Sunday, November 2, 2014

Your Life Matters

Gosh, it's been a long while. Writing seems like something I avoid these days...or something I have avoided for months and months. Honestly, I think I needed to just go out and live, and my reflections on it all needed to be my very own reflections for a little while.

The writing bug is coming back though...the reading, the sifting, the intentionality of doing something that I believe God put inside of me is rising within.

I think for a year I replaced writing on a computer to unknown adults to writing hundreds of letters to known kiddos. I love sending notes to students and former students. I think my love for it (or need for it) comes from a few places within me.

1. I was 9 once. My mom had cancer and I was scared. I didn't know how it worked. I didn't know if she would die and how God was going to be real in all of that.
2. I've been divorced, and I have a son I've watched navigate that path...those tragic cards he was dealt. I witness, and at times, experience his pain.
3. I'm single, so I feel alone a lot. I desire to be seen, to be known, to love and be loved by someone in a way that differs from all others.

So, I write...I tell those kiddos WHO they are, that they MATTER to this world, that God is with them and will never leave them...

because with all I have traveled, whether hard or beautiful, God has been consistent, never changing, always true, always there, and everything about Him has panned out just as He says it will.

There are so many confusing messages out there, so many questions, hardships, disappointments, failings, and lies, and this 37 year old falls for them all the time, so as a reminder to myself and as an anthem to them, I write letters.

But for me, I think it's time to circle the wagons one more time and start sifting, reading, reflecting, and writing.

I just returned from the Storyline Conference. It's one of my all time favorites to attend. This was my third time to go. I've gone every 2 years. The conference has evolved over time, so I get the benefits of their new ways, new speakers, and new crowds, but I also get to hear some of the same stuff again as I have evolved, grown, changed, and seen the fruits of trusting God with the story of my life.

If I had to explain the conference in one sentence, I'd say it's about living intentionally, realizing/acknowledging your story matters to this world.

Trust God, trust what He's taught you, and GO LIVE for Him.

I think one of the main lessons I've taken over these last 6 years is you just have to move, you've gotta take that step, make a choice, and go with it.

He's given us the tools, His word, His presence, His guidance, and now we must start walking it out.

If we think about Jesus and His disciples, they lived and walked out the life with Him for 3 years. They rarely knew where they were going or why or what would happen along the way, but Jesus did...and they just followed Him.

Much of the time they got it wrong, said the wrong thing, were confused, doubted, were terrified, fell asleep, and scattered.

But Jesus remained. He kept inviting them along, talking as they went, teaching as they walked, and somehow, at the end of their time with Him, they witnessed His ultimate love for them...they had believed in who He was and walked out the time with Him, but until they lived the darkest time, thinking all was lost and nothing was what they had thought, did their worlds completely change.

Once Jesus proved His ultimate love, laid out His perfect plan, and overcame what is the darkest end for us all, those disciples took this world by storm, holding nothing back, not letting the greusomest of deaths deter them.

They knew their lives, their stories, mattered because they experienced and held the ultimate story of hope, they knew the deepest of truths, and had to share it with the world.

I refuse to believe Jesus came to experience all human suffering, die the ultimate death for my sin and yours, and conquer all that is evil for a people whose lives don't really matter.

Jesus didn't do all of that for a life to be lived safe, numb, for consuming and accumulating toys and human pleasures.

History has not played out the way it has played for a people whose lives don't matter. You mattered, I mattered so much that throughout time, the evils and vilest of times, the heartache and darkness, the death and destruction, God pursued, God thundered down, God created, grieved, and CAME. He set to love, to rescue, to redeem, to sacrifice Himself so that I may live, so you may live. 

If that doesn't tell me that my life matters, then I don't know what would.

But even if we think or have an inkling that our life matters, so often we can be paralyzed with "But what does God want me to do? What's His plan for my life?"

Well, since God didn't reveal His plan to any of the greats in the Bible, I don't think any of us should sit around thinking that He's going to miraculously give us a blueprint. That's not how it works. From the beginning of time, He's never revealed His anyone. So you and me, sitting in our homes in Texas, New York, California, or Japan...shouldn't think He's going to give us one either.

But, He has given us plenty to go on.

I have great plans for you!
If you search for Me with all your heart, you'll find me!
Love one another.
Build others up.
Pray without ceasing.
The truth will set you free.
Stay in My word.
Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Abide in Me.
Wait for the Lord.
Trust in Me.
Stay with God.
Do not fear.
Be strong.
Be courageous.
I will be with you!
Love mercy.
Do justice.
Walk humbly with God.
Be a living stone.
Tell others what Jesus has done for you.
Preach Christ crucified.
Live for Him
Live a life that ministers
Be gracious
Be gentle
Be honest
Be hospitable
Be alert and sober, putting on faith and love, wearing the hope of our salvation, appreciating those around us, letting peace rule us, encouraging, helping, and being patient. Hold fast to what is true and to what is good, Rejoice always, and KNOW, without a doubt,
that Faithful is He who calls us.

