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I woke up this morning to discover that today, March 20, is the International Day of Happiness. I don’t usually pay much attention to the many, often obscure “holidays” (March 20 is also Extraterrestrial Abductions Day) but this one caught my attention. Since I just wrote a book on happiness I can’t help but notice our obsession with it.

My husband and I recently enjoyed watching the PBS mini-series, The Durrells in Corfu, and many times the main character, the widow Mrs. Durrell exclaims to her children, “I just want you all to be happy.” If her children are happy, then all she has endured for them would be worth it. As a mother, I can understand that sentiment.

Examples of our great desire for happiness abound. We all want to be happy. We may disagree on what actually provides happiness, but the desire for delight, peace, and satisfaction is ubiquitous.

Since 2012, the World Happiness Report arrives on this happy day. Utilizing data from the Gallup World Poll, nations are evaluated and ranked by the happiness of their people. I’m still learning about this report and I haven’t yet read it in it’s entirety, but it seems as if they’ve determined that social, physical, and economic environments contribute to our happiness. Finland was determined to be the happiest nation in the world for the third straight year. (Interestingly, a huge percentage of the top 10 happiest nations are Nordic.)

The report emphasizes the correlation between trust and happiness: if we can trust the people around us and the public institutions tasked to serve our community, our happiness will increase.

On the surface, there is much to observe from this report. However, as Christians, we have been given a different measuring stick for happiness. A different set of values. A different starting point.

Being a Happy Soul is something that is gifted to us through Christ. That’s the starting point.

Happy!

This is my identity. Already complete. Completely fulfilled. Fruitful. Resilient. Known. Righteous. This is your identity too. And as we choose to believe this to be true—regardless of how we feel and despite what our circumstances demand—our inward identity becomes our outward reality more and more and more. When we follow God in surrender and serve Him with all that we have, we make the choice to live as if God is indeed our King. As we recognize our need for the powerful, protecting presence of God in our every moment, and as we choose to hide ourself in Him as our home, we can confidently declare with the psalmist that “all who take refuge in him are happy.” — excerpt from Secrets of the Happy Soul

Yet our environment does indeed matter. But it’s not primarily physical, social, or economic factors that determine our experience of the happiness Christ died to bring us. It is our spiritual environment that must be measured.

When we are thriving spiritually, our physical, social, and economic situations don’t have so much pull on us.

They affect us, yes. But they don’t shake us.
They are important but not vital.
They can be all out-of-whack while our souls stay serene, steady, happy.

Why? Because there is a big worldview difference between those who rest in the salvation found in Jesus and those who do not. This difference is this: our end goal is not happiness. Our aim is to know God better, trust Him deeper, and enjoy His presence nearer. Happiness is merely a by-product of knowing Him.

In Secrets of the Happy Soul we start off with seeing that those who are in Christ are already Happy. It is our new status, our name. Happy is who we are. Yet we have work to do to make our new identity become an external reality. So, also, do we have the privilege and responsibility to share about the One who has made us Happy.

Growing up in California, we were taught what to do in case of earthquakes. Once I moved to Alabama, I had to learn what to do during the threat of a tornado. When we lived in Kentucky, we had to prepare for severe snowstorms. In Florida, it is hurricanes we hunker down for. With each of these threats, there are safeguards taken and supplies gathered. The goal is to be ready for the worst-case scenario. Whether it be bread and milk, gas and water, batteries and canned goods, firewood and extra blankets, each possibility for a natural disaster demands their own stockpiles. Just as it would be foolish to fail to prepare for a pending hurricane, we must not be fools when it comes to grief. The Happy Soul expects and prepares for it. The Happy Soul gears up for grief.

The unexpected loss of my brother James knocked the wind out of me for a while. But it didn’t take me down. I never once doubted the good character of God. It’s not that I understood His timing. It’s not that I didn’t ask why James had to struggle the way he did. It’s that I was driven more by what I knew to be true about God—that He is an all-knowing, all-loving, in-control God. But without this foundation—twenty years of studying God’s Word and stockpiling truth—my experience of James’s death most definitely would have been different.

The biblical truth we gather up when our soul is thriving is the nourishment our hearts will feed off of when we’re barely hanging on. This is a mark of the Happy Soul. Resiliency, no matter what comes her way. When the waves of grief pound her hard, it will be the firm and steadfast grip she already has on truth that will keep her from being tossed, tattered, and torn when tragedy strikes. This doesn’t mean she won’t question or weep or writhe in pain. But it does mean that—regardless of her circumstances—she will experience a peace that surpasses understanding, a joy indescribable, and a spiritual nearness to God even when every cell within her screams, “My God, my God. Why have you abandoned me?” When we have truth stored up within us, we can preach those truths to our hearts during the darkest of hours. Holding on to the truth He’s given us is how we keep our leaves from withering.

Our questions and doubts do not scare or offend God. He knows and understands our frailty and fallenness way more than we do. We don’t need to hide our questions from God, but we do need to recognize the bigger picture: the fact that we see in a mirror dimly and have limited knowledge of God and His beautiful ways. God is powerfully, perennially, and perfectly doing a million good works, of which our pain and sorrow are all encompassed. From this earthly view, we will never come close to beholding or understanding the marvelous, intricate, and one day perfectly complete work of God. We must hold a firm grip on the good character of God and His ability to work all our painful experiences together for His glory.

This is the resiliency we receive when our life is founded on who God is. Instead of being tossed around and victimized by the waves, we can hold on to hope through the storms. He never promises us that the storms will cease. He promises to hold us through the squall. The Happy Soul is not exempt from trouble, but the Happy Soul has the comfort of God to guide her through it. But we have to stay saturated by the Source in order to benefit from this strength. The Happy, resilient Soul is dependent on God’s provision.

