Who Am I?

Existentialism aside, I think this is something we all ask and it seems like a pretty foundational question. And once it’s answered, we usually live out from the answer.

“If this is who I am, this is how I will act in relationships.” “If these are my gifts, then this is the calling God has for me.” “If this is what I’m feeling, then this is how I should move forward.”

But here’s the problem with that line of thinking:

“If this is how my dreams/ hopes/ desires/ demands are being thwarted, then God must not be for me or just doesn’t even exist.”

Escalated quickly, yes?

I think we have embarked on our search for identity wrong. And we may “know” we are to find our identity in Christ, but do we really by-heart know it?

I was recently introduced to a line of questioning by my small group leader, but this was adapted from Jeff Vanderstelt. Here’s the order in which I usually ask these questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. So how do I respond?
  3. What did God do for me?
  4. Then who is God?

But how unfortunate is that? My self-view and behavior have no bearing over who God is and what he’s done!

For example, when I was once passed over for a professional role I had thrown my hat in the ring for, I was trying to re-examine some goals. Who was I? I was a failure and probably not meant to be where God had placed me. How was I to respond? Hide, of course! I had failed and been rejected and could not let people know I was a fraud! What did God do? He had placed me here to reveal my inadequacy. Then who is God? He’s trying to teach me a lesson about not feeling too confident in my abilities.

…There’s a lie in there somewhere. Maybe more than one.

If I truly want to understand who I am, I need to flip my understanding of myself on its head. This often means flipping my frame of understanding around:

  1. Who is God?
  2. What did God do for me?
  3. So how do I respond?
  4. Then who am I?

When these questions are answered in the proper order, I am able to live out of the story of the gospel, rather than the story of selfishness I am trying to tell on my own. Living out of the gospel gives me and outward and upward perspective, rather than trying to satisfy my inward longings.

Let’s look at that same scenario:

Who is God? He is my father and creator. What has he done for me? He as saved me and covered me in his righteousness because of his great love for me. How to I respond? I trust that what he has for me is best in both success and failure. Then who am I? I am dearly loved and no good thing has been withheld from me.

With these questions in a proper order, my view of God and view of self are also ordered properly. From there, I can respond out of truth and walk forward in faith despite the hurt of my circumstances.

Which set of questions are we living out of and how is that effecting our friendships, families, marriages, vocations, and even our self-talk?

The first question may be, “Who are you?”, but the second question must be, “How are you going to answer that?”

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Something Small, Something Simple

I shared a couple weeks back about feeling cranky with my faith. Some of this stems from some things in my church that may not be to my personal preference. Most of it stems from a personal pursuit of God that was too narrow and self-focused.

It’s easy for my heart to go from discerning and deep-thinking to cynical and critical, and I was seeing evidence of this in my relationship with God. So much felt like thrill-seeking—the next conference, the next bible study, the next coffee with a mentor—that would bring the insight, depth, or change I was aching for. But God is not a spiritual crack dealer.

God is found in the simple and small—the word, prayer, and community. And so a journey to find personal liturgy began.

…And slowly crashed and burned.

Reading James K.A. Smith’s You Are What You Love was insightful, bringing words to feelings and longings I’ve held in my faith life for so long. The book is a call back to small daily practices that realign us with God’s story. It’s a call to look at our habits and what they point our hearts to and retraining our habits to point to the gospel—what we truly want to love. It’s looking for liturgy in the everyday.

Thing is, the book was on the philosophy of this more than the practice. So what do daily liturgies look like for a single girl in an evangelical church?

Honestly, I still don’t know. What I do know is this:

I operate better under structure, though I try to avoid it to keep my autonomy

Autonomy is not biblical, and that is something I’ve had to examine and accept. Having a structure to my days and weeks helps me to function better and live healthier. Having habits to look to from the outset keeps me from feeling lost or purposeless. It instead brings focus and shape.

I love my job and the flexibility it brings, but I also acknowledge that it is an opportunity to steward my time and habits well and I want to do so in a way that welcomes community. Not in a way that hordes my autonomy.

Prayer is not passive, but is, in fact, the most powerful thing we can do

Prayer was something I did in a prayer journal when I had plenty of time to write out long prayers by hand in a prayer journal. So guess what was the first thing to go out the window when life got busy?

