Putting Together a Puzzle

Over Christmas break, we tried to put together a 2000 piece puzzle. That sounds nice, right? Time off from work and school, lots of relaxing, pretty falling snow, hot chocolate, Christmas music, etc.

It wasn’t like that at all.

It was an extremely difficult puzzle with colors so similar and so many pieces that looked the same that it seemed impossible to understand where they were supposed to go, even though we knew they all fit somewhere. After Christmas break was over and we didn’t have time to work on it, we eventually put it back in the box, never completing it.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen the picture I took of all the personality and spiritual gifts assessments I’ve taken over the years, spread out on the floor in my sunroom to see what pattern I could find, to see how it all fit together.

I’ve done them so many times because I’ve been to so many churches over the years, and each time you start over, you do what’s offered, and you find out where you fit in that place.

The problem with that is that while my gifts didn’t necessarily change (writing and teaching emerged the most frequently), there wasn’t always a specific or clear place for me to fit.

In a culture where many people go to church twice on Sunday and attend other church activities on Wednesday, and in a church of 500 people, in a place where the Bible is supposed to be incredibly important, it was disheartening to see that most people really didn’t care about learning more about it. I taught classes on Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and Luke, and there were no more than five of us in the room for any of them. While I don’t think the amount of people that attend is what makes something successful or not, it continually surprised me that more people were not interested.

I also had a conversation at one point when I offered to write a series of articles for our bulletin, but was told that was really just for the pastors and other staff.

Another time, I attended a Bible study in which I brought up the questionable premise of the study’s author, because I thought it hinged on something that was not certain at all. The study’s leader said, “well, that’s too deep for me,” and we moved on.

Apparently a reason I never quite feel like I belong has to do with my INFJ personality.

Because Ni perceives the world so differently and profoundly, INFJs often experience a sense of loneliness and isolation, even when they are with other people.

The rarity of their personality type makes a lot of INFJs feel like they don’t fit in.

I think that, combined with all of the many times I have moved and had to adapt to new people and cultures, has made it more difficult to know myself than I realized.

We gave up on the puzzle for now, but I’m not giving up on the puzzle of my own life.

Not this time.

 

This week’s Recommended Reading:

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A Life Worthy of Calling

The following post is by Kelly J. Youngblood as part of the Life-Changing Scriptures for Writers Project.

“Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Ephesians 4:1, excerpted, NRSV)

It has always been a struggle, this writing vocation of mine. It’s been back and forth, up and down. I’ve wondered why I bother; I’ve wondered if I should quit. But I am always pulled back to the forming of words, the crafting of sentences, the putting a piece of myself out there for others to read.

On my computer, I have Ephesians 4:1 engraved as a reminder to not give up on my calling. It’s really quite out of context; it’s not actually about writing at all but, sometimes, I need it to remind me of this particular calling, to remind me to not give up, to remind me that God has called me to write–regardless of the outcomes or how long it will take to see what “success” is supposed to look like.

Live a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, Paul says.

To me, that is to write.


Life-Changing Scriptures for Writers is a project curated by Ed Cyzewski, Kelly Boyer Sagert, and Kelly Youngblood and is published on Fridays.

Want to contribute? Submit your piece here.

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Waiting on God’s Surprises

A few weeks ago, I finished an eight-week Life Keys class at church. I’d taken the class because I love personality and gift questionnaires–as evidenced by my very thick file folder full of that type of information that I’d collected over the years. This class was different than others I had taken because it encompassed more topics and also because it distinguished between “life gifts” and “spiritual gifts”.

I didn’t expect to learn anything new about myself and even thought it would annoy me or get me down because for so long I haven’t been using skills and gifts in ways that I would like. I’ve been patient…but almost three years seems like a long time to wait on God (yes, yes, I know, many people in the Bible have waited much longer). For my summary during the last class, I easily and quickly picked the information you see in the photo. And then I went home, stuck it up on my wall above my desk for some kind of inspiration, put the folder away, and went to bed.

