How cute is my sweet boy Mason Dixon?

How cute is my sweet boy Mason Dixon?

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“You don't have a story. Well, not one that's captivating. And even if it was, no one would care enough to hear it. What would you say anyway? You don't know what you're talking about. You could never retell and truly portray the story of what God has done in your life - not like someone more knowledgeable, more experienced, more confident could...” Each one of these thoughts crossed my mind before I sat down to write this. But then, I heard a tiny voice whisper, “Yes you do. And yes, you can.” So, I decided to listen only to that quiet voice. And I prayed. Lord, give me the right the words to share with the world about who you are and what you've done in my life. So, here they are...

I grew up in church like most of the people I know. Sunday dresses. Sunday school. Sunday lunches at Grandma's. I knew who Jesus was. I knew the story and believed why God sent him. Growing up, church was just something we attended on Sundays. Church wasn't a quiet moment alone in a chair by the window with coffee and a bible. It wasn't hands in the air at a stoplight singing along with the radio, “What a beautiful name it is, the name of Jesus...” It wasn't laying awake a night, crying – begging “Lord, help me.” It wasn't serving hot meals and a smile to the homeless down at the Mission. And whatever the message was that Sunday certainly wasn't reinforced throughout the week. Sure, I said my prayers at bedtime... usually praying for things like “God, I hope you'll let my Papa live a long time” or “God, I hope he doesn't break up with me.” Prayers like these are all valid and equally as important but it took me a long time to learn how to say, “God, thank you for your mercy, because lately I feel like I'm getting it all wrong...” or “Jesus, take my life and use it to glorify yourself, even it means abandoning everything I think I want for myself.”

In junior high, I started going to church regularly with my best friend. I loved Wednesday night youth group, overnight lock ins, retreats, and vacation bible school. But I loved it for all the wrong reasons. I loved it for the cute boys and the socializing. At the time, I'd always pictured God looking down with his finger pointed, waiting to scold me for what I'd done wrong. God was scary. God was serious. God was impossible to please. But, one night at the Wednesday night gathering, I prayed that prayer. You know, the one at the end of the night, “With all heads bowed and all eyes closed, if you prayed that prayer, raise your hand.” So I did. I was aware of what I had prayed and what I had asked of God: to come into my heart and live there because I believed in him and I believed in his son, Jesus. And I really did believe. But the motivation was all wrong. I did it for the ticket to heaven. I did it for “get out of jail free” card. I did it to make sure I knew how all of this was going to end. I did it because I was scared. I didn't do it for the here and the now. I didn't do it because God was my friend and his word was my compass and I needed him every single second of every single moment. I didn't do it for the peace that came with it, peace that ensured no matter how badly I'd screw up, I was free from shame because of God's enduring love for me and the sacrifice of his son, Jesus. So, after meeting with the Youth Ministry team and understanding the next steps, I was baptized. And it was a special moment I'll never forget. But again, I did it under pressure. It would be fifteen years later before I'd ever really understand what all of this meant.

High school was really tough for me and college was a good time. Too good of a time. And in four years, I can only think of one time that I attended church. That whole “You've been saved and baptized, now go and live a life according to God's will...” yeah, I didn't do that. But, In 2009 I met the love of my life and we were married three years later. During that time, a friend gave me the book, “Love Does” by Bob Goff, a book that's really about how to live an incredible life in an ordinary world. However, for me it was the first real introduction of who God is and who he's created me to be - but I wouldn't actually open it and read it for another two years. We travel a lot touring and I like to read to pass the time. We were leaving for a run and I didn't have any new books, so I grabbed this one for the trip ahead. I couldn't put it down. Here was this Bob guy, talking about who God is in a way that I had never heard before, saying things about God that made him appear more like a friend. Like a confidant. Like a buddy. And right there, on the back bench of a Ford Passenger van, I finally understood. And again, on the bathroom floor crying because I had never felt so loved by anyone so much in my life, I understood. And time after time when I heard the holy spirit speak to me, I understood. Turns out, God wasn't scary. God wasn't so serious. And he wasn't impossible to please. *Spoiler alert: he's even pleased with me when I'm at my weakest because it's then that His Power is made perfect. Talk about good news! Now that my entire knowledge of God (and heart) had changed, I needed (and still need) teachable moments to really enforce that truth.

Shortly after reading (and re-reading) this book, I was having a low point (let's be honest, one of many). I was frustrated with my career. I felt like I was hitting a wall or walking a road that lead to a dead end. I was uninspired. I was envious of others who had what I was striving for – which made me bitter and I wasn't confident in my gifts and talents. One day, I was sitting at the kitchen table working when I stopped and laid my head down in defeat. I was thinking, “Why God? Why are you making this so difficult? Why did you give me these gifts and talents if I'm not going to ever see them come to fruition? I NEED this to work. I NEED to see progress. I NEED success.” And right there I immediately heard a whisper in my heart say, “but I NEED you to need ME more.”

“God asks what it is He's made us to love, what it is that captures our attention, what feeds that deep indescribable need of our souls to experience the richness of the world He made. And then, leaning over us, He whispers, 'Let's go do that together.” 

- Bob Goff, Love Does: Discover a Secretly Incredible Life in an Ordinary World

That book didn't change my life. Jesus did that. But it did crack open the door to world of abundant mercy and grace that I had never experienced before. And from there it snowballed. I needed to know more. I wanted to learn more about who Jesus is and how/why he loves me so much. That book pointed me to an even greater book - my bible. John and I found a church that we loved which made us want to spend more time there connecting with people who also loved Jesus. I started my morning with quiet time in the Word. I joined a women's bible study at church and from that, connected with other women my age who are now my "tribe". My career changed. John and I weren't driven by fame and fortune anymore but by the desire to simply want to bring joy to others with the talents we've been given. The fear of the uncertainty of it all changed. We didn't care anymore. We weren't held hostage to a timeline or plans anymore because we trusted the author and the story that's already written. Sure, we still had/have goals and want to see a progression. But, isn't the only thing to drive us. Our marriage changed. We started praying together. We started praying specifically for each other. We disagreed better. We celebrated differently. We communicated in a way we never had before. We made new plans for the future. We started loving each other better. Friendships changed. Friends who I would have thought didn't know who God was, turns out they do - I just couldn't see it before because I wasn't looking for Him. Now, we connect and communicate in a deeper, richer way. 

I changed. I'm driven by something much bigger than the ordinary day in and day out tasks or the success and the “stuff” we collect in this life. There's a thirst, a deeper desire. Please understand, I still get it wrong. I still mess up. Big time. I still have days that are shadowed with regret, and doubt, and fear but when that happens - I feel a peace knowing that as God's children, we don't have to know. We don't have to have it all figured out. So now, when life is momentarily shaken, I have something really big to cling to and ironically it's only about 8in x 6in but it's filled with a thousand pages that contain truthful words about who I am in the eyes of God, how much he loves me, and what his son Jesus sacrificed for me. And you.

To be honest, I thought really hard about not posting this blog because I was terrified I wouldn't have the perfect words and I wasn't sure how well it would be received. However, I've learned that when I'm really open about my life, faith, and career - I get an overwhelming response from my readers/followers so that leads me to believe that you all want to read more posts like that. Do you have a similar story? Can you relate to my experience? Have you experienced something completely different? Did you like this post and want to read more like it? Comment below! I'd love to hear & talk with you more!

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