A Stranger….. and Yet, Belonging

Taking risks

 

It is a funny thing that you can be a part of a culture or group that adamantly proclaims that it is “you” and yet feel very ostracized because it doesn’t reflect the very “core” of who you are. And then life does a 180 degree turn and you find yourself in a new place and culture that could potentially be threatening and reject you. Now you are a minority in the workplace. You have different speech patterns, different ways of looking at things, and of course, you are different because your belief and walk with God shapes the very essence of who you are and where you are going. (Or at least your belief in God was the factor that always ostracized you in your previous culture since you weren’t allowed to talk about it in the workplace and at times got rejected by social groups for it). Shouldn’t you be so far out of your comfort zone that you long to go back to what you once knew and the precarious “acceptance’ in the former group you once had?

 
But what if instead, everywhere in your new culture there were affirmations that you belong and this is where you were meant to be until you had fulfilled your purpose there? What if the people in your workplace that look somewhat different from you and have a different culture from you say, “Stay, you are one of us?” What if new neighbors and workers stream through your new living place and tell you that they want you to stay and they’re so happy you came to live among them? And most of all, what if your supervisors, coworkers, and visiting agency workers all speak openly to you of their walk with God and how it determines why they serve other people with their whole hearts?

 
Would you stay? What is this crazy place and who are these people you’ve come to live among? By the world’s standards you shouldn’t be any more comfortable. But you’ve found freedom. You’ve found freedom to be who you are as a Christian and not feel pressure to hide it. You found freedom from heavy taxation and regulation burdens. You found freedom from a Governor who tells “all your kind” to leave the state. And you found diversity, which you longed for, because only in diversity can you truly appreciate the array of humanity and the array of characteristics in yourself.

 
Perhaps you will stay. After all……it was a huge risk that is seeming to pay off well. No, you will stay because God orchestrated every last detail of your move, right down to giving you and your family the idea to begin with. He spent time on the details, giving you a piece of land that was very specific to your needs, at a discounted price, and with even the soil laid out so specifically that it defies logic. The details extend to how he provided a job where you were given less stress, greater pay, diversity, more freedom, and very specific supervisors and coworkers.

 
This is how God works in our lives. His ways are so far above our own, that often the things we would pick for ourselves are not truly what we want or need. He knows us so well that He will provide the opposite of what we thought we needed and it turns out to open up a whole new world of interest and purpose. We are all sojourners on this earth, only here for a short time. But if we commit our lives to God, then we can rest assured that even though life will be tough and trying, we will find true purpose, freedom, and membership in a place that we belong.

Feeling Uncomfortably Alive

bird out of nest.png

I want to slip back. After an entire year of not living in permanency I was just given the news this morning that it will be many more months before I attain that desired status again. My heart became heavy with disappointment and I mentally began thinking about all the anticipated settling in and visitors that I had my heart set on. I slipped into the shower and began to bemoan my situation. As is often the case when I’m in the shower I hear God’s voice. You do too. Perhaps it’s the fact that the water shuts out the world and the steady patter of “head noise” is drowned out. “You’re okay,” God said, “you have everything you need.” “I suppose you’re right,” I reluctantly agreed, “but I need to be in my own space with my life and possessions nicely settled around me.” “Why?” God said.
Yes…..why?
You see my life has never been static and since I turned 40 a decade ago my life has been a steady series of somersaults. I began to embrace those changes and recognize that the more I took risks, pushed myself to try new things, went new places, and met new people, I was a more “alive” person. I also began to discover who I was created to be and what my purpose on earth was to be. And in doing so, I learned to put myself aside more and become insanely curious and empathetic towards others. Do not be fooled, however, into thinking that this was a beautiful, creative surge forward.  It was often stunted and ugly and marred by the nature of my humanity.
But I want to slip back. It feels so good nestled inside that warm hoodie that comforts me and feels the “same.” Why does my soul yearn for sameness? Because it means that things are constant, easy, and without much thought or intention. God does not want me there. It is “there” that I am useless to Him. Only when I am “outside of me” is He able to get my attention and begin piecing the fabric of me into a dynamic and beautiful quilt that can warm and inspire other human beings.
In a few months, I will be “nesting” in my new home. God will not deny me that because He loves me with an incomprehensible love. But my real home is being prepared now with Him in His heavens. I am never to get comfortable here on this earth. God will see to that. Just when I begin to slip back into sameness……He will send fireworks……..and I will become alert and useful again.

 

I Want My Name to Be Remembered…..

I went to a 3-hour ethics seminar and arrived to find that my name wasn’t on any of their rosters. They looked under “G” and they looked under “N” but it wasn’t there. This meant that I would not receive a professionally printed certificate of completion which I need to keep my licensure. This bothered me quite a bit more than I would have thought. I registered for the event; sent in all the right information; jumped through all the right hoops; completed all the right works. Why in the world did it irritate me when I still got the information I needed and received a handwritten, albeit messy, certificate with my name on it?

 
Later it dawned on me that I wanted my name and actions to matter. In the long term this event holds little importance. But what DOES matter is that my name is written in the Book of Life. Do I have to register for it, jump through hoops, send in money? No, my name is already written there for I accepted an invitation from a loving God. He will walk with me as I live my life and work with me to learn the things that are important for me to know. But it can’t be taken away. My name IS important and it is written in the most important of rosters. And this I can rest in.

