The Frightening Freedom of Being Known

Do you ever build walls to protect yourself? I occasionally notice that the view has gotten more restricted around me and discover I have erected yet another wall.

Recently, I have begun to realize these walls are rarely to keep dangers out but to keep my true self locked away and unseen. I allow out only those qualities that people seem to like – the one who is good with words, the voice, the cook, the laughing and joyful one, the one who seems to have unwavering trust in God. These parts are accepted and even enjoyed, and so, they are mostly allow to stay outside the walls, (though, even they try to hide at times).

There are aspects of me very few get to see – the one who has a meltdown over fears which may never happen, the one who beats herself up over what she should have said or done differently, the one who forgets God’s promises, (or worse, chooses not to trust them), the one who has been known to sit at home in her pajamas eating junk food when she is struggling or feeling alone, the one who sometimes chooses to immerse herself in stories rather than talk to God about what is troubling her. These parts don’t fit my picture of acceptable behavior for a woman of God who teaches others about finding their identity and purpose, and so, they are hidden.

This may seem obvious to all of you, but I am only recently rediscovering that there is great freedom outside the confines of my self-made prison. The aspects of myself and my life that seem to me to hinder the message God has given me, sometimes make my story more relatable to those who need to hear it. I am not perfect. I have not arrived. I’m still walking the journey of learning to live boldly as the woman God made me to be.

The fear that if we are truly seen and known, we’ll be rejected and left alone is an insidious one. The truth is, I never feel more alone than when I’m locked behind the walls I build to protect me from being left on my own. It may be scary to step outside the confines of our “protective” prison and be known for who we truly are, but there is a freedom found on the outside that is well worth the risk.

We are already fully known and loved by God. He sees beyond our walls, and knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows who we are created to be and how far we still have to go, and He loves us more than we can imagine. His love is all the “wall” we need to protect us from what others think of us. And, while there is a risk some people will reject us if we venture outside, there is also a chance that we will find a place of belonging, a place where we are greeted with the words: “Me too. Let’s walk this path together.”

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Living Open-Handed

Last week, the organization I work with had a retreat for all the staff on the island. It was a great few days away – despite the fact I wasn’t terribly excited to be there at the start. 

One of the things I felt I should do to get my attitude right and be able to hear all God wanted to say to me during the time was surrender everything I brought with me. So, Wednesday night, I spent time laying everything down before God – my book, singing, my life in Ireland, ministry opportunities, and other dreams and promises I felt He’d given me. I told Him I only wanted to bring home what He gave me back during the days of the retreat.

During the next two days, I struggled with some of the hopes and dreams I’d placed on the altar of surrender. There were items – like my book – which I expected to be returned and received back fairly quickly. I still don’t know how God will use Live Your Story to impact lives, but I believe He will bring Himself glory through the message. I trust Him with how that will look without specific expectations, so it was easy to accept that item back from God.

Other hopes and dreams were more difficult. One promise in particular kept finding its way back into my hands and heart. Each time I discovered I was holding it again, I would put it right back down on the altar. While I believe the fulfillment of this promise could bring God much glory, it is not so much a “ministry” promise as a personal one. Because of this dynamic, it was much easier to believe that I was picking it up again because of my own desire for it.

By Friday morning, as I spent time listening to God and writing in my journal, I felt God was saying, “Thank you for surrendering your desires and hopes, but you now have to be willing to receive back the gifts I want to give you.” I felt He was saying that He had been trying the whole time to give this promise back to me, but I was refusing to accept it because I was afraid of turning an “I wish” into a “God said.”

I realized once again that surrender really means living open-handed before God. Hands that are open release things, but they also receive. Just as I don’t know what future ministry opportunities will look like or the impact my book will have, I don’t know how the fulfillment of this particular promise will come about or what it will bring. But I have chosen to leave my hands open to receive all that God wants to give and surrender all that isn’t from Him; I have chosen to trust His faithfulness. He is a good Father who delights in giving good gifts to His children. I may not feel worthy of the gift, but He gives based on His character – not mine.

What is God trying to give you today? Sometimes accepting and hoping for the gifts He offers requires courage because hope brings the risk of disappointment, but the hope He gives is always worth the risk. He is trustworthy. Open your hands.

