The Importance of the “H” Word

When my parents built their house they had each child press their handprint in the freshly poured concrete to commemorate the excitement and accomplishment of building a home. I wasn’t even born when the first set of three children, my older siblings, pressed their little hands into the concrete leaving their mark forever. The arrival of myself and three additional children necessitated a second addition to the house. When the foundation was poured, all seven children pressed their hands into the cold, wet rocks, and we traced our ages underneath. It was to commemorate a unique moment in time, that might otherwise be easily forgotten. I was born in that house. Literally, born into one of the rooms of the house my Daddy built. I lived my whole life in that house until I moved out at the age of twenty. My parents still live in that house, on the same stretch of land where I spent my childhood.

Now I also live on that land, in the woods where I grew up. My husband, Cody and I are building a house of our own for ourselves and our two children. We live in a sort-of community, “The Compound” is a name we’ve allowed begrudgingly, with three of my older siblings and their families who also built houses on the land that now spans 20 acres. I have three other siblings who do not live on the land with us… yet.

I know for certain my parents didn’t plan for any of us to move back to the place we were raised. When my Dad found the land, thirty plus years ago, it was in an effort to assuage his  desire to become a park ranger. He’s always loved the woods, but when he realized a park ranger’s salary wouldn’t keep up with a growing family he went with the next best thing, living in the woods. And so for twenty years, that’s what I did.

As long as I can remember, my parents talked about the importance of heritage. I didn’t fully understand it at the time. The number underneath my handprint read 7, but I can remember several times growing up my dad giving long, serious speeches about something we came to call the “H” word. “Don’t get Dad started,” my older siblings would warn us. It became a joke in our family that anytime Dad wanted to talk or pray, we knew we’d be there a long time. “Oh no…” we’d say, “Not the ‘H’ word.”

It was a time, for me at least, that I followed my siblings with a watchful eye. I pretended not to like these talks, because that was the cool thing to do, but as I grew I found a unique strength I gained from them. An identity, founded on unshakable principles that my parents just wanted to share with us. These talks were not planned, thought out, or rehearsed. They sprang from spontaneous moments of instruction, encouragement, and passion that my parents had inside them. Things like hard work and determination. Doing a job with excellence. The importance of personal responsibility and caring for others. The importance of relationship and community. Being a part of the local church, grounded and rooted in God’s Word as a source of strength and identity. Allowing the Holy Spirit to lead your life in every way. All these things were freely discussed, but more importantly lived out, as I was raised in this family of seven homeschooled children. Now that we are all grown, I see these qualities played out in each of my siblings own families. That is what heritage is, after all: valued qualities, traditions and beliefs that are passed down from one generation to the next.

Now this is not to paint a picture of the perfect family. It’s not to say you must be a homeschooling family, living on land, in a house you built yourself to pass down heritage. In fact, my parents would be the first to tell you, it is by the grace of God they raised us and we all still enjoy spending time together. They would even tell you they felt like failures most of the time, and mostly just tried to survive raising seven children on a one-income budget. But that didn’t stop them from trying. It didn’t stop them from continuing to share their beliefs and passions and live them out everyday even when it looked like we weren’t listening.

I realize however, that for many, you may not have had parents like this. You may not have been raised in a Christ-believing home or taught the importance of heritage. Maybe the things passed down to you were not positive things, but curses you’re having to break in your life now. You may in fact be alone as a single parent, just trying to get by as both Mom and Dad.  You may be a first generation believer without a genealogy of faith, and as one your job carries even greater importance, and perhaps you face even greater opposition. You are turning the tide, building a new foundation, and forging brand new paths in which your children, grandchildren and future great-grandchildren will be forever grateful. You are breaking family curses left from those before you, which means your role is even more vital in this battle.

Now that I am a parent, I am beginning to see the importance of heritage. It strikes me now more vividly than before because I’m realizing, whether we try or not, we will all leave a legacy. The question is will it be one worth passing down? Will it be one our children will want to emulate? It is a sobering thought to know the way I live my life right now is shaping my children’s upbringing, shaping their memories, their origin.