The next morning I woke up to this message on Facebook:

“I am actually wondering about your speaking experiences and if you would ever be interested in filling my pulpits some time? I also would be interested in having you be a speaker for the United Methodist Women. I think the ladies would be delighted to hear you speak about Christianity from a perspective that is outside their “normal” realm. I guess I’m thinking along the lines of what is coming in the future for Christianity, small-town churches and the best ways to maybe prepare for changes?”

And then this past Saturday, I woke up to another out-of-the-blue message on Facebook inviting me to be a contributor to Zondervan’s newest women’s devotional Bible: NIV Devotional Bible for Women: Fresh Insights for Thriving in Today’s World.
And so, in a very short period of time, I’m scheduled to speak and will be a published writer this fall. Those passions and gifts I wrote down (and one I didn’t–writing) are all coming together.

I’ve gone back and forth between being excited and being in disbelief and wondering how on earth this all happened. I’m not one to really have experiences where I can say without a doubt that God’s pulling something together, but in this case, I feel confident saying that.

And I’m so thankful.

At the beginning of Advent, I also wrote about waiting (it really is a great theme to write about–there are many, many verses in the Bible about waiting) and ended with the question: “Are we willing to wait for God’s surprises?”

I think I am–and I’m excited to see what comes next.

Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.  Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.  Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will make your vindication shine like the light, and the justice of your cause like the noonday.  Be still before the LORD, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. –Psalm 37:3-7

The Journey Begins…Again

The long and winding path from Flickr via Wylio
© 2008 Edward Webb, Flickr | CC-BY | via Wylio
Two and a half years ago, I had to quit a job that I loved and move.  Since then, I have been a full-time stay-at-home-mom.  It’s been difficult, as I enjoyed working part-time and I miss it.  

A year after I moved here, I wrote this
“And I love where I am now.  It is a new chapter in my life, that, although I didn’t write it, has been wonderful.  It is a chapter in my life that I have seen, felt, experienced (pick which word you relate to best!) God’s leading more than any other time in my life.  Even before it was certain we would move here, I somehow knew that this was the place we would go.  It was strange too, because there was the potential of another place, closer to where I had grown up, that was becoming an option.  I would have preferred that place, but I knew it wasn’t the time yet.”

I have often wondered why God wanted us here.  What specifically was there for me to do?  A few months ago, I thought I knew exactly what it was God had called me here for, but as it turned out, that job opportunity was not to be.

Yesterday in church, our pastor was talking about blessings, and read from Genesis 12:1-3.  I ended up deviating from that and reading further on, since I have always loved the story of God calling Abraham, and noticed something.  
“And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.” (12:9)
“He journeyed on by stages from the Negeb as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first, and there Abram called on the name of the Lord” (13:3-4)
What first stood out to me was the phrase “journeyed on by stages”.  When God called Abraham, God’s promises didn’t just appear.  In fact, God’s promises of descendents and land were so far in the future that Abraham would not even be able to see them himself.  
I next noticed that after the second journey by stages, Abram ended up where he had been at the beginning.  He’d left his family and all he ever knew to go on this journey of God’s calling, and ends up at the first place he had come to initially.  He had to start over yet again.  How frustrating!  
It brought me a little comfort though, that even Abraham, this person that God chose to start a great nation, had setbacks.  The journey wasn’t easy or clear.  I don’t know if he expected it to be or not, but I know that I tend to expect it to be pretty clear.  I didn’t expect to spend this much time being only a stay-at-home-mom, and I didn’t expect that part-time job to disappear just when I thought it was the exact right opportunity for me.

But life doesn’t always meet our expectations, and we sometimes have to think about where we’ve been, what we’ve done, and just start over.  The last two and a half years haven’t been a waste, at all, even if they weren’t what I expected.  Not working has had some of its own blessings: no problems staying home with my kids when they were sick or had a snow day, getting to know a family in the neighborhood and loving the kids in that family, deciding to cook or bake whenever I had an urge to do so, etc.