Fighting for Peace

I wrote last week about how I believe the best is yet to come. Wednesday, I spent a good part of the day journaling and talking to God about everything going on in my life these days. I already believed what I’d written the day before, but I reached an even deeper place of peace and assurance that God truly has incredible things in store.

And then Thursday came. The potential disappointment I’d mentioned in last week’s post suddenly seemed like more of a probability than a possibility; I didn’t handle the thought well. The peace I had just a few hours before seemed nonexistent, and I became a bit of an emotional wreck for the afternoon.

As I pulled out my journal once again, the first lines I wrote were: “It’s amazing how often one must fight for peace… It seems like an oxymoron, but it’s true.” I have no idea where those words came from, but they’ve had me thinking ever since. So many times I think of peace as the absence of struggle, but often it seems like a war within to stay in a place of peace.

Jesus told His disciples, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) He is our source of peace no matter what is happening in the world, but it can be a battle to remain connected to that source when it seems the world is falling apart around us.

Paul encouraged the Philippians (4:4-8), “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

This is how we “fight” for peace. We take thoughts captive, every minute if necessary, and remind ourselves of truth. We rejoice always in Who our God is and the fact He is with us. We dwell in Him and fix our eyes on Him instead of on our circumstances. We present our needs and desires to Him and trust He will accomplish what concerns us, even if it isn’t in the way we expect.

I may have more emotional moments in the coming months as I wait to see what unfolds. But today, I’m in a place of peace. Tomorrow may bring a battle to stay there, but I know the weapons needed for the fight. I will rejoice in God and fix my thoughts on His truth, knowing wherever I am and whatever happens, the best is still ahead!

The Best…

I mentioned last week I’m working on a new website. I hope to launch it in the near future, and I’ll be sure to let you know when it’s ready.

My goal is to have a page on the website where I can share my story and travels through photos, so the project this afternoon has been looking through photos from various trips I’ve done over the last several years. As I looked at photos from Afghanistan, Turkey, Tajikistan, China, Jordan, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, the UK, Ireland, and more, I realized just how much God has allowed me to see and do in the last thirty-six years.

Yes, there are things I haven’t gotten to do, promises made that weren’t kept, disappointments in abundance at times. During this past week, I have learned that without God’s intervention, another disappointment (with the potential to alter my future in major ways) may be waiting just around the corner.

Even still, God has been faithful. I have lived a pretty remarkable life so far, and I get the feeling it is still just getting to the good part. The best is yet to come!

I don’t know what story you have lived so far. I would imagine there have been some difficult chapters and some good ones too. Maybe you’ve seen the world, or maybe you’ve seen just around your own neighborhood. Perhaps you’re living your dream, or maybe you’re currently living a nightmare. Whatever your story is right now, I believe the best is still yet to come.

The God we serve is full of so much more than we can imagine, and He longs for us to open ourselves to receive more of Him all the time. He is faithful to show up in the midst of our stories and bring His best to us if we will allow Him, and His supply is limitless. No matter how many good gifts He has already poured into your life, there are always more available.

I don’t know what will happen in my life during the next few months. I don’t even know what will happen tomorrow. None of us know how the current events in our lives will turn out, but that’s okay. As we put our trust in God and allow Him to work in and through us, the best is always ahead of us! Let’s run into the days ahead with our eyes fixed on Him and our faith firmly rooted in His goodness.

Living For Him

I’ve heard it said that we should “live for an audience of one.” I’m learning once again how much easier it is to say that little phrase than to actually live it.

Last week, I posted about my book coming out, and I’ve been busy working on setting up a website, learning about Paypal and pre-orders, and doing final edits on Live Your Story! In the midst of all the busyness, I found myself struggling with motivation to move forward on these tasks, and I couldn’t understand why.

