Living the Dream

The Bible tells us not to despise the day of humble beginnings.  I know this is going to sound a little dramatic (and probably slightly ridiculous since I’ve only been blogging for a few short weeks), but writing is a life long dream of mine and even though for the most part it’s primarily me and my four closest friends hanging out here in this space, I am so loving every second of it.

When I was a little girl I was a huge Nancy Drew fan.  My grandparents would give me and my sister $2 each week as an allowance, but Nancy Drew books cost $2.95 each.  So I could only buy a new one every other week. Incidentally, I used the leftover $1.05 less tax to buy 10 cent pieces of fudge in the cafeteria at school every day.  Even back then, chocolate and books were my favorite things!

I remember the excitement of going to the bookstore with my mom, also a lover of books, and spending what seemed like hours picking out the best one to read next. Remember the Intimate Bookshop? Loved that place! Because I could only get one book every other week I actually read them VERY slowly.  I savored every word.  I hated finishing one and not being able to go on to the next one immediately.  The wait was excruciating.  I would lie in bed at night and think about how eventually Nancy and Ned might get married.  Then they could drive around together in her blue convertible, her titian red hair blowing in the wind.

At some point I actually began dreaming about how I would write a Nancy Drew novel.  I spent hours trying to come up with the perfect mystery, the right amount of danger, the logical explanation for seemingly other worldly phenomena, and of course the appropriate cast of supporting characters.  I even wrote letters (that never reached the mail) to Carolyn Keene to ask permission to continue the series on her behalf in the event of her death or inability to continue her reign as Mystery Writing Queen.  Since we didn’t have internet back then I had no idea Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym used by numerous contract authors to write the series anonymously. I was disappointed greatly by that piece of information. 

All that to say, a dream was birthed in my heart and at different times over the years it has surfaced in different forms.  Never though, did I see a day where I could write and hit Publish and immediately send my written offerings to the world.  This writing journey is definitely not what I envisioned as a young girl, but the truth is, it is so much better!

For me every time I write something it is a bit like fighting the natural urge to run and hide from danger and instead running headlong into it.  There is risk involved, but there is huge reward here too.  I unreservedly say that nothing in my life has been as exhilerating as seeing a dream beginning to come to fruition – no matter how small that fruition might be.  The only appropriate thing to say is, “Thank You heavenly Father for loving me so much, for delighting in me and for bringing me to this season in my life.”

The world has enough Nancy Drew and Carolyn Keene, it needs more of us.  It needs more image bearers of Christ uniquely reflecting Him to the world. 

So how about you?  What dreams are you holding onto in your heart?  Have they materialized the way you expected?  Are you willing for them to look different than what you imagined?  If you are living your dream, how does that make you feel?  If your dream hasn’t materialized yet, is there a place you could start, right now? Are you hiding from danger or are you willing to run headlong into it?

This post inspired by The Nester’s http://www.thenester.com/2013/01/i-played-with-barbies-when-i-was-15.html and Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit.” I am profoundly grateful to you both.

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Did You Really Just Ask Me That?

Inspired by my success in changing cable and internet providers and feeling liberated from fear (fear of my cable company? See the last post.), I got brave and called around to shop for a better deal on car insurance. I know this sounds ridiculous.  It is something that grace-filled people do all the time…shop for what they need, at the best price without being encumbered by fear and guilt.  I just hated the idea of the inevitable conversation where you have to fire your old insurance company.  Not only do I not like conflict, I go to great lengths to avoid it.  When you’ve spent your entire life trying to cover up who you are, conflict is your worst nightmare…it might actually expose you as the failure and fraud you think you are.

Back to car insurance…so flying high on the cable episode, I spent four and a half hours on the phone calling three different companies and comparing quotes.  It really takes a lot of time when you own six vehicles, but the six vehicles are a whole blog series on their own.  At the end of the process I made a decision that would save us $65 per month, almost $800 per year.  I was so excited I was almost giddy.

The next morning I called my current car insurance company to let them know I needed to cancel my policy.  The conversation went something like this:

Me:    Good morning.  Yes, you can help me.  I need to cancel my current car insurance. 

Car Insurance Lady:         Well we are so sorry to hear that you are leaving us.  May I ask why?