God has given me and my husband our own unique passions and qualities, and along with the ones instilled in us by our parents, we want to be intentional to share them with our children. Not in a forceful way, but through relationship. Through sharing our strengths and weaknesses, our failures and victories, and what God has done in our lives. I’m sure we’ll also pass along a few not-so-great things as well, but that is the nature of parenting.

Recently, I got to share this little piece of heritage with my own children. I showed them my seven-year-old handprint, now corroded by time, and we talked about the importance of hard work, and leaving our mark on the earth. Will they remember our conversation? Probably not. They are five and three, but that didn’t stop me from sharing this special moment and creating a new one of our own.

Cody and I are building our own home on an acre of land passed down to us by my parents. When they poured the fresh concrete we pressed our children’s handprint into the rock leaving their mark. Hopefully, one day they will show their own children and share with them the things that matter most.

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Compulsion

Why would anyone care to read something I wrote? When there are so many other great—read that “better than me”—writers out there? Who have said it all… better than I can? What makes me special that people would want to hear what I have to say?

Those are the thoughts I battle constantly. I feel called to write, but I also fear writing for reasons I don’t understand. Why was I given this curse? This invisible pressure riding on my shoulders to put words to thoughts, and thoughts to paper? It’s horribly compulsory. I love that word, compulsory. Root word: compulsion or compel: to force or drive especially to a course of action. It’s the reason I get a lot done, this inner compulsion that drives me toward my goals. I was raised to be this way. My mother was and is a very driven woman, who taught me the importance of personal responsibility and despised laziness. I can even remember the definition she taught us, and how as little kids we could never quite pronounce the word properly. It didn’t keep us from memorizing what it meant. “Ponsability: doing a job in the way that you should, in the time that you should.” Looking back now, how she raised seven children without going crazy I’ll never know. Clearly God uniquely prepared her for the task and I’m thankful she rose to the challenge. Back to compulsion.

I’ve been learning a lot about myself over the past several months. Turning thirty will do that to a person. I’ve been turning inward for a bit to discover what I know, what I don’t, and what else I need to learn. Turns out it’s a lot.

I’ve been reading through a book by John Eldridge called Walking with God and he asks the question, “what is your basic approach to life?” He writes that many of us have an approach to life that is not in line with the way God designed. This is more than just how you spend your day, it is a deep seeded, inner motivation that has shaped your personality and the core of you as an individual.

I immediately knew my answer. I approach life with an “All or Nothing” mindset. Life in the extremes. The idea of “fight hard, attack life, attack the day, eat strict to lose weight, work out hard, write as much as possible, fill every free minute, invest in the children, keep the house clean, be a good wife, produce, produce, produce, push, push, push…. until I’m so exhausted, overworked, underfed, sore, used up, short, irritable, drained that I can barely function. All or Nothing. I used to say “this is just how I am.” But after walking more closely with God through the past year, I’m learning I don’t have to be that way. I can change, or at least invite Jesus in to “reshape my personality around His love,” as Eldridge suggests.

So I invited Him in. Through the process Jesus revealed to me that I really have a wrong idea about love. “What agreements have you made about love?” Eldridge asks and I came to the conclusion that I’ve believed love is conditional. I know where this idea stems from. As a teen, I grew up overweight—obese is more accurate. I never felt I fit in, never felt accepted. Little did I know then it was an inability to love and accept myself. I grew up believing the lie “If I was just skinnier I could… If I just lost weight than I could… If I wasn’t so sensitive then… If I was just more like this person, or that person, then I might be accepted, liked, loved.” Conditional. Now, I know God’s love is not conditional. I know God loves me, for no other reason except that I belong to Him, but he unearthed a deceptive root in my heart that essentially said, I’m not worth loving unless I look a certain way, or do certain things. If I do all these things right, than I’m worth loving, if I don’t, than I’m not.

He showed me the fruit of my belief. I don’t truly believe in His unconditional love. I want to. But it feels so wrong. So undeserved. I listen and believe the lies of the enemy all too often that tell me I don’t matter, I’m insignificant, He only loves me when I do XYZ, I don’t do enough, and never will. I found myself living for His approval instead of from it.