But now, I do feel like I am starting over.  Soon, football season and the new school year will begin.  Both my kids will now be in school (1 elementary, 1 preschool), and it is time for a new chapter in my life.  And I still have no idea what that is.  The question “what is your ideal job” has been posed to me twice in the last couple of weeks, by two people who have no connection to each other.  And it stumped me. I am not entirely sure what my ideal job would be.  I have a list of dreams and interests and what I am good at and I don’t know how they fit together.  But here they are.  I’m hoping that deliberately writing them out and publicizing them will somehow help bring some clarity and direction. 
  • Must be part-time and flexible so I can stay home when the kids are sick and can’t go to school as well as flexible during school vacations. 
  • Writing/Editing
    • I am currently at 17,498 words in my novel
    • I’ve been blogging on faith/Bible topics since 2005
    • I have a yearlong spiritual discovery project started that could potentially be a book
    • I have always been good at proofreading and have read and provided feedback for writers in my writing group and do some freelance proofreading for an editor friend of mine
  • Publication Design
    • I’ve created newsletters, booklets, posters, handouts, inspirational sayings on an amateur basis for various organizations and personal use (caveat: I have no idea how to use Adobe products. I know that’s a big negative).
  • Social Media 
  • Speaking/Preaching/Teaching
    • I have led Bible studies, given sermons and other devotional talks for many years
  • Getting to know people on a one-on-one basis
  • I’ve enjoyed my church/ministry jobs the most
We always talk about the church being a community and that people are not supposed to do life alone, so I’m asking for your help and feedback.  I’m not sure what type of job combines those interests and abilities, but if I don’t put it out there, I will never know.  So, please, if you have thoughts, advice, know of something that seems like it would fit me, let me know.  And we’ll see where the next journey leads. 

