigated, attended and participated in trainings, workshops, conferences and events trying to discern my calling. No heavenly marquees lit up—no tweets or IMs from God either. I decided, I must have squandered my call somewhere along the way.

If formal callings were steak and lobster, my calling, if I had one, was more like goulash and saltines.

Is anyone relating to this?

I’m not a calling basher and I’m definitely not debating the scriptural foundation for the way we endorse calling today. It’s no longer important to me to nail it down. I got off that hamster wheel and prayerfully began reframing my understanding of calling.

There had to be a simpler way to follow Jesus!

So here’s what I’ve concluded about my calling:

  • I wasted too many years looking and waiting for it.
  • I assumed calling came with a title and recognition—that it was measurable.
  • I thought calling needed a platform, a website, a following or a brand.
  • I believed calling would validate me as a worthy card-carrying follower/servant of Christ.
  • And sadly, I thought calling indicated God’s seal of approval.

Calling is simply an invitation to life by the Giver of unmerited and irrevocable grace. Calling means I live my each and every moment yielded and available to Him. Calling is a directive to lay down my life and agenda to pick up His.

Calling is my welcome into an intimate relationship with the lover of my soul.

For the majority of Jesus-followers, calling is simple, informal and title-less.

I now say with tongue in cheek, I’ve been called to the Ministry of Availability. I’m here when He needs me! My part is to know God and make Him known. It’s God’s job to determine how He wants to choreograph our dance. I might bring home a young woman involved in prostitution. I may take meals to a weary mommy. I may pay for the groceries of the disadvantaged person in front of me or I might scrub the dead skin off the feet of a woman confined to bed.

Whatever

The greatest fruit of my calling on any given day might simply be to pray for someone who not only won’t hear me but who will never know that I brought them before the throne of God.

Our lives beg to be acknowledged, our contribution recognized and our value affirmed.

We might rather be a prized flower in an vase displayed for others to appreciate than to be a wildflower whose blossom is seen and enjoyed only by God.

I’ve come to understand that those who have answered God’s call–the invitation to join His family and be part of His purpose–do indeed have a calling. Whether we’re in the mission field or in the laundry room, Jesus Christ himself acknowledges us, recognizes our contribution and affirms our purpose.

Weather you lead people through a Red Sea or through a crowded room, it matters to Jesus. Everything done in His name coalesces into His glorious will and grand purpose.

His call on our lives is not hidden in the middle of some congested set of vague hints or in a complex formula for success.

Calling is about Him, not about me!