What is unconditional love? Perfect love. The Bible says perfect love drives out fear and that’s when it hit me. So much of what I do is motivated by fear. Fear of gaining weight. Fear of disapproval. Fear of failure. Fear of letting people down. Fear of what other people think. Fear of how I’m perceived. Fear of rejection. So I push, and produce and run myself into the ground with fearful compulsion. “All.” And then when I can’t go any further, when I can’t give anymore, when I’ve spent my last ounce of energy, self-control, will-power, I give in. Retreat. Fly the white flag. Give me that cookie, actually give me three. I’m done with the kids. I can’t handle this anymore. I’m so exhausted. I need carbs! Crawl into bed to escape. “Nothing.” All or Nothing. And when the fear of compulsion runs dry, guilt is right there waiting to take it’s place. Fear and guilt. This is no way to live. This is ping pong. Complete and utter inconsistency and I hate it.

Inconsistency. The other puppet string. I used to say I’m consistently inconsistent. I blamed it on my personality. I’m a free spirit. A rebel. I can’t be tied down by routine, schedules and regimens. But as the years catch up to me, and the longer I walk with the Holy Spirit, I’m seeing this is also an area I must allow Him to reshape.

Ok, I invite you into this Lord. What do you want to say to me in this?
His answer came quickly and clearly, in a phrase I felt rise from my heart: My grace is enough. Huh? Oh great! A nice little Sunday school answer. What does that even mean, My grace is enough?

Ironically enough, my name Anna, means “grace, or gracious one.” Maybe it’s not so ironic after all. Through this deeper search in my heart, The Lord began to unravel me.

I operate so much of my life under fearful compulsion, what I “ought” to do because I’m searching for acceptance, but compulsion breeds rebellion and rebellion breeds inconsistency.

Fear–>Compulsion–>Rebellion–>Inconsistency

He says, I want you to learn how to operate under grace because grace breeds gratitude and gratitude breeds love and you guessed it, perfect love casts out fear.

Grace–>Gratitude–>Love–>FEAR

I don’t know what it means yet, to be perfected in love. Perhaps it’s not possible on this side of heaven. However, I do know where to go to learn perfect love.

Love Himself.

Likewise, grace is a hard concept to grasp. It doesn’t make sense to our finite minds and I’ve never, truly understood it as fully as I would like. It’s hard to define, hard to articulate and even harder to accept. I was wrestling with this when again the Lord brought another thought to mind. It’s defined through your relationship with Me. Of course. Here I am trying to figure it all out, on my own, in my own strength, looking for an answer when the answer is simply: Him. I don’t have to figure it out, that’s what makes Him God. The miraculous mystery of His grace and love, undeserved, but lavishly given. To be enjoyed not questioned, worn, not wary, and accepted no matter the circumstances.

I pray you also find that grace and perhaps skip the part where you think you have to earn it. Let my experience free you from the burden of learning the hard way and perhaps compel you to join me in the pursuit of perfect love.

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“Why Do I Struggle with This?”

Over the past few years as I’ve become open about my struggle with food addiction, overcoming insecurity, and finding freedom a kind of personal ministry has evolved. I’ve had the privilege of speaking into other’s lives, mostly because I’m a little farther down the path–that is all. I do not pretend to have the answers. All I have is my own experience and what I have learned on this journey, and my prayer is that God can use my story, insight, and experience to help others find freedom. That is all I ever want.

Why?
I learned early on that I am a stubborn kind of girl. I have a thread of rebellion running through my personality like a snagged string that threatens to unravel the entire sweater. (I don’t even like sweaters.) But that’s exactly what this streak of defiance does to me. Unravels. Sabotages. Destroys. God also knows this about me, and he wants me to grow out of the prideful stubborn heart that tends to hold me back. Maybe you can relate. If you call yourself a Christian, Christ-follower, Jesus-lover or any other name to describe a person who follows the teachings of Jesus, than you can relate. He talks about this in His Book. He calls it the sin nature.