Review of Jennie Allen’s “Restless” Curriculum

I received a free copy of this study after being contacted by a publicist, for the purposes of this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.
The study is eight lessons (including one introductory lesson) that can be used in small or large groups, and there are different tools available (the video, the conversation cards) to allow the study be flexible.
Leader’s Guide
The Leader’s Guide is easy to understand and follow.  There is a repeated emphasis on the leader needing to be open, authentic, and vulnerable.  If this is difficult for a person, my recommendation would be for the leader(s) to do the study with each other ahead of time to feel more comfortable.  Unfortunately, this guide did not correct the misconception that was in the guide for Chase that shyness and introversion are the same thing (page 18).  Introverts like to think before answering and that is why we may be quiet.  I know my input may be valuable in a group setting and I need time to formulate what I am going to say. Don’t call on introverts before they are ready. A lack of talking is not the same as a lack of interest and does not mean she is holding the group back!  Just because a group member does not verbally participate as much as the others does not need a talking to!  Forced vulnerability is not ideal.
Participant’s Guide
The Participant’s Guide is also easy to follow.  It is set up in sections:
  • short story/essay by the author
  • reading and questions of a portion of scripture from Scripture
  • other verses and more personal questions
  • a “project” that could involve journaling or drawing
  • conclusion, with more questions
DVD
The DVD sessions are a good length, ranging from 18-24 minutes.  I wasn’t crazy about some of the presentation and I have some different theological views than some of what is presented and I got confused at times where I thought she was contradicting herself–though this could likely be due to our differing theological perspectives.  I really liked the setting of the videos; it was designed to be a bright and welcoming atmosphere.
Conversation Cards
As with the last time, I wasn’t crazy about the conversation cards.  While they had some good questions on them, I’d rather see them included in the study guide so that participants have the opportunity to write down or even journal their thoughts about them instead of just answering them off the top of their heads.
Overall Impressions
There is so much great stuff in this study that both women and men can benefit from, so it’s a little too bad it is only marketed toward women.  So many people are restless and wondering what to do with their lives (Bill Hybel’s 2007 book, Holy Discontent, similarly explores this idea)  Throughout the participant’s guide, there are so many fantastic questions that work to get people to think about what their dreams are and what is holding them back.  It really makes people be introspective, which means that if this study is done in a group where people do not know each other well, it may not have the intended effect.  Some of the questions are:
  • When was the last time you dreamt about doing something specific in your life?
  • Are you coming into this study with any hurt and disappointment regarding your dreams?
  • Describe some of the tensions that occur when many unique pieces are challenged to worth together as one body for one purpose.
  • Do you think this restlessness is discontentment or a restlessness from God wanting to move you toward more?
The idea that we should look at what our dreams and gifts are and what is holding us back is something we should all evaluate (and not just once in our lives, either) and that is the strength of this study.  The “projects” included in each session are valuable tools; they point people to some specific ways of evaluating their lives.  
What I found lacking, however, was the tie-in to the life of Joseph.  There are a few places where I found myself confused as to the conclusions she came to, such as “Joseph hoped his gifts were for his own glory” (64) or relating Joseph’s experience in Egypt to Jesus’ command to his followers to make disciples in Matthew 28:16-20 (page 103).
There were also a couple of places where a distinction was made between genders, which I found to be quite unnecessary.   On page 56, she writes about a friend who is strong and wonders “Why would he give a woman all this strength?” and on page 67 she describes Joseph as “an excellent leader, good with people, and great with business and strategy”, but goes on to say “these were his strengths as a man” (emphasis mine).  I would say that the first question does not need the qualifier of “woman”.  The question is “Why would he give a person all this strength?” and the answer is “to use it!”  For the second, the strengths are not Joseph’s strengths as a man but rather, simply just his strengths.  
I think that in addition to people feeling “Restless”, once they find their gifts and passions, there needs to be a place for them to use them.  To go through this study and have a better understanding of one’s identity and gifts is fantastic, but there are too many times when doors get shut in people’s faces, and that’s discouraging.  If women are to be encouraged and equipped and unleashed, there needs to be openness and a place for them to do what they are called to do.  For example, if a woman goes through this study and realizes she is gifted and called to be a pastor, and her denomination forbids it, then she is likely still going to be “Restless”.  

Book Review: Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson

I received a copy of Your Beautiful Purpose by Susie Larson free from Bethany House for the purpose of this review.


Calling/vocation is a topic in which I am very interested, so I was glad to be able to read and review Susie Larson’s book, Your Beautiful Purpose.  While I don’t necessarily think a book about calling needs to be directed only toward women (my favorite book on the topic is The Call by Os Guinness), Larson speaks to women through her book who desire to find out what God wants them to do with their lives.

In her introduction, she states that she is writing to women with buried passion, women who have been beaten down, women who do not resonate with words like dream or calling.  I think she does a good job of speaking to all of these types of women.  While not everyone will relate to everything in the book, I think there is enough in it that anyone can get something out of it.

Larson writes about topics such as jealousy, waiting, fears, and discernment, among others.  She includes a study guide at the end of each chapter to help the reader process what she has read and what it means for her.

Some of the inspirational parts, for me, were:

“Consider the desires in your heart.  Pay attention to stories that stir up your passions.  Dare to believe that He wants to use the gifts He’s imparted to you.  He’s the one who put desires in you that He might fulfill His purposes for you.  He can even use the worst things you’ve ever done, or the worst things that have ever happened to you, to change the world through you.  He desires to transform you into a humble, bold, healed, and confident woman who trusts Jesus with her every breath” (page 19).”

“Deep within our souls there’s a sincere desire for God to use us, a desire imparted to us from God Himself.  Woven into our spiritual DNA is a beautiful calling and divine purpose for us to fulfill” (page 129)

“When we focus on our fears, the risk of stepping out feels greater than the potential reward of living by faith.  Daring to dream is no small thing.  And it’s not for the faint of heart.  But in Christ we’re called, appointed, and equipped to live lives bigger than we are” (page 121).