So, yes, I still love those extended times of prayer, but I’ve also found that I want to form habits that allow me to pray without ceasing. When a friend I haven’t talked to in a while comes to mind, I pray for them. When something on the news stirs my hear to be anxious, I pray about it. When I’m at a loss, I pray.

Not all the time, but enough that this is becoming second nature, rather than just some new thing I’ll try for three days and forget about.

The church is built when the body of Christ is down on it’s knees

Yes, spiritual formation can happen in big arenas with flashy speakers. But lasting change and discipleship happens in the quiet moments alone, between the word and prayer.

I can think I know what is right for myself, or the church, or society at large, but I am so often wrong. Starting my day with prayer and time in the bible rather than the news or my email inbox brings a different rhythm to my days.

I have started reading Seeking God’s Face each morning and am grateful for the reminder of who God is and what his heart is for every morning. The book pairs a psalm and passage of scripture with prayer prompts and excerpts from various books of prayer. It also guides you through the seasons of the Christian year—something very new to this baptist girl.

This habit has been refreshing and grounding.

I’ve found that seeking to live in God’s story is not something glamorous or earth-shattering—not in the day-to-day. It’s small, it’s simple, and it’s so very necessary.

How are you seeking small and simple habits to point you back to God’s story?

 

Back on the grid

So I didn’t plan to leave the blog unattended that long…it just kind of got rolled in…

This week marks the end of a year long social media hiatus. This has been a great year to pause and think through intentionality and purpose. To be honest, I have not missed my social accounts in the slightest.

photo-1441448770220-76743f9e6af6The most common response I received from people asking about the hiatus was, “What about all the invites to things you’re missing?” My first thought was, “What invites? I haven’t gotten any.”…thankfully I had the restraint not to voice that. Fact of the matter is, I was usually asked this at some social function where the host had graciously extended me an invite via phone or email rather than over Facebook.

But really, I don’t feel like my social life suffered much. I certainly went to less functions because I felt obligated to go to the baby shower of the girl I shared a crayon with that one time in third grade…Instead, I spent moments with friends. Friends who I hadn’t made an actual effort with in a while because, well, it took actual effort. Friends who understood why I was doing what I was doing. I got to pursue relationships that meant more than just witty comments or clicking a heart on things they shared. I got to rediscover the beauty of an hour-long phone call, or driving to see a college roommate, or asking the real questions because I had time and the space for that.

I got to share actual life without feeling the pressure to prove I had been, had done, had seen, had heard. I just got to be. Can I tell you how freeing it is to stand through a concert without taking a video of your favorite song. To just listen and take in without being hindered by the screen between you and the artist. (I mean really, is there any point?)

This year has been nothing out of the ordinary, but I know it has been lived. If squandered, it was only done on watching Parks and Rec in a week. (Because Netflix wasn’t part of the hiatus but probably should have been…)

I’m excited to unpack with you what I’ve taken from this past year and unfold what God has in store for the year to come.

Here’s to a new journey.
Back on the Grid title (1)

The Investment of Waiting

Last week I threw out the question of what it means to wait actively. I don’t think it’s really quite fair for me to ask you a question and not answer it myself.

So what is active waiting in my world?

After wrestling with the concept this week and some really great conversations over coffee, I came to this conclusion: Waiting is not the word. Waiting still seems to imply a sitting still, a holding of breath for something.

James 5 uses the metaphor of the farmer waiting for his crops. The Greek word used, ekdechomai, implies waiting with expectation. (That’s right, I whipped out the concordance on this one.) The farmer isn’t just waiting for whatever to happen. He is waiting for fruit. He does what it takes to ready the field and prepare for the harvest.

The farmer invests in his work.

So what does this mean for little ol’ me?

Lately, I’ve been wrestling with the purpose of my singleness and where the boundary lines have fallen for me. I’ve also recently been a part of some great conversations on the needs and future of ministry for single young adults. Great things that stir in me a passion and desire to see growth; a longing for God to awake hunger for Him in the hearts of people in this stage of life.

And what is one thing that singles are told time and time again? Especially single women?

