Monday, February 24, 2014

All I Need to Live Out My Dreams

Sometimes I think too much about what I need. I think I need more expertise to keep up with all the social media channels. Or I think I need more insight to be an aunt since I don't have kids of my own. Or I think I need more faith to step into the future God has planned for me. That's when I realize what I need is all around me. In the details of my circumstances and the heart of my relationships.

My friend Brittany emails me that she has something new for my blog page. I can tell that she's excited about it. I wonder if she's made the social media buttons I’ve been admiring. Or maybe she's dropped some new photos on my blog banner. Or maybe she's tweaked the design of the blog template. Although I have some design skills, I’m no match for her savvy talents. I tell her she's the Grace with Silk brand manager. 

For months she’s been trying to convince me the blog needs a Facebook page. I tell her I hate to bother people with our updates in their news feeds. She laughs at me. She says she's making one anyway. She says she'll give me time to get used to the idea. So the email she sends me says she is ready to unveil the Grace with Silk Facebook page. As usual, I love it. I think her work is beautiful. I tell her to make the Facebook page live. She's delighted and tells me she's off to update my Twitter page.

I'm not sure she knows how her artful gifts grace my life.

When my niece and nephew were born, I was surprised how much I loved being an aunt. I didn't expect to be so devoted to them. I started dreaming about being an aunt they'd love to spend time with. I wanted them to ride their bikes to my house. I wanted my kitchen to have their favorite cookies. I wanted my house to be their favorite place. But I lived on the other side of town from my sister. In my dream house, a bungalow in the historic district of a quaint neighborhood that I couldn't think about leaving.

But finally I realized I didn't want to miss a thing about their lives. The funny, the sweet, the poignant and the happy. I wanted to be a part of it all. I knew it was time to sell my house, pack up and move to pursue the new dream God whispered to my heart. 

I eventually found a townhome in my sister’s neighborhood. But while I lived with my parents for several months waiting for the short sale to be processed, I learned a lot about patience and perseverance. I didn’t always handle this time gracefully but God showed me that this organized and order-loving girl could still survive with my belongings scattered across a storage unit, my parents’ garage and my sister’s spare closets. 

Now my couch is where my nephew spends an afternoon reading a book. My kitchen is where my niece and I spend time making cupcakes. She says my house is her favorite place to be. And she says baking with me is her favorite thing to do.

I'm not sure they know what joyful gifts they are in my life.

A year before I started blogging, my director at work assigned me to work on my company’s intranet. I learned how to format and post content. I learned about editing photos, adjusting source code and creating templates. When I opened my blog template, it all looked familiar and I realized all along I had been learning what I needed to start a blog. 

I'm not sure my director knew what a valuable gift she gave me to prepare for my next God-sized dream. 

I am always amazed to see how God works in my life. I shouldn't be surprised when my circumstances give me exactly what I need to write the next chapter of my story. The difficult times that strengthen my character and the treasured insights I learn along the way are all a part of his plan for my life. I should know it's no coincidence when someone's path crosses mine and they walk beside me for part of my journey. So when I doubt, and when what lies ahead seems murky and unclear, I can remember that he doesn't waste any of my experiences. 

I'm not sure where the pathway will lead as I follow my God-sized dreams. But I know that I'll have all I need. 

And what's even more surprising is that someday soon I might even find myself tweeting about it.

To see what we're doing on social media, check out:

I'm linking up with fellow God-sized dreamers today at Click the image to read how they find everything they need for their dreams!  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Pull Up a Chair

I replaced the old wicker chair in my guest room with a new one that seems a little more inviting. The new chair, with soft gray fabric and shiny silver upholstery tacks, seemed to be calling my name as I strolled by it in TJ Maxx. My old wicker chair was inflexible and uncomfortable, making my guests sit straight and stiff. I wasn’t sure I should replace a vintage chair with a new one. But when I asked my sister’s opinion, she thought the new chair was adorable and offered to take the old one to the resale shop for me. With sisterly approval given, I decided it was time for a new chair.

When I got it home, the shape seemed perfect for the small corner of my guest room. I put a tiny feather pillow on the chair. The pillow gives the chair a vintage flair since my mother had sewn some of my grandmother’s old buttons on it. Now I'm hoping my new chair offers my guests an invitation to sit and unwind. 