I especially enjoyed chapter 11, about “active waiting”, because it spoke to me as where I currently am in my life.

While there were a few times I thought what she was saying was cliche, and a few times I wasn’t totally following her train of thought, overall, the good in the book outweighs it, and I’d recommend women who are wondering about their calling, or who need a refresher, read the book.

Split Personalities

I didn’t get today’s planned posts written, much less posted, so here’s something off the top of my head.

About a year ago, I created a secondary Facebook account so I could join a blogging challenge group because I didn’t want to do it under the account I’d already had, for various reasons.  At this time I also created a fan page for myself but never published it.

Today, that changed.  I am in the process of switching friendships to my first account and letting everyone know about the now-published fan page.  Lately, I’ve been realizing that I’ve enjoyed interacting with many of the people I have met through writing, blogs, and Twitter.  But I felt as though I was living in two different worlds.  One world was with people I know in “real life” and the other was with people I’ve met online.  Yet, some of my online friends are better friends than some of the people I know in real life.  I didn’t always share the same things on both accounts and so both sets of people probably weren’t really getting to know the real me.  It was getting complicated.

To me, this felt insincere and inauthentic (especially since most of the people I was interacting with were using their real accounts), and because in Christianity we talk a lot about authenticity and building relationships, I wanted to change how I was using Facebook.  I didn’t want to have separate identities anymore and instead allow myself to build friendships with people based on who I really am.  While I still am not the type to share everything with everyone, this is a step in the right direction.

So, if you’d like to “like” my brand-new Facebook page, please do so here:

Kelly J Youngblood, Writer

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Feminism and the Stay-at-Home Mom: My Story (and a linkup opportunity)

Edit:  this the post that explains why I am doing this linkup.
Edit:  February 15, 2013 article from Christianity Today on work-at-home-moms that fits in nicely with this topic.