You see, God is most concerned that we become HOLY. Like Him. It is His chief concern. When we are not, he uses things in our lives to sharpen, strengthen, prune, and reveal the things keeping us from that holiness.  (This is called Sanctification. The process of becoming holy. After we have received Jesus as savior (that’s called justification) our journey of sanctification can begin. Justification is already done for us, but sanctification, takes our participation to make happen.

So you might wonder, “Why do I struggle with this?” and “this” could be anything from obesity and food addiction, to marital problems, joblessness, illness, grief over a death, parenting, self-doubt, insecurity, insignificance, or any of the other woes we find ourselves walking through in this fallen, broken world. Does God cause these things? No. But He uses them.

For me, he knows food, exercise and weight are the best tools to train me in righteousness. He knows my lack of consistency, procrastination and general laziness are places I need to grow out of in my process of sanctification. Other people who do not struggle with weight or food addiction will have their own struggles as mentioned above, and each struggle will be in line with their areas of weakness. God also allows this so that we will not be able to do what He knows we will want to do and that is try and figure it out on our own, without Him.

God won’t give us the easy way out. He loves us too much. He is more concerned with our holiness than our happiness. He would rather our character be strengthened than just give us what we want. He’s a good father. He wants to teach us, change us, transform us… And he knows this can happen through our frustrations. He knows this is most often when we turn to him for help. When nothing else seems to be working.
When we decide not to participate in our journey of sanctification, and ignore the issues in our lives, we stay stagnant. When we do this it is a deliberate choice not to mature in Christ. It is a deliberate choice not to step toward God and where he is leading us. The enemy loves this, by the way, because there is nothing less threatening to Satan than a stagnant Christian, stuck in their own stubborn pride. They have no power there, no influence, no real life.
But Jesus has come that we may have life and have it to the full. To get that life we have to be willing participants in our own transformation. He won’t just take all our struggles away and give us what we want, but He does give us opportunities to learn and grow through those struggles. He wants us to work with Him toward real heart change. It is in the work of inward change, that outward change will not only happen, but will last.

Is it hard? Yes. Is it worth it? Yes. Are we alone? No! The good news is to get to this place of sanctification we’ll need Jesus and lot of Him and you know what? It turns out, He’s actually the greatest gift of all. He’s the one our hearts really longed for all along. We thought it was an easy life, a struggle-free existence, money in the bank, flat stomaches, a great marriage, no problems, but those are just reflections of a much deeper longing we have within: Being known for who we really are. Knowing and loving ourselves for who He says we are. Being loved by Him, and loving Him in return.
My heart LONGS for each person reading this to find that level of surrender to Him. When you do, you’ll know true freedom and the effort of this life will come from an indescribable power rising from within your soul. The very Holy Spirit–who communes with Jesus all the time–giving us the power, patience, and fortitude to continue our transformation one day at a time.

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Insecurity and Self-Promotion

I used to be afraid of what people thought, especially when it came to self-promotion. Mega Phone

Anytime I shared a blog, a piece of writing meant for encouragement, or news about how my latest ventures were going, I would fearfully wonder if others would pass me off as a shameless self-promoter bragging about my accomplishments. This fear kept me from writing or creating anything new which made me feel purposeless, insignificant and ineffective in my gifts and calling as a writer.

Then I realized the only reason I feared people’s judgment was because I, myself, judged others too harshly. Ultimately, I had to lay down that judgment and fear if I wanted to keep creating.

God spoke to me quite clearly one morning during my Jesus time, as I was complaining about all this. He said, “You’re not promoting yourself, or your message. You’re promoting Me and Mine.”

I was giving myself too much credit and that was causing fear to hold me back from something God was calling me to do. When I got out of my own way I began to see much more clearly what I needed to do.

Do you know when the fear of what people think goes away? It’s when you do the thing He’s asking you to do. Not before. Not during… but after you’ve obeyed. That fear will always be there until you step out in faith and obedience to the calling He’s given you.

So, if there’s something He’s asked you to do don’t let the fear of what others think hold you back. You have no idea the blessings on the other side of obedience.

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The Path to Your Greatest Impact

Below is an article I wrote for Paramount Business Coach blog and website.

Insecurity.

