life lessons

Pursuing God’s Will

“I don’t care if you ever preach again, but this has to stop.”

One part of me wanted to grab the words from the air I had spoken them into and return them into my mouth. The other part meant every syllable. It was terrifying to confess.

We were trying to fit a mold. I’ve spent this last year trying to figure out exactly what mold that was. Sadly, I think it was an ideal expectation we had created for ourselves without consulting God. It was a determination of who hat He would have us do in the ministry without His saying so. It was our starry eyes and great expectations which pursued it.

Like fitting a peg into a square hole, it didn’t fit. And when something doesn’t fit, you will infuriate and frustrate yourself trying to squeeze in.

I was driven and motivated by what I wanted. I was enamored with friends who seemed to have this perfect life of ministry, so I modeled my life after theirs. I compared my life to theirs and often felt unworthy and insecure because I didn’t measure up. I also got puffed up in pride, insisting God owed me more.

Oh dear. And I know you’re asking – where was your Bible, child?!? Sadly, it often sat on my coffee table. It sat unread as I struggled this life in my strength. A thin layer of dust fell onto it’s cover as we tried to force ourselves into doors which weren’t meant for us.

So, I sat in our car that night and uttered those words. I confessed I didn’t know if I wanted to go to church again. I spewed the words I never thought would leave my tongue.

But God.

He had grace. He brought us to a place where we could be still and quiet. He enabled us to listen and really take in some important truths we hadn’t heard before. He revealed some ugly truth about ourselves, while still scooping us into His arms and building us back up.

He reminded us how when we sit on the judgement seat, He isn’t going to ask how many rainbows we chased. He is going to ask if we were faithful, if we pursued His will, if we served others in love. I had to hold my head in shame as I confessed … it was more about me and less about Him.

He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:30

I never thought I’d have a desire to minister again. I didn’t even want to play piano or even think about all things “churchy.” I was worn out by all of it. I even questioned whether any of it was worth it. I remained honest in my prayers, confessing to God every bit of my anger and frustration. He calmed my spirit and breathed a silent hush over my soul.

He breathed a desire to minister and serve once again. He changed my heart from a “what’s in it for me” attitude to desiring to honor Him. It’s less about my mold and more about HIM transforming me for His work and His glory.

As far as my dear preacher husband, I love to hear him preach. I love watching him serve. (For some reason, the old ladies are glued to him!) I love his giving heart. But at the end of the day, I’m happy if the Lord has him preaching once a year or if he’s doing something in a “bigger” capacity. Whatever it is, if it’s in the center of God’s will, I have full confidence we will be content. I’ve laid my expectations and mold for myself at the feet of Jesus and gratefully accepted His perfect will.

God has you right where He wants you. Just because you’re not behind a pulpit does not mean He can’t use you. He needs faithful laborers who are willing to witness, serve others, serve their local ministry, and raise up families for His glory. He wants you to fulfill His purpose for your life and once you find that, you will find joy like you’ve never known.

Because if it isn’t His will, it won’t be right. It will be a miserable struggle and it will drive you to quit – just like I almost did that night two years ago.

Legalism · life lessons

Be Real.

I’ve had a hard time writing and really being transparent with you guys. When I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo last July, I was cranking out 1k daily. BUT it was fiction! Pieces of me were scattered into the story (which I still need to make revisions on and prep for betas), but it wasn’t my real life. It wasn’t something I was writing to encourage or lift others up. And since I’m an unashamed pantser*, so much of what I wrote was uninhibited and uncensored. That’s what this grievous editing process has been for!

The Bible says a fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards. Sometimes I fear what I share here will fall on the foolish side and be of no benefit to anyone. There are things a person ought to keep to themselves, especially in situations where emotions run high and tongues wreak havoc. We don’t have editors to clean up the mess of our words once they leave our mouths. We need to be wise in how we use them.

But I also know transparency is needed among God’s people today. We have so many who are hiding behind masks. We are afraid to be vulnerable and open; afraid to show any emotion. (We’re baptist, right?!) We don’t want people to know our struggles, because we fear judgment or disdain from others.

In the end, we suffer in silence. We straddle this gulf fixed between our secret reality and what we put on for others. I’m not even talking about hidden sin, though that definitely falls into this category. I’m talking about the fact we are a desperate, messy, and needy people.

Part of the problem is we don’t want to see the mess in others. “Bear ye one another’s burdens” is nice at the funeral home, but we gently place that one back on the mantle once that’s over. The burdens of our brethren shake up our world and disorganizes the tidy little box we’ve kept our Savior in. Sadly, we know this about one another and feel the need to suffer alone.

God knows what’s going on. Not one bit about our mess takes Him by surprise.

So while I definitely believe we should consider our words as well as the time and place we use them, I do believe it’s okay to talk. It’s okay to be real. It’s okay to stand in the grace which has made us free in spite of all of our distress and trouble.

I used to avoid praying until I thought I was good enough to talk to God. Yes, I was saved and free from the law, yet I thought my mess was too much! In turn, I wound up rarely praying. I lived a life swallowed by legalism, dwelling in an alternate reality. It wasn’t until God began to gently break me that it became too much. My life had become too messy even for my checklists and standards. I didn’t even know if I believed any of it any more. And I came boldly to the throne of grace with each question. I was honest with God, because He already knew what was in my heart. It was there I found grace in the midst of trouble.

It has been terrifying to share my story on Coffee & Grace, because who knows what people will think! I’ve been very careful in how I talk about legalism and church matters, because I’m not out to hurt or divide the body of Christ. I’m not here to deliver a scathing expose of baptist churches. I’m still a part of one! But there is no denying what God has shown and revealed to me, no matter how unpopular or scary it may be. Someone out there needs to know they aren’t the only one whose life didn’t pan out the way we thought it would. There is grace for those odd and gray areas of life.

Yes, He desires for me to be separate. He desires for me to read the Word with discernment and a willingness to submit to His will. He wants to protect me from sin. Absolutely!

But when I was hiding behind a facade of “together” and being “on” at the church house, so little of that was being put into practice. My relationship with God and service to Him was as shallow as the skirt I put on because I knew certain people would be around. It was more about pleasing me and less about pleasing Him. It was my wall of self defense, protecting myself so I could belong and feel as though I was a part of something.

I began to really experience grace when He told me I could be real.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Real on the bad days when I’ve yelled at my kids. Real when I’m at my wits end. Real when I’m not okay with the burdens on my heart and need to rest a while. Real when I have tough questions. Real with that anxiety which leaves me paralyzed. Real when I have to hit my knees and pray for forgiveness, standing again on the liberty to move forward. Real when I have screamed, “I want to quit!!!”

It was already there in my heart. He knew. He listened. And He scooped me into His arms and gave grace.

God was never impressed when I would pat myself on the back for checking off a list. He simply wanted me to sit at His feet; seeking Him, resting in Him, and abiding in Him. He wanted me to be honest, even if it was messy.

God is not looking for perfect Christians. He’s looking for people who are honest and genuine, wholly dedicated to pursuing His holiness in spite of their flaws. He’s looking to be magnified in our weakness.

He desires for us to be changed and transformed in His power, but we have to come to a place where we are real.

Casting every care at His feet, kneeling at the cross, humbled in the recognition of not being able to take another step without Him, and willing to turn from sin which hinders us.

Be real, friend. Take off the mask and be real. Be real when you speak to Him, be real when you examine yourself against the Word, be real in how you deal with others, be real with your love, and be real with how you live.

*pantser – a writer who loosely follows an outline or doesn’t follow one at all. They write by the seat of their pants!