My chair reminds me about the times God offers an invitation to me. Sometimes he asks me to step out and move forward and walk with him. Sometimes he offers me a place to sit and wait and rest with him. These times of waiting are not always in a comfortable place. I feel tense and anxious and worried, like I'm sitting in an upright hard-backed chair. But these uncomfortable places are where he shows me what I need to get ready for the next stage of my life's journey. And if I didn't have these times to wait, I'm not sure I would be as strong to take the next step in the direction I'm heading.

I had been in a waiting season for awhile when I felt God nudging me to step out and move ahead to write a blog. But so often on my blog journey, I have no idea what I’m going to write about. I sit with my hands on the keyboard ready to write. But they aren’t typing. I drum my fingers on the keys. I think. I go get a drink. I get a snack. I stare into space. Hoping an idea will ignite like a lightning bolt. It doesn’t. 

But I start typing anyway. A thought. A memory. Something I did last week. And then a few sentences eke out. Eventually I have a paragraph. My thoughts jog over to another idea that sparked from the sentence I just typed. Now I have a few paragraphs. They might be unrelated. They always need reworked. They definitely need polished. But at least I’ve got something to start with.

And then as I’m writing, it’s as if I feel God pull up a chair and sit beside me. It’s inexplicable. A phrase, a few words, a sentence comes to my mind that wraps up the paragraphs on the page like a ribbon on a package. He takes the words and uses them to make them a blog post. Often I'm astonished, knowing what I started with. And how I felt like I had nothing to say.

I keep writing now because I feel like my blog is a little bit of a miracle come to life. Even if writing it is just for me. Because I didn’t think I could possibly write words every week. I didn’t think I could take photos to go with the words I wrote. I didn’t think I was technology-savvy. I didn’t think I could do it. 

And when I wonder why God would even want to use my words, I’m reminded that most of all, he wants a relationship with me. He wants me to know him more. He wants me to experience him in ways I never knew about. He wants me to look for him and see him in every part of my day. He wants me to pull up a chair and sink deep into his promises. 

Where I find comfort and love and courage to get out of the chair when he calls my name and move toward the next place of promise that he has for me. To follow the next dream that he’s whispered to my heart.

I'm linking up with fellow God-sized dreamers today at Click the image to read how their stories!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Trading Rules for Grace

These days, I'm trying to be grateful for who God made me to be and appreciate my strengths for what I'm created to do. I'm making an effort to stop the comparisons, put less emphasis on following my self-imposed rules, and I'm trying to give myself a little grace. Growing up, I was always wishing I were someone else. I wanted blonde hair instead of brown. I longed to be blessed with grace and coordination so I could be a ballerina or figure skater instead of the last one chosen for sports teams in gym class. I dreamed of being the chatty, popular girl at school instead of the girl everyone called shy and bookish. 

Even now I tend to focus more on the parts of me that I think need some improvement rather than appreciating the strengths God gave me. I think if I just follow my own rules to be intentional about every word I say and if I make a Herculean effort to think before ever speaking, then things should go swimmingly. But of course they don't. 

I get bogged down in over-analyzing and replaying the thoughts of what I think are mistakes. I still get anxious when I meet someone new. I try to stop myself from saying things I never intended but this only makes me pull back and get quiet. And then this extreme caution to avoid verbal blunders gets in the way of being myself. These rules seem to trip me up and drive me a little crazy. Because keeping them all the time, every time, is nearly impossible.

But when I realize can't keep my own rules, there's grace. An acceptance of who I am from God, the one who made me. Who asks me to stop whatever I’m thinking about myself and others and turn my thoughts to him. These thoughts turn into prayers. Or turn to scripture.  

There’s something about God’s words that do something astonishing. They change me. I stop trying to control my circumstances and trust them to God. I see what’s beautiful instead of offering a criticism. And I find that I’m amazed at the ways God invites me to come alongside him with opportunities to use the strengths he’s given me. Even though I may sputter and stumble.

My friends think they’ve heard me wrong when I say I'm co-leading a Facebook group since I’ve long resisted joining Facebook. But I’m in the thick of it with the website (in)courage. 

My co-leader Sara suggested we schedule a get-to-know-you chat last week. I had no idea what to do but hoped I’d figure it out as I went along. At first it was just me and Sara answering each other’s questions. As I stared at the screen, a second member of the group joined our conversation. Then another. And another. One arriving home after her workday in Canada. Another on the subway in New York City. Several of us in Florida, and one shoveling snow in Indiana.