Wait.

“Wait on God.” “Good things come to those who wait.” And then my personal favorite, “True love waits.”

But what does that mean? Are we supposed to sit around and do nothing while we wait for godly prince charming to stride in with his Toms-clad feet and Greek New Testament and whisk me away to a mission field in Asia?

Geeze, I certainly hope not.

I have observed a lot of women, who have been told for years to wait, grow frustrated, disillusioned, and bitter. What they have been told to sit and wait patiently for not come. I feel that tension myself,

So what do we do? Ya know, when there’s not much you can do.

We invest. We invest in where we are and what God is doing in us and in our communities. We seek out the input of older wiser counsel. We seek contentment while still pursuing growth. We serve.

So what does this mean for me personally? I want to start to build community with both women and men and provide context for thoughtful conversation. Essentially, I want to open my home for gatherings and encourage deeper discussion through thoughtful, others-focused questions.

I want to continue to study the word and become more firmly rooted in my identity through truth.

I want to explore the gifts I have been given further. I want to write like crazy and learn more about marketing.

I want growth. I want to see God bring it about in my life and want to watch it happen in the lives around me.

And, yes, this may be an idealistic rant of a hopeless romantic, but it is a rant I offer up to the father to do with whatever he sees fit.

We have been placed where we are in life for good reason, whether we see that or not.

So we can allow our discontentment to fester into bitterness. We can allow are hearts to harden as what we may want does not arrive in our timing. If that’s the case, we’re not really usable for God’s purpose.

Or we can enter into the adventure with God, wrestling with the tension of where we’ve been placed and where we wish we were. We can encounter him on a deeper level as we seek in invest in the stage he has intentionally placed us.

I would love to hear any more of your thoughts if you’ve been wrestling with the what it means to wait. Comment and join the discussion.

What is Contentment?

I’ve been living in a state of limbo for some time now.

In previous posts, I’ve talked through job loss and the struggle in waiting for that next something to come along. I have the prospect of an opportunity that I’m supposed to get an definitive answer on any day now. It has been a long waiting process that has given me a chance to wrestle through some things with God.

Like contentment.

At the start of this year, I told you guys that was what I wanted to seek this year; godliness and contentment. Shortly after that, I was laid off from my dream internship, turned down for a couple promotions, and left in this state of waiting and hoping.

So how is one supposed to be content when nothing seems to be right. When you’re not happy. When you’re not satisfied. For some reason, this is what I believed contentment to be. Happiness. Satisfaction. And if not those things, fooling yourself into believing you were those things.

What on earth is contentment if not satisfaction and happiness?

This was the question on my heart. If I was supposed to be content, why wasn’t I able to make myself comfortable with where God had placed me?

I ran across a quote from Sinclair Ferguson that helped me wade through my confusion.

Christian contentment…is the direct fruit of having no higher ambition than to belong to the Lord and to be totally at his disposal in the place He appoints, at the time He chooses, with the provision He is pleased to make.

That was it. Contentment was my calling. Contentment was what was supposed to come from trusting where God had me for the length he had me there. It wasn’t happiness. It wasn’t satisfaction. It was trust. Trust that this was the destination for now. Trusting that it was the best place for me in this season.

It is so hard when we are not in the place we thought we would be at this point in life. There is so much ambiguity in this post-grad, pre-whatever stage. I have a hunch that there is a whole lot of ambiguity in live in general.

And it’s not fun and it’s not easy, but it it good. It is good to realize you are not in control. It is good to realize that you must rely on something bigger than yourself. It is good to seek contentment when it seems like the farthest thing from your grasp.

So it’s been two months of waiting to see if this job opportunity will come to fruition. And yes, I want it to come to fruition. But I know I will be okay if it does not. God has a plan. He will place me where I need to be and not a moment before I need to be there.

And I am surprised to say that that is something I can be content with.

Is there an area of your life where you haven’t been seeking contentment? Have you been struggling with the meaning of that word?

Everyone Needs a Paul, Everyone Needs a Timothy Part I

A friend once shared a phrase in a small group that I thought was a great piece of wisdom:

Everyone needs a Peter. Everyone needs a Timothy.