 

book-of-life-god

Shirking Responsibility

 

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If you are female….you are most likely carrying too much and especially at this time of year.

I walked into school the other day with a teacher that poured out her concerns and responsibilities all the way from our cars until we welcomed the children. I finally gently shared with her a secret that I had learned from a wonderful Christian lady many years ago. I haven’t learned to do this perfectly and sometimes when I’ve forgotten it for awhile it hits me like a cold snowball on my cheek and I can’t figure out why I lost my way. It takes faith. And it takes letting go. This is awfully hard for women to do. For you see we have a mental list going through our heads from the time we wake up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night. If we don’t accomplish what we think we need or “should” do then we can’t engage in relationships with our loved ones and often, we can’t sleep.

The simple technique that my sweet friend taught me was that each morning as I’m praying I need to commit my day into God’s hands. Too simple? Now it is His responsibility. It always was. But somehow I thought it was mine to accomplish a million tasks and save the world! No, it is His life I live and I walk in His desires for my life. After I’ve committed my day into His hands, then I know that I will talk and encourage the people He means for me to reach, I will accomplish the responsibilities that I need to be accountable for, and I will love on those that need my presence. Now, there are no more “shoulds.” If I don’t accomplish something…..”oh, well!” In the scheme of life it is all vanity anyway.

Now, go enjoy your day and be relieved of so many burdens!

Busy-ness

How often do we ask someone how they are and the reply is “busy!” This is usually said with a great deal of pride and anticipation that you will think they are very important people. “Busy” has become a status symbol in our culture. A couple of times I’ve responded to this with, “I’m sorry,” only to see their expression turn to confusion because I wasn’t validating their value for busyness. Slow down. Invest in relationships. At some point in your life all the frantic activity will cease and as you lay there reflecting back on your long life, you will not wish you had been busier…….but that you had spent more time with people you love and value. Now go be un-busy today!

Busyness

Overcoming Social Anxiety

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For many of us introverts, we once struggled with shyness and social interaction. However, introversion and shyness do NOT go hand-in-hand. They are 2 different personality traits. And yet, because of how we process social stimulation, introverts can more readily be given to social anxiety. Introverts also have less patience for small talk despite it’s necessity, and view it as a shallow endeavor. Social anxiety is really an expression of fear. God has been faithfully working for years to vanquish this stronghold out of my personality. I still say that I am “shyly motivated” but a desire to make sure that no one ever feels excluded or unloved drives me. My natural giftings take over when I take my mind off myself and focus on the well-being of others. Do I ever feel awkward? All the time. But you will hear me embrace my awkwardness and laugh at it. And what I have learned, and what this article admits is that the secret to engaging banter isn’t about a perfect conversational formula…….it’s about putting yourself out there; being sincere, open, and vulnerable in your desire to connect with others. Try it. It has opened up a whole new world.  

http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2017/06/the-secret-to-small-talk.html

How Do I Know What I’m Created to Do?

Melissa and I

At the age of 32, I still had received very little validation of  who I was or what I was created to do.  A Christian friend of mine presented me with this poem one day and I believe it was a word from God.  In the years since, God has steadily directed me towards understanding my spiritual gifts and learning what I was created to do.  But it was never a clear, laid-out vision of the steps I was to take or the course I was to pursue.  Instead, I figuratively walked on water at each and every crossroads.  When I became overwhelmed by the obstacles, and dubious that I had any real gifts, this prophetic verse reassured me that at the very least, I was created to be a conduit of God’s love.

A Special Gift

One day the Creator

decided to give the world a gift.

It would be a special gift to change people’s lives

and encourage His children.

It would bring hope

where discouragement reigned,

and love where bitterness ate people’s souls.

 It would bring Him glory.

 He planned carefully,

fashioning His gift with love,

for only the best would suffice.

And so, He created a child.

The Angels rejoiced and praised God

when they saw the tiny, perfectly formed babe.

 And yet… they were confused.

 How could one small child change the world?

 After all it was not the Christ child,

but merely human, mortal, vulnerable.

It would inevitably sin.

 It would be flawed.

So the Angels asked the Creator,

“How can this child bring you honor,

and help your people?”

 And the Creator answered,

“I have imbued this child

with a powerful spirit,

a healing spirit,

mine.

She will be filled with grace,

tenderly nurture the souls of others,

and be a conduit for my love.

She will be a light to others.”

 The Angels then asked,

“How is it she can bring so much to the world?

 She is only human and there are others

through whom you move and work.”

The Creator responded,

“You are right, there are others

who serve me well

and through whom I powerfully work.

But each manifests my grace

in different and special ways,

touching the hearts

and souls of different people.

This one will touch many lives,

many hearts in her own unique and creative way.”

 So the Angels smiled and asked,

“What will this child be called?”

And the Creator answered,

“Deanna.”

 

Why our biographies have crossed……….

SAM_4749My life is a tribute to God’s sovereignty.  He has taken a very frightened, shy little red-headed girl born into alcoholism, poverty, legalism, and hopelessness and transformed her into someone of worth.  This blog is an exploration of the factors and roadblocks that can cripple an individual and the techniques and responses that won’t allow dysfunction, shame, and futility to prevail.  It is a vulnerable and sincere account of how God works with this sassy little Irish girl and what gifts he has given me that I might share with you.  Hold on for the ride……..I promise this excursion won’t be devoid of frustrations, failures, and pitfalls, but it will be an honest vignette of God’s faithfulness, grace, and goodness.