It’s Growin’ Time!

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It’s almost planting time in Iowa! The promise of a fresh start. I love the flurry of activity this season brings; tractor beams moving, ghostly, through the fields late into the night, as if floating through the open plains. And by day, plumes of dirt trailing behind the lumbering machines like an organic bridal train.

Green nubs are finally breaking through the too-long-frozen ground in my garden, and green tractors are populating our roadways and the fields, turning up soil, preparing it to nurture and grow the promise of a future harvest.  

With the changing of the season, there’s a palpable sense that each farmer, poised with a sense of destiny–a feeling that this is what they were born to do–is waiting with anticipation for the exact right time to plant in order to partner with nature and God to call something life-giving from the dirt. 

This got me thinking about my response to changing seasons within my own life.

Whenever things around me are changing I find I have two choices: embrace the possibilities or fear the uncertainties. And often my natural inclination is towards the latter. So often I miss the opportunity to partner with God to call something life-giving from what, at first glance, appears to be useless dirt, and by focusing on the things that are out of my control I fail to recognize the possibilities staring me in the face.

How can I be so confident that there are always possibilities to embrace?

Because even in my darkest moments I’ve seen the fulfillment of God’s promise to work all things for my good. 

Thinking back to the farmers, I’m sure as they’re planting they could fret about the summer hail storms that will surely come and wreck havoc on all of their hard work, or the potential for a blight of insects. All things completely beyond their control. But in the end, they have to trust that they’ve cultivated enough ground that they’ll be able to withstand the loss.

The same is true of my relationship with God. When I face change, I find that the amount of ground I’ve cultivated with him through prayer, conversation, and experience, is directly proportionate to the trust I put in him in the face of uncertainty and the amount I’m able to withstand. This season I’m looking forward to cultivating more ground with Jesus, and plowing new rows of trust.

How about you? What’s your natural reaction to change in your life? Do you embrace it or do you feel afraid? What areas in your life seem like useless dirt, but God is actually calling you to partner with him to see something life-giving spring from it? Leave me a comment, I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

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The Fear of Success

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It was about this time last year that I found myself sitting in a room full of strangers (and my husband) holding my breath. Waiting. I’d been waiting for a couple months since they first announced on the conference website that my book proposal was among 9 others that were being considered for a book contract.

The moment of truth finally arrived; the announcement was seconds away…and the honor went to someone else.

I exhaled. And as I applauded the winner taking the stage, you know what I felt? Sadness, disappointment? Nope–relief.

I’d felt it simmering in me for a while, almost since I had submitted the proposal (and probably long before). A familiar emotion. Fear. But it wasn’t the kind of fear I was expecting. I expected the fear of failure–what I discovered was a fear of success. I passed it off as complete trust in the plans of God (which was partially true), but deep down I was afraid to succeed. Afraid of the unknown ways in which success would change my life. The ways in which it would expose me, and my weaknesses, to the world. Knowing it would demand a new, truer vulnerability, something I wasn’t sure I was capable of or even wanted to give.

I was afraid to succeed, knowing that in my success I would be opening up another avenue to fail.   

One of the best-est movies of all time is It’s Christmastime, Charlie Brown. In it Charlie Brown sidles up to Lucy’s psychiatric help booth, drops in his nickel, and gets her “professional help.” She then rattles off a list of “phobias” asking if any of them match his vague feelings of unhappiness.

Finally she says, “There’s pantophobia. Do you think you have pantophobia?”

“What’s that?” he asks.

And she says, matter-of-factly, “the fear of everything.”

Bowling her over, in true Peanuts fashion, he shouts, “That’s it!”

I laugh every time. But sometimes I can relate a little too well to that scene. I fear failure, I fear success (and spiders, and rats, and something happening to my family, you get the idea). Sometimes the list can get really long. So today I’m reminding myself that God hasn’t given me a spirit of fear of success or failure. So I’m moving forward out of fear into pure trust in the plans of God.

Have you ever found yourself fearing success? Did you recognize it for what it was? How did you handle it? Drop me a comment; I want to hear from you.

Because I Was Scared

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No More Fear

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I was scared this past weekend. I sat down with a lovely woman at the Re:write conference I attended to gather some information about possibly self-publishing my book Holy Doubt. She looked at me and uttered these words that sent ice through my veins: “What’s your vision for your book?”  Seems like a rather innocent and obvious question to ask, doesn’t it?