I remember a time when I was attending a new church.  After the service was over, I was having a conversation with another woman who asked me a question that flustered me.  She asked, “do you work outside the home?”  I was confused because this woman knew my husband and I did not have children yet.  I remember thinking “Did she really just ask me that?  Why wouldn’t I work outside the home?”  I wondered if married women without children who stayed home was more common than I’d thought (as in I thought it probably didn’t exist).  
I don’t read a lot on the topic of feminism and all of its nuances.  I don’t claim to be an expert–or even that knowledgeable–on feminist theory or theology.  I bought a book called Evangelical Feminism a couple of years ago, but it’s one of the many books I have that I have not yet read.  The one semester I spent at a Catholic college, I took a class in Women’s Studies.  I remember finding it interesting, but I honestly don’t remember anything specific from it; it was a long time ago, and since then I’ve moved around the country multiple times and have had two children.  That’s plenty to make my memory not function so well.  However, I do consider myself to be a feminist because I believe that women are people and deserve equality; I have always thought this.  I think women should pursue any career they find they are interested in and for which they are qualified.  I don’t believe they must fit themselves into traditional roles just because that could be what is expected of them.
This seems that it might somewhat contradict my actual life, because for now, I’ve chosen to be a stay-at-home mom/homemaker.  I cook, clean (er, well, I guess that is somewhat debatable), and take care of the kids.  I’ve been doing this for five and a half years, although during part of this time I did have a part-time job at a college as the Campus Ministry Coordinator at the college in our last town.  The kids take priority, though, which has meant having other people cover for me when I couldn’t make it to chapel to lead services, or taking my almost-one-year old (at the time) on our spring break mission trip.  Talk about people being full of grace–he got sick while we were there and they helped clean up after him.  I even had to stay behind one day and take care of him while everyone else went to the work site (on the days I went, my sister-in-law, who lived in that city, picked him up and took care of him, but I didn’t want to get her kids sick too).  It was one of those many times where two callings collided and I had to choose one of them.  
I believe that my children are my responsibility to take care of, especially when they are young.  I can’t stand the idea of dropping them off at daycare in order for me to work a full-time job (please note:  this is what is best for our family; I am not making judgments on anyone else’s situation).  I love when we can snuggle on the couch and watch Daniel Tiger and not get dressed until 10:00, or spend the afternoon baking cookies, or meet with friends at a local coffee shop that has a play area.  My older son goes to school 4 mornings per week and I do look forward to when he stays home on Fridays (partly because then I don’t have to get up early to get him ready for the bus).  Being a stay-at-home mom, though, can have its drawbacks.  I stink at keeping the house clean.  I love to cook and bake, but sometimes at the end of the day after answering a zillion and three “why?” questions or playing cheetah or spies or superheros, I don’t have the energy for it and it’s pancakes for dinner.  I often get bored playing cars or dinosaurs and sometimes I just want to scream at the top of my lungs to get out the frustration that builds up over multiple minor daily events.  
I look forward to the one day a week (usually Saturday) that my husband stays with our children so that I can spend time writing at a coffee shop.  This happens on a semi-regular basis, but sometimes I am not able to do it, due to my husband’s job (long hours, 6-7 days per week during the fall, and travel during the winter/spring).  And I am ok when I don’t get to go because, ironically, all these years of putting my husband’s job first has enabled me to do things I maybe wouldn’t get to do otherwise.  It’s taken us around the country, and although moving is always difficult, I treasure the friendships I have made and and am grateful for the variety of opportunities and jobs I have had.  Had I only been focused on one particular career of my own, I may have very well missed out on some of these blessings. 
Through all of this, though, I have been careful to make sure I do not lose myself and become only a wife and a mom.  I read.  I write. I spend too much time on Facebook and Twitter.  I read something recently in which a woman had no idea what her own interests were after raising her children.  She’d focused so much on their needs that she had no idea of her own identity.  I am sure this will not happen to me, and I hope that other SAHMs I know will prevent it from happening to them as well.  
Unlike a lot of my other mom friends though, I have only two children and I feel that is plenty.  While I don’t want to wish away the time, I do look forward to when they are both in school so that I can pursue some of my own interests more (more writing, maybe finally get that Master’s degree).  I sometimes have difficulty at events like MOPS (even though I enjoy going) because the organization as a whole seems to be geared to moms as moms, not moms as individual people.  I admire my homeschooling mom friends, but I know that it is not something I am interested in doing.  
It is, at times, like I am straddling two different worlds, belonging in both and belonging in neither.  It can be a lonely feeling.  And yet, I am not alone, because I know that I am listening to God’s call on my life and am trusting Him (yes, I am a feminist who still refers to God as Him.  Old habits die hard, right?) in guiding me on paths that I could never have imagined for myself.  
Sometimes–maybe a lot of the time–I think we are all too hard on each other.  There are feminists who are outspoke about everything, it seems, and while they are much more knowledgeable and give me a lot to think about, its sometimes seems there is a lack of humility or grace or patience, qualities that I think I have grown in only because I have experienced being a SAHM.  And I think many SAHMs need to learn from feminists and not fear them in order to be more than just a wife or a mom; they need to cultivate their own identity apart from their husband and children, because, some day, they will need it.  
I don’t think feminism and traditional roles need to be in opposition to each other, rather, I think that they can work together (I almost said complement each other, but I don’t really want to go down that road right now!), for those reasons expressed in the prior paragraph.  In my own experience, choosing to have children and stay home wasn’t an easy decision.  I didn’t particularly want to make such a drastic change in my life; I didn’t want to sacrifice my own wants and needs.  But I did decide to have children and my boys are such joys (well, most of the time!).  The cliche about not knowing what you are missing out on is pretty true–whether you like or dislike other people’s children, it’s a different story when they are your own.  
It is great that feminism has helped to make this a choice for me.  I didn’t have to have children just because that was what was expected of me in my role as a woman.  I don’t have to continue to have more children.  I was able to get a college education, work some, start a master’s degree.  I was never directly told “you can’t do that; you’re a girl” (there was one, indirect time when I heard a sermon about elders and it was clear they needed to be male, but that’s it).  Because most people in my life didn’t see women as secondary to men or having to have specific roles, there have been many things I have been able to do and accomplish.
And because I am able to stay home with my sons, I have a lot of time to spend with them to teach them and shape them into the people they will turn out to be, and I am directly affecting their lives rather than spending 40+ hours per week away from them (again, this is not a judgment on women who do work full time).  
There is so much more I could add to this for myself.  There are so many stories to be told of women who are living in both of these worlds, some way or another.  I can’t even begin to imagine the many varied and unique stories that will be told here through this link up.  So, please, add your story.  Add the story of someone you know.   Or, simply add your thoughts on how the two connect to each other.  The linkup will be active until February 28, 2013, and I’m going to try to tweet every time someone adds a new story (depending on the amount of them).  
I believe in equality, I believe women (and men) should strive to discover all that they are created to be, and live life abundantly.  Do you feel the same?