The word alone elicits feelings close to shame, self-doubt, and embarrassment. Feelings we like to pretend aren’t there. But over the last several years, as I have observed, researched, and uncovered all I could about this word Insecurity, for my book In_Security: Break Free from what Holds You Back, I’ve discovered everyone struggles with some form of insecurity or another. It is not gender specific, age specific, or career specific. It is a human problem, manifesting itself in as many different ways as the individuals it infects.

It is fascinating to me, really. All the different facets that come from such a universal feeling that most are unwilling to talk about. And why are we unwilling to discuss it? Because of insecurity. We don’t want to look weak. We don’t want to admit that, we too, have moments of doubt, fear, and uncertainty. This might ruin our reputation. People might not take us seriously. After all, we’re taught that “positive thoughts breed positive action” and while that may be true, complete avoidance of our insecurities may not be the answer. Through much of my research I have discovered a surprising, yet helpful fact about our greatest insecurities.

“The path to your greatest impact is often through your greatest insecurity.” 

I’ll share from my own journey. I’ve struggled for years feeling insecure about writing. Not just writing, but sharing my writing with others. Putting myself out there for acceptance or for ridicule. Because of this, I remained in a state of apathetic complacency, swatting away the gentle reminders to use the gift I had been given, convinced it was worthless. I knew for ten years I was supposed to write a book—not only a book—but a book about overcoming insecurity. The ironic thing is I was insecure about writing a book about insecurity! So I put it off. For ten years. Doing nothing also left me empty. Not only empty, but feelings of self-contempt continued to increase for the constant procrastination and waste of precious time and talent. I didn’t know what was worse: Facing the fear of completing, publishing and marketing the book, or living with regret. I finally started writing, and I can tell you from experience, facing the fear is the way to go.

Along this journey, many others have confirmed the same feelings as they’ve shared their insecurities with me. Is it possible that the very thing holding us back could be the launchpad of a great calling we’re too afraid to step into? Could our insecurities be an indicator of the path we need to take?

We could say it like this: insecurity is the neon sign that points to a life of purpose, freedom, and fulfillment. The more insecure and fearful you are about that path reveals just how important it is that you take it. We just have to fight our way past the insecurity that threatens to leave us stagnant.

Here are three things to watch for as you embark on your own fight to overcome the insecurity holding you back from your greatest impact.

Self Regard 

Your personal self-regard will reflect in every interaction you have. The way you think about yourself will teach, inform, and direct others to think about you the same way. The problem with this, is oftentimes, we are riddled with self-doubt, fear, and insecurity when faced with a risk we want to take. We want others to believe in us, but we first must believe in ourselves. Do you want to know a great way to have a better self-regard? Do the things you say you’re going to do. Not just the promises you make to others. Keep the promises you make to yourself. That’s where the real test of self-integrity is given and where positive self-regard will grow. Have a phone call you need to make? Put it on your calendar and make it. That idea you’ve been sitting on? Get the prototype going. The thing on your list you are most afraid of? Do it first. Taking small steps to keep the promises you make to yourself will help foster personal trust. If you can trust yourself that you’ll do what you know you need to do, you’ll be unstoppable.

What Will People Think? 

This fear is deep-rooted in our human desire to be accepted and most of the time we tend to avoid moving forward if there is a chance of rejection or judgement. What if I fail? What if this idea doesn’t work? What if they say no? What will people think if…? The great news is: people don’t think about you. Do you want to know why? They are too worried about themselves to put any real emotional energy into thinking about you. And even if they do think or speak negatively about you, it’s most likely because you’re doing something they aren’t doing and they misplace personal resentment into negative jealousy. Holding yourself back based on a fear of what others think is a waste of time and a trap designed to keep you from moving forward. Recognize it, and walk through it.

The Resistance 

Whether we agree or not on the existence of a Higher Being, a Master Creator, Mother Earth, the Power Within, or God, I know we can all agree that we have an enemy working against us. I call it a spiritual enemy because I believe in God and the spiritual realm that’s waging war in the unseen. Steven Pressfield simply calls it Resistance—the enemy within, who,  by the way “is always lying and always full of shit.” If you have ever dreamed of becoming more than you are, you have experienced Resistance. It’s that little voice inside (or big voice, depending on how good we’ve gotten at ignoring it) that wants to take us out.