Me:    Well, I called around and was able to find the exact same coverage for almost $800 per year less. (It took me an hour of prayer and rehearsal to get that sentence out on the phone without hyperventilating).

Car Insurance Lady:         Wow, are you sure the coverages are the same because I know that our rates are pretty competitive?

Me:    Yes, my coverages are exactly the same.

Car Insurance Lady:         Well, did you speak to someone here to make sure you are getting our best rate?

[Eyeballs popping out of my head, steam coming out of my ears, blood pressure rising]

Me:    Are you actually telling me that I have been a good customer for five years and I have to call you and ask to get your best rate?  Why wouldn’t you be giving me your best rate to begin with?  Why would anyone have to call and ask not to be overcharged?  Who would sign up to be ripped off???? 

This conversation happened a while ago and I am still steamed.  However, the more I’ve thought about it the more I’ve asked myself, do I only give the people in my life my best when it is profitable for me?  Do I force them to come to me and ask for my best?  What level of “service” do I provide when it actually costs me something to serve other people?  What does that do to the people I love?

What’s That?

I’ve noticed a pattern in my life lately.  The more I explore and experience this idea of grace, the more willing I am to try new things.  When you are bound up in the fear of the consequences of every decision you make it is much easier to live with a lot of things the way they are.  Change, even small change can be very difficult, exhausting, and overwhelming. 

For instance, I have had the same cable, and later internet, provider for about 20 years.  And for about that long they have been the only game in town.  Even when satellite TV became an option I was interested, but I was too afraid to try (I know…it’s insane).  But a few months ago I heard a neighbor go on and on about this new option we have in our neighborhood.  So I hopped online and did my research.  I found out I could get more service for less money.  Less money…that sealed the deal for me…I am always looking to save money.  Many times I am trying to save money out of fear, but this time was different.  I actually felt exhilarated trying something completely different.  Something my friends don’t have.  And (gasp) something even my parents don’t have.

So I went through the online order process, set my appointment date and three short days later two kind installers showed up at my house, in the pouring rain exactly on time.  One of them went outside to do  whatever has to happen out there so I have internet and cable in here.  So I showed the other gentleman around so he could see where everything needed to go.

When we got upstairs to the master bedroom (yes I have a tv in the master bedroom, please don’t judge) he looked to see where the lines came into the room and where they fed into the cable box and internet modem.   As he’s following the cables he said, “Well you won’t have to deal with that anymore.”  Me:  “Deal with what?”  Kind Installer Don:  “That huge cable running through the middle of your bedroom floor (unspoken: with that ugly rug over it).”  Me: “I won’t?”  Kind Installer Don:  “No ma’am.  That’s ridiculous.  They never should have installed it that way.”

Do you know that “ridiculous” cable has run across the middle of my bedroom floor since 2001?!?!  The sad and interesting thing is that it NEVER occurred to me that it shouldn’t!  A kind, unassuming stranger walked into my bedroom and immediately noticed the problem.  Then my mind went to, “How many other things do I just trip over in my life because it hasn’t occur to me that they were in the way and ridiculous?”

What about you, have you ever had an “ah ha” moment when you saw something for what it was?  Have you ever ignored something that should be considered a problem so long that it becomes part of your landscape and you don’t even see it anymore?

Father, show us the ridiculous things in our lives that you want to remove so we can walk freely in Your grace.  Open our eyes to the things we’ve just chosen not to see.

Paul, Again

One of the many things I always think about in the New Year, but usually don’t do is memorize Scripture.  This year over on Ann Voskamp’s blog, www.aholyexperience.com, she decided to memorize three chapters of Romans and invited her blog community to join her.  I wrestled with this for a few days because I didn’t want to decide to do something and then not do it because I didn’t count the cost.  But how could I turn down one of my favorite authors (Paul) and one of my favorite letters (Romans)?

I quickly got to work on the first verse, because I hate being behind and I started a few days late.  Here is how Paul begins, the first chapter, first verse of Romans:

1 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, (ESV)

The more I type it (Ann recommends a GREAT site www.ScriptureTyper.com), the more I read it out loud, the more I meditate on it, I am stunned by what Paul says about himself or rather what he doesn’t say.  He doesn’t introduce himself in terms of what he does.  He introduces himself in terms of who he is.  He tells us who he truly is at the core of his being.  He doesn’t talk about how he makes money (tent maker), where he lives (homeless as far as I can tell) or where he went to school (Gamaliel School of Phariseeism).  He doesn’t talk about how successful he his (how many came to the last class he taught at the synagogue) or how unsuccessful he is (how after his last class at the synagogue they beat him).  He strictly focuses on his identity in relationship to Jesus.