But I sat there speechless. I couldn’t answer intelligibly. I’m pretty sure only gibberish came out! Because up to this point I was just being obedient getting the words on the page and hadn’t given much thought to what would happen with it afterwards. I think I imagined it dwelling in some nebulous cloud and then magically dropping into people’s hands at the right moment. Great marketing plan, right?!

Her question sparked something in me though. I went back to my room and asked God for his vision for my book (because I wouldn’t even have a story if it weren’t for him)And then I remembered why I hadn’t done this before! Um, Scary. The same kind of scary that made me scream at a decibel that would shatter glass and (maybe, possibly) piddle on the carpet when my husband burst out of my daughter’s closet yelling “Boo!” while I was tucking her into bed a few weeks ago.

God’s vision scares me. It overwhelms me. I hadn’t asked, because I generally like my own smaller vision better. The one that I can control and manage myself. I rarely realize what a control freak I am, but I’m human and I like to know what the end game is, calculate my risks, weigh all my options. But how much are we missing when we don’t ask God what his vision is for our lives, including the specific things he’s given us to do?  I had been obedient up to a certain point and then I chose to leave God out of a process that he had been integral in from the very beginning. Wow! Not what I had intended to do at all. Funny how God can use a single question to rewrite our lives!

So now I’m choosing to step out of the fear and into God’s vision.  What about you? What has God given you to do that scares you? Ask him to help you move beyond the fear.  The world is waiting for God’s vision to be lived through you! 

Bucking Bulls and Ambiguity

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Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Al_HikesAZ via Compfight cc

One of the things that threw me faster than a bucking bull knocking a cornflake off his back was the ambiguity of life in missions. It is what you make it to be. Before we became missionaries we had been happily working as youth/worship pastors at a church in Des Moines. Our roles, and the expectations, were clearly defined. I knew where I fit into the big picture of our ministry and what that looked like on a day-to-day basis.

Insert India into my life and everything changed. India has a way of doing that! I no longer had a defined role or set of expectations. Outside of learning the language, our options were limitless–and overwhelming. I was being given an opportunity to basically reinvent myself and the way ministry looked for me, and I was paralyzed.

My husband is an amazing man and an incredible minister, and for most of our married life, and certainly in ministry, I had been hiding behind him. Mostly out of fear. Fear that I wasn’t good enough, that people wouldn’t like me, or that I would say or do the wrong thing (all things I still deal with!). I didn’t realize it at the time, but God was inviting me to step out of hiding and begin to walk out the individual call that he had just for me. Of course, Jonathan and I still have a call to do ministry together as well–and I love that!–but God had something for which he had uniquely equipped me. Unfortunately, it took me a long time to figure that out–and I’ve only recently started doing it! It’s been a long road of God whittling away my excuses!

Many of us, especially us women, will have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves and the roles we play over and over again in our lifetimes. In our families, our careers, and in serving Jesus. Very few, if any, of us will occupy a static role for our entire lives. From someone who’s finally(!) being obedient to God’s direction in her own life, I want to encourage you to listen to the voice of God and don’t be afraid to celebrate the new seasons and step out of hiding. Someone’s waiting for you to be obedient to whatever God is calling you to do.

Has God been speaking to you about something that you are uniquely gifted to do?

What’s keeping you from doing it? Education? Opportunity?

What can you do to remove the obstacles?

 

What if…

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I’ve been watching a little bit of the Olympics the last few days and I have to say I’ve been inspired.  Those athletes take incredible risks and are rewarded with incredible payoffs, but it takes an amazing level of commitment and not just a little fearlessness!

Watching them I’m reminded that sometimes the biggest breakthroughs and the thing I most want to accomplish or see happen is going to require some risk and a healthy dose of fearlessness.  Becoming a writer is something I’ve dreamed about off and on since I first saw Anne of Green Gables when I was about 12 years old, but I haven’t done it, primarily out of fear.  Fear of failing, fear of rejection, and fear of the unknown.  I may not be the next Francine Rivers, and that’s okay, but I’ve decided to be obedient to the call that I feel God has placed on my heart and not even worry about the results.

So often we rehearse the negative reel of what if’s…in our minds when we think about a God-sized dream in our hearts.  But what if… we knew we couldn’t fail.  What would you do if you knew you could accomplish anything?  Remove the fear factor and ask yourself what God has called you to.  Sure, sometimes the Olympic athletes take some painful, epic falls, even breaking bones, but they usually get right back up and try again.  I don’t know about you, but I want to take the risk.

What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?