And afterward we all said we came away encouraged just by connecting with each other. Through typing our words on Facebook. Which probably seemed perfectly normal to them, but was awe-inspiring to me. 

I’m starting to recognize the places in my life where I’m determined and courageous and thoughtful and encouraging. I’ve started giving thanks –- out loud so my ears can hear it. I'm turning my thoughts upward, to God and all he has for me. I want to go wherever God is taking me on this journey of my life. I trust him to work everything for good for me. Whether I'm soaring or my feet are firmly planted on the ground, I’ve come to appreciate that nobody else can tell my story like I can. 

And those things I wish I could change when I was growing up? I've discovered that they just happen to be the core of who I am. God uses them so I can connect with others in all of my relationships. The books I read gave me a love of writing words. My lack of athleticism made me sensitive to notice where others need a little encouragement. And I suppose I could change my brown hair to blonde if I really wanted to. So I've decided to trade some of my rules for grace. And last week, I added a few blonde highlights to my hair just to make one of my oldest and dearest dreams come true.

I'm linking up with fellow God-sized dreamers today at as they share how they celebrate God's strengths in their lives. Click the image to read their stories! 

Monday, February 3, 2014

Welcoming Change

After the holiday décor is back in the closet and I bring back what sits out all year long around my house, I have a hard time remembering where things used to be. Sometimes February arrives before I’m done moving things back into place. Sometimes I figure I might as well find new places for lamps and pictures and candles and give myself a change of décor-scenery.

My sister stopped over in the midst of my redecorating and decluttering enterprise and made a few suggestions. That all of a sudden made perfect sense. She stood in my living room and said I really should hang on the wall the vintage mirrors I had leaning on a table since the day I moved in. She said the mirrors would draw the eye up to a focal point and create more of a decorating statement. She asked for my hammer and we got to work.

We hung the mirrors. We exchanged lamps in my bedroom for ones in the living room. We swapped out lampshades. We discarded a huge shade overshadowing my Eiffel Tower lamp and brought it from my bedroom to its new home on the living room mantel. We moved pictures around and rearranged candles. These small changes made a difference and I liked how everything looked refreshed.

But I wish I could greet even the smallest changes that arrive in my life with a similar welcome. Often I resist them. Especially if the changes are uninvited. Or if I had no idea they were coming. Or if I didn’t have the time I thought I needed to prepare for them.

Somehow I’m always surprised how change throws me for a loop. Even good changes. Surprising ones. Ones I’m looking forward to. I think it’s hard just because it’s different from how I’m used to seeing things. I like my routine. I like to know what’s around the next corner. 

A few years ago when my drive to work changed when I moved from one end of town to the other, I missed seeing my familiar shops and eateries. I actually cried the first week because I missed the familiar roads and landscapes. But after a few weeks, I grew used to the new drive and traffic patterns. Eventually, my desire to drive through my old neighborhood faded and I didn’t feel like going back.

When fear about change holds me back from the dreams in front of me and I take a look back to remind myself of where I've been, I’m surprised at how I’ve managed to adapt. That gives me hope. And strengthens my faith. And makes me eager to make other changes. Changes I’m actually wanting to make. Praying for. Like making changes in my reactions and my responses and my emotions and my perspective.

But if changes make me feel unsettled, I look up. My eyes are drawn to the one who never changes. I focus on God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever. And then I focus on his promises that will never change.

  • He promises to give me strength and courage when I am discouraged and dismayed. (Jos. 1:9)

  • He promises peace that is beyond my understanding when I am anxious and afraid. (Phil. 4:6-7)

  • He promises to be my rock and refuge through times of change. (Ps. 62:6)

  • He promises to change and renew my mind to understand his ways. (Rom. 12:2)

I couldn’t wait to get home from an evening out last weekend. I wanted to sit on my couch and enjoy the new view. Of the mirrors hanging on the wall. Of the new lamps with the new shades in their new places. And after I’ve enjoyed the view from my couch for a while, I think I’ll get up and move on to see what other changes might be waiting around the corner. That I can meet with with an open heart and welcome them into my life.

I'm linking up with fellow God-sized dreamers today at Click the image to read their stories!