Could I do that?  Could I introduce myself to people as Kim, slave of Christ Jesus, called to equip others to study God’s word for themselves, set apart for the gospel of God? Could I say just that, nothing more, nothing less?

A few weeks ago someone I don’t know very well asked if I work.  For what seemed like hours but was in fact just a few seconds I really searched for the words that would adequately express what I do.  I realized though I was searching for words that would somehow justify me and my life.  It didn’t seem enough in the moment to say, “I drive my kids to school, cook, clean, study and teach Bible study, and otherwise serve Jesus.” 

But why not? The things I do are natural expressions of who I am.  Being a wife, mother, Bible study teacher – they don’t help me climb any ladders; they don’t earn money; they don’t make me famous. But they demonstrate who I am. Why do I (or can I suppose we) think what we do gives us more worth than whose we are?

I love an author who can really drive home a point in just a few words. 

 

 

Disclaimer

I am about a week and a half into this blogging journey and I want you to know how scary this is for me. On a cold, Friday afternoon, after two extra cups of coffee, I sat on my new, big, red couch (more on this later) feeling really brave and decided to create my blog. So I did. It took me until Monday to work up the courage to write my first post. Once I had written it, it took me a couple of more hours to work up the courage to hit the Publish button. When I did hit Publish I closed my eyes and winced as if someone were yanking a band aid off of the most sensitive part of my body. (Fyi…the Publish button is bullying me around a bit. It taunts me every time I sit down to write. Staring at me from the right hand side of the screen as if daring me to touch it. You can pray for me. In fact, please do, I have no idea what I am doing technically speaking.)

My second day of blogging I figured out how to link my blog to my Facebook page. It took me several more days to actually link it and share a post there. To me that was scarier than hitting the Publish button. I had a mild panic attack afterwards. My hands were shaking, my breathing became irregular, my legs felt rubbery and I got nauseous. I felt like I had just invited the whole world (well 124 of them, Facebook friends) into my bedroom to go through my underwear drawer or worse to see me naked. In fact, my heart is racing this very minute just thinking about it again. I have issues with naked.

All that said, it is becoming more and more apparent that I struggle with letting people in. With letting them see the real me. To allow them to know me, all of me – the good, the bad and the ugly. So that’s part of what this space is about. Sharing myself, an image bearer of God, and my journey with others. Something of a personal travel journal.

For those of you who know and love me and might be concerned that I am probably working out some issues I am wrestling with right here on my blog, in public, let me just say upfront, you are probably exactly right! I think that if I am wrestling then others are too. Also, you know how frugal I am, this is free and I can do it from home. Counseling is expensive and I have to get dressed and go out for it.

I will leave you with a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that the Lord used to encourage me during my panic attack:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Is Jesus Enough?

I’ve been taking an eight month advanced discipleship course at a local grace based ministry.  The topic for last week’s class was “Law and Grace”.  This is a topic I’ve really spent the last year pondering, studying, and exploring.  So honestly when I saw the topic for the night I wasn’t expecting anything really new.  I think the Father got a little chuckle out of that…

At one point in the discussion the instructor asked this very question, “Is Jesus enough?”  OBVIOUS answer, right?  Of course He his!  My mind immediately leapt to all the reasons that yes, Jesus is enough.  About how His sacrifice covered all sin for all time for all who receive Him.  About how He is the only one qualified to be Savior.  About how He is God as well as man. Therefore, He is YHWH; He is El Shaddai (the All Sufficient One); He is El Elyon; He is Jehovah Rapha; etc. – He is God, so of course He is enough.

Less than 48 hours later I bumped into what is a consistently difficult situation for me to handle.  In prayer I cried out to God and said, “But Lord, I want to be chosen, I want to be accepted, I want to be loved.”  What I meant was, “I want this person to choose me, I want to be accepted, I want to be loved by them and if they don’t it undoes me.”  Hhhhmmmm…

And still I am thinking, “Jesus is enough.”  Really???  If Jesus is enough (to me), how does one situation have the power to make me believe I am not chosen, I am not accepted, I am not loved when God’s Word, Truth, tells me that in Christ ALL of those things are true? 