On Friday night, I set aside some time with Jesus and my journal to figure out what was going on. The short answer was: FEAR. As exciting as it is to be nearly at the finish line of getting the message of Live Your Story out for people to read, it is also scary. This book is not a story, it’s my story. The sooner it is published, bought and read, the sooner my journey is on display to be reviewed, critiqued, and picked apart.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read (or even posted) book reviews of Christian books, but some of them are brutal. If I’m honest, that scares me. Last week, without me even realizing it, the fear nearly prevented me from taking the next steps necessary to sell my book. I felt like I was busy working toward completing the tasks, but in reality, I was moving from one tab on my web browser to another, reading tidbits of information but getting nowhere with actually doing anything of value.

Since the weekend, I have begun to make (very slow) progress on finding the information I need to accomplish the tasks ahead of me. I am still on a steep learning curve, but I have begun asking for help from people more knowledgeable than I am on these jobs, and I am starting to move forward.

Am I still scared to put my life on display for those who read the book and open myself to whatever criticism people wish to offer? Absolutely! However, I have remembered they are not the reason I wrote Live Your Story; God is the One I wrote it for, and He is the One I want to please. I hope others’ lives are impacted by my willingness to share my story, but ultimately, that isn’t what matters. I have been obedient, and God can use the result in any way He chooses. This book was His dream before it was mine, and I trust that He will use it for His glory and my good.

I’ve probably asked this question on blog posts before, and I will likely ask it again: What dream has God given you that you need to act on? What’s stopping you? Today is a good day to start living for the audience of One, and take the next step no matter how scary it seems. Live to please Him alone, and He will always come through for you!

Coming Soon

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the time has come to publish my book. I’m excited for today’s post, because I can finally share the cover with you! Live Your Story: Walking Out Your Identity and Purpose with the Master Storyteller is coming! Pre-orders will be announced soon, and I believe the books will be ready to ship within the next couple of months. Stay tuned!

Final cover

I am very excited to share Live Your Story with the world. It has been nearly seven years since I first felt God was asking me to share my story and the message of identity and purpose I have learned. It’s hard to believe the process is nearly completed and the book is happening. I never imagined myself having a book published, but God has made a way.

I pray that Live Your Story will impact lives for the kingdom of God despite its unlikely author. God often chooses the least likely people to accomplish His purposes.

Has God asked you to do anything that seems outside your abilities? Take a risk and say yes. It can be hard and scary, but it’s always worth it!

P.S. For those who will wonder: No, those are not my legs. 🙂

God Loves…

I was having a conversation with some friends on Sunday afternoon, and one of them made a comment that caught me off guard. The comment? God loves us, His children, but He doesn’t love everyone. By this statement, he meant not everyone will spend eternity in heaven; some people will spend eternity in darkness, separated from God.

While I know it’s true many people will not be in heaven, I am bothered by the conclusion he made that God doesn’t love the people who are not “His children.” There is so much going on around the world right now, and it would be easy to think God doesn’t love this person or that group of people. But God IS love. He cannot choose not to love people – even when they choose not to reciprocate His love – because it would mean denying His own character.

God loves each person on this planet the same amount. The only difference is whether His love brings Him joy or pain. He is not willing that ANY should perish, and I believe He weeps over every life lost without being surrendered to Him.

The part my friend must find difficult to reconcile is how God could love someone and still condemn them to eternity in darkness. The simple answer is: He doesn’t. It is because of His love for people that He gives us free will to choose Him or not. If a person wants nothing to do with God while on earth, how would it be loving to force His presence on them for eternity?

Each of us chooses our eternal destination by deciding whether we want a relationship with God or not. In His love, He gives us that choice. When the choice is made to accept His love and love Him in return, there is a party in heaven. When the choice is made to reject God’s love, He weeps for the one who rejects Him. He loves them still, and it breaks His heart that He cannot be with them forever.

Nearly every time I open Facebook or see a news story, it seems hate fills so much of our world. Even among people who follow Jesus, it appears so often that lines are drawn and sides are taken. Races, jobs, political parties, religions, and on and on it goes. So many barriers to unity are being built with words and ideas that are harder to break through than any brick.

God doesn’t take sides. Despite what my friend says, God does love everyone. I want to be more like Him. I don’t know exactly what that looks like in the midst of the messes surrounding us, but I want to learn. I want to seek Him for solutions and receive His grace to love as He loves. I want to see the best in others and forgive when the worst becomes evident. I want to bear, believe, hope and endure all things.  

Who’s with me?