What insecurity holds you back? What is keeping you from taking the next step in your journey, business, dream or life? Is it any wonder you feel uncertain, cautious, or doubtful in your approach to this sensitive issue? There is so much working against you. Our enemy knows your potential and fears what could happen if you not only knew your greatest calling, but walked in it confidently. Why do you think he works so hard to make you feel incompetent, unqualified, fearful, or even undeserving? So you’ll avoid the work.

So, maybe you don’t believe in the devil, but you know the Resistance I’m talking about. Think about it. Oftentimes, it is the unknown that makes us feel unsure or insecure. It is the risk that makes us fearful. Most of the time when we’re faced with insecure feelings our instinct is to back-track or avoid those situations or talk ourselves out of what we know we need to do. If we but understood the path to our greatest calling is often through our greatest insecurity, we could plunge headfirst into that destiny, knowing that great blessing is waiting on the other side.

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GIVEAWAY

**GIVEAWAY**
We had a record-breaking month of book sales for the month of July!! I’m in awe of the way God has blessed the obedience of writing my story. I’m humbled at the number of messages I receive everyday from people fighting for freedom, practicing freedom, and celebrating freedom from what holds them back!
Because of His blessing, I want to BE a blessing! That’s why I’m doing a GIVEAWAY!
I’m giving away a book, with a freedom necklace, AND a $20 StarBucks gift card to THREE LUCKY WINNERS! (Drawing will be done Saturday, August 6th)

Like my page 
share the post on your timeline, and
comment below for a chance to win.
‪#‎thebestisyettocome‬

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Gratitude Activates Peace

My family and I just returned from a get-a-way to Colorado. We love to visit a small mountain town called Creede. Home of the Rio Grande National Forest, it’s known for it’s fishing, hiking, camping and all around mountainous beauty.

We stayed in a small cabin in town, and while visiting a local restaurant employed by foreign exchange students, we met a young man from Ukraine. I’ve always been fascinated to discover the stories of people from other places. What I soon discovered from his story gave me a whole new perspective on the blessing I have as an American citizen.stock-photo-45137828-drinking-water

As he looked at our young children he told us how blessed they were to get to travel away from home. He said growing up they were never allowed to go anywhere except school. The government of Ukraine made it nearly impossible to travel outside your town with fees and expenses too outrageous to make it worth it. He said he always overhears the older couples who come to the restaurant, talk about where to go next… thinking to himself “You have no idea what a blessing it is to have options…”

He was in the states for the summer on a temporary work visa. He wasn’t complaining but told us he works 6-7 days a week with little time off, serving American’s who have no idea the blessings right in front of them. But he was so grateful to get the chance to be in America, even if it was for only three months at a time and only if he was working.

He told us about meeting a group of a young American’s at one of the restaurants he was working. “They were complaining about how awful America is…” he said with a thick Ukrainian accent. “About the politics and the violence… I had to tell them they do not know what they are taking for granted. At least America has politics, and gives it’s citizens a choice… in Ukraine, we do not have choice. In Ukraine we are taxed for everything… even the water and the ice in the restaurants is something you pay for…”

He was gracious and kind, like he just wanted us to know how blessed we were to be American’s.

He left to go check on our food, and as I popped the top off my kid’s 7-UP, with free ice, and sipped on my free water, I reveled in how much I actually do complain.

When we don’t have a great perspective on how blessed we really are, it can be easy to fall into the trap of ungratefulness, complaining, and focusing on what we do not have.

One thing I always do at the start of each day, or anytime I’m starting to feel unhappy or lose my peace is list the things I’m thankful for… the things many of us take for granted everyday:

Food to eat, a car to drive, money in the bank, a healthy family, a house with air conditioning and heating, great friends, a wonderful church… I think I’ll be adding freedom, and free ice water to the list too.

Gratitude activates peace.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.”

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The Size of Your Impact Should Not Determine the Use of Your Gift

I was having coffee with a friend the other day and she was telling me how under-utilized she feels.