What is it that I really believe?  My actions and reactions are revealing what I truly believe.  It’s in the challenging moments when the rubber meets the road that what’s really in our hearts comes out.  How do you know what is inside a tube of toothpaste until pressure is applied on the outside?  That’s when what is on the inside comes out.  I didn’t like what I saw come out of this tube – UNBELIEF!

One of my favorite characters in Scripture is Paul, for many reasons, but what hit me today is that Paul had opportunity every day to see what was truly in his heart.  When he was beaten, what came out of his mouth?  Praise and gratitude.  When he was imprisoned, how did he respond? He sang hymns to God.  He wrote letters to the church of Jesus Christ.  When the thorn in his flesh plagued him and God would not take it away? He accepted that God’s grace is sufficient.

I am sure Paul felt alone, rejected and unloved by those God sent him to, but he always believed he was chosen, accepted and loved by God (even after the thorn in the flesh incident).  The evidence is in the fact that he actively chose to love those who treated him the worst by sharing the gospel, the saving grace of Jesus Christ with them.  Jesus was enough for Paul.  Paul was so convinced of his relationship with Christ that he is still bearing fruit today through his letters to the churches.

Is Jesus enough for me?  Will I let go of temporal feelings to allow Him to bear eternal fruit in my life?  Will I actively love in the painful moments? 

 

 

Beginning

Allow me to introduce myself, I am Kim – wife; mother of three wonderful girls (in spite of me); a former overachiever, perfectionist, and a self-sufficient rule follower with a hyper-sense of responsibility for absolutely everything.   I am a woman who has spent most of her life trying to make herself acceptable to everyone, including the only One who matters.  The One who had already accepted me completely.

Where to start?  How do you begin when you are really still in the middle?  When you want to tell your story, but you are really not quite sure where you are in it?  When you tell a story, aren’t you supposed to know how it ends first?

I guess I will begin in the middle because I really didn’t have a story to tell until I realized I was coming apart, unglued, UNRAVELED.  Everything I had tried to knit together in order to cover mySELF (my shame, embarrassment, fear, unworthiness, insecurity) began to come apart exposing all the ugly, naked truth about me.  The sad part was that for quite a while I kept trying to hold it all together.  I figured if I just worked harder at it I could keep myself covered.  It was exhausting and ridiculous! 

Actually, looking back, I think it bordered on insane, which is how I got here.  My life motto had become, “Suck it up and keep moving.”  No matter how bad things got, I just painted on a smile, fixed my hair and kept going.  That is until the One who loves me without limits and without conditions said, “Enough!”  It may as well have been a voice from heaven that sent me spiraling.  I am not entirely sure exactly what triggered “the episode” (I vaguely remember it had something to do with cupcakes and budgets), but whatever it was landed me in bed for days, crying uncontrollably, medicated and wondering if my mind was ever going to function properly again. 

The truth was my mind was probably functioning more properly at that moment than it had in a long time.  I had managed to completely overload all of my circuits and it had the good sense to shut itself off.  I could barely put two words together, which is actually a good thing when the last thing you should be doing is talking.

We rarely recognize life changing moments as they happen.  Often we need to see them from a different perspective, after time has passed (and after sanity has returned) to appreciate them for what they are.  Otherwise, how could I call those few days some of the most important in my life?  Earth shattering and life altering at the same time.  Terrifying and oddly peaceful.  Ugly and beautiful all at once.  Sometimes it takes a powerful force to cause something to change direction.  I am embarrassed to say I didn’t take the subtle hints My Father had been giving me for quite some time.   God in all of His power had to intervene to get this freight train to change course.  This is what I like to refer to as the beginning of “The Great Unraveling.”  More on this later.

It’s amazing what God can do with dust, isn’t?  He can take it and make something profoundly beautiful out of it.  It’s called grace.  I’ve been a believer since I was about eight years old when I committed my life to Christ, but somewhere along the way I completely missed grace.  And that’s why I am here in this space, unraveling the mysteries of His grace that has so unraveled me.