Worth Reading Wednesday: Vocation

For today’s edition of “Worth Reading Wednesday”, I want to highlight a few posts on vocation by Caris Adel. Vocation is a topic I love, and I really liked the posts that she wrote.  This is a month-long, Monday, Wednesday, Friday series on her blog, so go there and check out the others! (I only highlighted three of them here).

Identity and Vocation, Defined
“What is identity?  What’s vocation?  Why are they important?  When you do figure out a definition, how does it affect your life? “

How Does Vocation Impact Our Places of Work?
If you have Christian music playing, and have verses scattered all over, but your main attraction is something that keeps people enslaved and oppressed, then what’s the point?  What are those verses up there for anyway? Shouldn’t Christians be informed and leading the way on Isaiah 58 issues? 

Being an Image of God

Which makes me think, what qualities does God have?
Love.  Peace.  Justice.  Mercy.  Grace.  Joy.  Patience.  Etc.
I envision this idea of bearing an image something like being a mirror.  Whenever we exhibit traits like these, we reflect God.  

A Word to Live By

graphic by Melanie at www.onlyabreath.com

One word to live by for a year.

“One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live. One word that you can focus on every day, all year long.”

This is an idea I came across only last week, and it intrigued me enough to pick a word instead of even thinking about attempting to make any New Year Resolutions.

But what word?

I have spent the last year with more time to write than ever before, and this has been fantastic.  It has been due to a move, one son being in school part-time, and staying home with the boys.  Even though I loved what I was doing before this move, I have loved having this time to read and to write.  More than any other time in my life, I have sensed God’s hand in that move and in the direction I am going with writing.

I learned in the past year that insecurity is extremely common among writers and that I needed to just flat-out say that I am a writer and believe it.  I do believe I am a good writer, and I believe that God is calling me to write.  I am excited about the current project I am working on, and I am excited about future projects that I can’t even imagine right now.

Writing has helped a part of me to come alive again, a part I didn’t even realize had been dormant.  It is helping me to know myself better and to want to be fully me.  I want to embrace all of this as living out my calling in a confident and secure way, and not letting fear or insecurity hold me back.  I want to fully follow God’s call, and live so that I pursue it wholeheartedly.  I want my life to overflow with God’s love and encourage others to follow God’s call too.

To have life, and have it to the full.
To have life, and have it abundantly.

Abundantly.

Jesus says, in the gospel of John, that he has come so that people can have an abundant life.  I want that to be mine, and yours as well.


I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. –John 10:10

The word abundantly will be my word this year, and it will draw me back to this verse again and again, to remind me why he came, to remind me what he offers, to remind me what I can have.

Have you chosen a word to live by?  What is it, and why?