I want to spend a couple weeks taking about this concept. Mentoring and being mentored has been such a huge part of my life and I’d love to talk about that with you.

Essentially, who are you pouring into? Who is pouring into you?
I have shared previously that I lost my mentor to cancer in my Sophomore year of college. She was a wonderful woman who really influenced my love for serving high school students and I am forever grateful for her impact in my life.

After she passed, all I really wanted was to talk about it with someone. Someone older, outside of my home. My family had heard me talk about her a lot. I wanted someone else’s perspective. I wanted to talk to her.

That was probably the hardest part. In this dark season, all I really wanted was for someone to pour into me, to share their wisdom and bring some comfort. I wanted a mentor. And I had had one. And she was gone.

It was a hard and heavy cycle.

It wasn’t until a very dear friend and professor met with me to talk about what was going on, how I was handling things. She gave me permission to grieve and affirmed where I was at. She asked me some questions that I had to chew on for a few months before I could actually answer them. It was good. It was beautiful. It was redemptive.

This woman took time out of her life to pour into me. It was a gift I am forever grateful for.

We’re all in need of community, but not always just a community of peers. We are called to be part of the body of Christ which is made up of multiple generations who are given the opportunity to bless one another with their wisdom and experiences.

Recently,  a few women have spoken into my life. They are just in the next camp in life and have so willingly shared with me their experiences with me. We have gotten to lift one another up in prayer and to pace along side each other on the journey. It has helped so much in this season as God is stretching me for whatever he has next.

Do you have someone in your life to speak wisdom and encouragement to you? Someone who will share their journey with you?

If you don’t, I highly suggest looking at the older women in your life. Is there someone at your church who may want to share their story with you? Do you have a small group program for young adults? If you don’t have an individual in your life right now who might fill this role, please pray for God to bring her along.

We are in community together to build one another up. We are to be taught and discipled. It’s humbling, energizing, and necessary. Having an older, wiser voice in your life is a wonderful gift I pray you have or will soon receive.

Next week, we’ll talk about being a mentor, even if you don’t feel you don’t have anything to share.

Why is the Rug Gone?!

A few weeks ago, I had written about heading into the next chapter. About my dream internship and moving on and growing up.

…And then I stalled out.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, some things fell through at the company and there was no longer a job for me there.

The wind was knocked out of me.

I was back at square-one. Back at my old job. Back in that stage I was ready to be done with.

Even three weeks later, I am still a little stunned. I’m not really sure where to go from here. The rug has been ripped out from under me and now I just feel stuck.

It is in these moments that I feel more than a little confused. What was the point of  going through that if the experience wasn’t going to be substantial? Why did that even happen, God? 

I’m lying here, back to the floor, rug now askew, and I have nothing. No idea, very few prospects, and empty hands.

Remember when I said I wanted this year to be about godliness and contentment? God answers prayer.

So I’m here. Back where I started: job that’s not my favorite, future uncertain, and loans to pay. Am I going to thank him for this. Am I going to learn to trust him in this. Because I have a job in which I get flexible hours and work with some awesome people. Because I have a God who has promised to fill my needs and guide me in a story he is writing to his glory. Because here is not such a bad place to be “stuck.”

I have been given a talent here. Am I going to invest with this little and prove myself faithful for more? Am I going to be obedient and learn to live fully where I am placed? Is there really anything else I can do? Godliness and contentment. That I what I have asked him for. This is how it is being given to me right now.
So I can scramble to get the rug back where it was, or I can trust it was moved for a reason.

I really feel God calling me to stay put for a month or two. Some opportunities are arising that I would not have been able to look into had I still been at the internship or another job. (Don’t worry, I’ll let you know once they’re set in stone.) I have more time to devote to my novel and was just given a wonderful plot twist only yesterday. I have time to invest into my small groups and writing group and my friends. I have been given an opportunity to enjoy what I have been given. Even if it was not given in the way I would have preferred.

So, yes, the rug has been ripped out from under me, but with purpose. Even if the purpose is not yet clear, I am going to trust that I have been placed where I need to be. I’ll tell you how it goes from here.

xo,
        –Lex

P.S. Tune in Thursday at noon. I’m trying something new and want to know what you think!