“I want to be used by God, but I just don’t feel like I have a great impact, so I find myself not using my gifts.”

I was instantly struck with this thought.

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I think most of us want to make a great impact. We want to use our gifts and talents to make a difference in the world. We want to matter, feel significant, and play a vital role. But sometimes, if we’re not careful, we can be deceived into burying our gifts, believing the lie that a small impact isn’t worth the trouble.

But that’s not what Jesus teaches.

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability.” Matt. 25:14,15

If you know the story you’ll remember that the first two put their talents to work immediately, but the servant who received only one talent, buried it under the ground.

Sometimes I wonder if he did that because he saw how much the other servants had. More than him. Did comparison steal his chance to use the talent he had been given?

What about us? Does comparing our talents and success with that of others actually undermine our ability to use the gifts we have been given?

The size of our impact should not determine the use of our gift. 

We are continually encouraged: “We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.” Ro. 12:6-8

It doesn’t say, if your gift is prophesying, then prophesy if you have an audience. If it is to lead, then lead diligently if you have followers, if it is to encourage, then give encouragement to gain popularity.

It simply says to do what you’ve been gifted to do. Despite nothing.

To be completely honest, the friend who was telling me this over coffee was actually me. For too long the enemy has been on my back and in my ear whispering lies that I shouldn’t use my gift because I’m not making that big of an impact. He had me tied up in knots, comparing myself to others that I perceived were having more success in reaching their dreams and God-given callings. In my eyes, I didn’t have the same success as these others, so why even bother? My enemy convinced me to bury what I did have out of fear, pride and insecurity.

But God, in His loving grace reminded me once again that the size of my impact should not determine the use of my gift. That if He’s gifted and called me to write for, encourage and build up the body of Christ I am to obey that calling no matter if I see the fruit of my labor.

And so it is for all of us, because each of us is gifted in one way or another and each of us is called to use that gift for His glory.

Are you using yours?

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Self Sabotage

The decision to make a change can be a frightening thing, and the enemy will come at us even stronger than before. Remember, a free person is a dangerous person to the enemy, so he will try to destroy our progress through self-sabotage.

I am a recovering self-saboteur. As I have overcome this bad habit, I have noticed a few reasons we may find it easy to fall prey to sabotaging our own best intentions

We believe we’re not worth it, or we don’t deserve it.

This is a common lie of the enemy, especially among women. Relational sabotage is wrapped up in this lie: “Go ahead, settle for what is less than best. You’re not worth the wait… the trouble… the work. You do not deserve to feel loved… pretty… fought for… pursued.” Fill in the blank. If we fall for this lie, we will self- sabotage by selling ourselves short. If no one has ever told you, I’m telling you now: You are worth the fight and the time it takes to make a change.

We allow our feelings or emotions to dictate our actions.

Most women, and maybe a few men, know this all too well. Many of our goals, dreams and visions are delayed, destroyed or dismissed when we allow our emotions to control us. Don’t get me wrong, feelings and emotions can be good things. God made us emotional, but our emotions and feelings can sabotage us if we do not bring them under His authority, focusing them in a positive way. A Bible reading plan I followed recently talked about our emotions and how they travel 80,000 times faster than our thoughts travel. Knowing this can help us understand why we sometimes act on our feelings even when we know the right things to do. Ever wonder why the Bible says to “Guard your heart.”? (Proverbs 4:23) Because from it springs our feelings and emotions. It is not only talking about guarding it from outside predators, but also guarding the emotions that may want to come out of it, if they are not in line with God’s leadership. A mentor of mine likes to say, “feelings are rarely our friends.” When we allow our feelings to control us we never know what may happen or where we may end up. Finding freedom from insecurity is not a practice in feelings, but a practice in choice.

Laziness.

Of course, it is easier to skip our Bible reading, not practice our sport, not eat healthy, craft or art, or sit down and accomplish what God has called us to do. It takes a lot less effort to let our thoughts run wild, or our mouths say what they want. Doing what we know we need to do is the harder thing. If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be worth it. We have to get off the couch of our mind and stand up for our freedom. No one else is going to do it for us! We must not allow laziness to cripple something God is calling us to do. “What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.”—Picasso.