As I sat in Starbucks this weekend, for the first time in a long time, working on some notes from the
conference, basically doodling thoughts from 2 days, a lady leaned over and asked me what I did for a living.
"Are you working? Is what you're doing part of your job? Not that I was reading all it said, but I'm trying to figure out what to do with my life and I had to ask you what you did."

I told her I was doing a little bit of both...working and just living.

I had been grading papers, but now I was just processing some notes from a conference I had been at.

She still pressed me for what I did as a job.

As I told her about being a teacher, lighting up, saying it's the best job in the world, she said,

"So you always knew what you wanted to be?" with a little disappointment in her voice.

I assured her I didn't always know I wanted to be a teacher. I'd had many thoughts and directions, but God knew being a teacher was the perfect thing for me during this season of my life. He knew that for a myriad of reasons teaching was going to be one of the greatest joys in my life and that I could live out some of my gifts and experience some of His ultimate graces in my life.

She proceeded to tell me she had 2 daughters and loved art and design but just didn't know what God wanted her to do with her life. She'd been praying and asking but didn't know what to do.

I looked her in the eye, telling her I'd been there. I knew what she felt but instead of feeling paralyzed by not knowing, look at it from a different angle. God is giving you the FREEDOM to go out and make choices, to go and figure it out: To trust that He will be with you as you go, but He's asking you to go. What are your passions? Where are you leaning? Trust He'll be with you and go.

I went on to tell her I had just been grading compositions my 5th graders wrote. We spend over 2 weeks on them. We read, discover and take notes about the topic together. Then we read and take notes on our own. Then each student must organize their notes on another day. Then we outline those notes. I hold their hand each step of the way. It's laid out, it's full of directions with simple tasks. But then the day of writing arrives. They must take those 4 previous days of work and knowledge and begin to write...On their own.

They must stare at a blank paper and begin to tell the story from what they've learned over the past week.

Many are paralyzed.
So, I tell them two things, and this is what I'd tell you.

Start with what you know. Just start writing what you do know. Don't worry about making sense of it all, just start writing. Turn that white paper into something filled with what you've learned.

And second, I tell them I'm a fantastic editor, but I can only edit what you've written. You gotta give me something to edit. I won't write it for you, but after you begin, I'll guide it, rearrange, make corrections, give you better ideas, different ideas, and remind you of things you have learned but have forgotten to include.

I'm a great editor, their greatest tool when it comes to writing the paper, but I can't edit a blank page.

I think of God that way too sometimes. He's an incredible editor. He lets us live and choose based on what we know and what we've learned. He wants us to move in a direction our heart leads and then He'll come along and edit.

So, just take what you know, trust in what you know about God, and go take a step knowing that He's with you and He'll guide you, He'll edit, He'll protect and show, and even correct the mistakes in one form or another.

She smiled, thanked me, and I went back to doodling and thinking.

Over this last year, I firmly believe there were things I had to walk out. I didn't always know what I should do, what the right answer was, or even if I should be where I was...but I kept getting this prompting of "just be true to who you are and who you want to be and walk it out."

Twelve months later, a book couldn't contain the lessons I learned along the way. I wouldn't have learned them if I'd played it safe, stayed paralyzed and never trusted God that He'd be with me as a 37 year old woman with fears and hang ups and insecurities navigated life.

I witnessed God's grace, protection, lessons in the hard, and I saw myself grow, mature, rely on Him, and that making "mistakes" was ok and part of being human.

I'll end with this.

At the conference, one of my favorite caveats was when Don Miller was talking about how God did not create us to live in reaction but to be co-creators of a meaningful life...that God bonds with us when we do things. He wants to share experiences with us.

And the Bible is full of stories of people doing, living and experiencing a life where they had no idea what was coming next: getting to feed the 5000, crossing the Red Sea, walking on water, talking to a king, watching a brother die, sitting under a broom tree ready to die, having everything they had taken away, riding in an ark full of animals and a smell so foul as the entire earth gets swallowed by water, but they were trusting God and relying on Him as they took each step, that He would provide the ground when it was time for their foot to land.

Don went on to say, " I think God is up there saying, 'let's get into some trouble "we" can't get out of'."

And isn't that what the Bible and living a life of depth is full of...circumstances that require the hand of God to get us through?!

A meaningful life takes risk. It takes walking into an unknown, but remembering we're not empty handed. We're armed with God's word, God's promises, God's presence, and a grace so magical and unimaginable that He's just waiting for us to take Him up on it.

So reader, don't ever forget that YOU MATTER. You matter to God and you matter to His plan in this world.

His death did not come cheap, our redemption price was so high that only the God of the Universe could pay it, so let us go live knowing grace had a cost He saw worth paying, and He lavishes it on you and me because we matter to Him. 

"The accuser was overcome by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony and they didn't love their life even when faced with death." Revelation 12:11

In Him,