Fear of change.

Oftentimes, it is this fear that keeps us taking one step forward and two steps back. We impede our progress because we fear how progress might change our lives. We fear failure, but we also fear success. We keep ourselves in our comfort zones, even though we are screaming to get out. We are playing tug-of-war with our flesh and spirit and the one who is going to win is the one we feed more. If our flesh is stronger, we will never change. We will stay in the prison of insecurity because that is where it is safe. It is what we have always known. As He asked the man waiting to be healed, Jesus is asking us, “Do you want to be free?” We keep ourselves living an okay life, when God has an unimaginably magnificent life waiting for us on the other side of change. Yes, change is scary. It is the unknown that stretches itself out across the expanse of our mind and keeps us from taking that first step forward. It is okay to feel afraid, but step out anyway. It is only when we step out of our comfort zone— step out of our bondage— that we will discover the life God designed for us all along.

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Give Yourself Away…You’ll Be Happier

A couple weeks ago I was really struggling with having joy as a mom. I was irritable, snappy, short. I wasn’t spending quality time with my kids because I was spending quantity time. In the same house, in the same room, in the same seat! I pushed away their requests for attention, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted (more on exhaustion later.) I wanted to do my thing, and wanted them to leave me alone. There were days when I laid down at night and asked myself “Did I even LOOK at my kids today?” Sure, I was with them. Sure, I took care of them. Fed them. Bathed them. Disciplined them. But did I LOOK at them? Did I take in his long eye-lashes, notice the hair in her face, the new scab on his knee, the fact she changed clothes eight times? I was actually entertaining thoughts like “Things would be so much easier without kids.” “This would be more enjoyable without kids.” “I wish I had never had kids.” It was a dark place. I know, you might be thinking, “She only has two kids…how hard can it be?” But everyone has their limits.

Is that ok to share? Oh well. If you’re a mom and you haven’t had those thoughts, you’re either lying, or you haven’t been a mom for very long. Just wait. You’ll think them too, eventually.

I am convinced being a parent is quite possibly the hardest form of sanctification there is. (Sanctification: the process of being made holy) If you let it, it can be the most effective way to break us of our stubborn, prideful and selfish heart. It can be the best teacher of service, selflessness and the true value of solitude. It’s as if God, in His infinite wisdom asked Himself, “How can we train these heathens called humans? I know! Let’s give them children.”

Children are a sort of ticket for the journey to holiness, if you but allow them to reshape your heart. Can other things take you on the journey to holiness? Of course, but parenting uncovers things inside us that other things just don’t.

I didn’t want to feel this way anymore, so I spent some time with Jesus, talked to my husband, and got a few things sorted out. I’ll admit, when it comes to parenting, my experience only reaches as far as my oldest son (who is almost five) So I know next to nothing, but this I do know:

As moms, we are leached of life. You can’t get around it. There are demands on you that are constant, urgent, and important. We can either be sucked dry and have a bad attitude about it, or choose to give ourselves away. The latter brings much more peace.

So I did a little experiment. Instead of allowing myself to be irritated at the rate of life and energy being sucked from me daily, I told myself “Give yourself away.” It became my mantra. “Give yourself away.” When he wants to play Uno for the sixth time, “Give yourself away.” When she wants you to accompany her to the bathroom Every. Single. Time. even though you know she can do it on her own, “Give yourself away.” I made a point to look, actually look at them, in the eyes, in the details, and I realized, once again, just how much I loved them.

Nothing changed, really… except me. Except my attitude. They still needed me at the same rate, and I was giving out the same energy, but it was different somehow. I did it with a happy heart. I chose to do it. The days passed more quickly, I enjoyed myself a lot more, and I’m sure my children enjoyed me more too.

Was I still exhausted at the end of the day? Yes, even more so. But I was also more fulfilled.

I like how Anne Lamott put it somewhat close to this: “Willing to be of service is where the joy resides.”

I write this to inspire, and encourage, but also to remind myself I always have a choice. A choice to be willing instead of reluctant, not just in motherhood, but also in life.

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