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?

Why are you so far away when I groan for help?

Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer.

Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.

Yet you are holy,

enthroned on the praises of Israel.

Our ancestors trusted in you,

and you rescued them.

They cried out to you and were saved.

They trusted in you and were never disgraced.

Psalm 22:1–5 NLT


This is an excerpt from Secrets of the Happy Soul my new book from Bethany House Publishers.

As soon as I closed the door to my oldest’s kindergarten class the tears started flowing. With a pinched face, I desperately tried to control my breathing and keep the deluge of emotions down so I could make it to the car before I completely crumbled.

I was a mess of emotions.

My breakdown wasn’t primarily because I was sad to not have him by my side, or that fact that I wasn’t ready for him to grow up just yet. I was torn up because I was disappointed in myself. I had spent months and months of researching and planning toward homeschooling. I’d built it up in my mind as the best option for our family of five. It was what the super-moms did—the really strong, spiritual ones kept their kids at home and shaped their hearts and minds in the best way possible.

We had attempted a trial month that summer to test the homeschooling waters. It was a miserable failure. What I had idealized and idolized was an absolute nightmare. My five-year-old had the attention span of an excitable dog with a squirrel nearby. My three-year-old was as clingy and sassy as could be. And my one-year-old was into EVERYTHING and continually fought for the seat in my lap that the three-year-old just wouldn’t give up.

It was a nightmare.

THE LIES

As I completed the walk of shame back to my car on that first day of kindergarten, feelings of failure overwhelmed me. Even though I knew my child was supposed to be in the public school that year (because the other option = mental breakdown), a great disappointment plagued me. I wasn’t enough. I was a bad mom. My kids were going to be less-than because I couldn’t get it together enough to homeschool them.

Yikes. The destruction and falsehood of these lies are clear to me now. And whether it is about your school choices, food choices, discipline choices, or any-other-thing-related-to-parenting choices, my guess is that you’ve listened to these lies as well:

“I’m not ______ enough for my kids.”

“I’m a bad mom.”

“My kids are going to suffer because I can’t get it together enough to ___________.”

Ladies, we must kill these lies. Our thought-life is a breeding ground for either destruction or victory in every area of our lives. If we allow lies to run rampant and reign our inner life, everything else about our reality will be affected. We must fight for freedom from these lies.

DON’T FIGHT THE LIES ALONE

I’ve learned to be engaged in this fight—the long journey toward healthy thinking—and it is certainly not over. I still worry about whether or not the choices we are making are right and best. I still wonder how I am messing up my kids by doing or not doing something. I still forget that their development and growth is not all up to me.

Perhaps that last one is the kicker: It’s not all up to me.

Today, as I walk into my tenth school year as a mom, though the lies don’t hold as much power over me as they did, I still hear their siren call. I still have to grab them, throw them down, and tell them to flee. Then I have to replace these lies with truth:

I am not defined by the type or quality of mother I am.
I have choices (in food, school, etc.). That fact is evidence of great blessing.
I am not enough, and will never be enough. But I don’t need to be.

My kids need to find sufficiency in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their security in Christ, not me.
My kids need to find their significance in Christ, not me.

God is in control…even if I get the choices all wrong.
God loves my kids infinitely more than I do.
God is working in my kids in ways I never could.

His faithfulness is not dependent on my actions.
His goodness is not something I have to earn.
His provision and protection for me and my children are steadfast. Always.

BE OPEN TO CHANGE; TRUST THE LORD

I’ve also learned to take it a kid at a time and a year at a time. Every choice I make is not immutable. We can change our path at any time. We’ve moved twice since that first day of school and have been in and out of different schooling options. I’ve been all sorts of types of a mom. Stay-at-home mom. Work-at-home mom. Work-outside-of-the-home mom. Homeschool mom. Public school mom. Car-line mom. Bus-rider-kids mom. Baseball mom. Theater mom. Band mom. This year, for the first time, I’ll be a virtual school mom for my middle child.

Along the way, each stage had its benefits and downsides, its joys and pains. But as I look back through all our changes, I can see the unchanging and faithful hand of God leading and guiding us as we make these important decisions. More importantly, I can see the faithful hand of God changing us in the process.

Lord, as we navigate aaaaall the choices we face as parents, will you remind us of who you are. Help us cling to the truth of what the Bible tells us about you, more than we hold to the social norms and what’s “best” for our kids. Don’t allow us to put our kids at the center of our lives. Instead, keep our focus centered on you.

The post was originally published over at LifeWay Voices.

The threat of my house catching on fire is haunting. Fire can spread quickly and in unpredictable ways, bringing a great potential for destruction. Though fire can be erratic, we do know there are three things needed for a fire to burn: heat, oxygen, and fuel. In light of this, safety experts suggest keeping a fire blanket handy at home, especially for small kitchen fires. A fire blanket is a nonflammable covering used to contain a small fire from getting out of control. It’s designed to contain the fire by preventing oxygen access, thus smothering the fire into submission. The blanket provides a covering in order to suffocate the flames.

You and I have fires that pop up everyday, and they are (hopefully!) not in our kitchen. Every wrongdoing we experience is an ember, and we have an opportunity to smother it immediately or allow it to catch into a smoldering wildfire. Each insult, injury, or inconsideration encountered is a chance to cover the offender in love. When we obsess over the attacking flame on our doorstep we breathe life into it and allow it to burn bright, instead of immediately smothering the offense with love.

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)

Love covers. It quickly blows out the flame of irritability, resentment, and pride. Again and again and again. It suffers long toward every ember that tempts to take over. Love is shown in the response we make toward wrongdoing. We don’t need to go out looking for fires to put out, we each have enough to go around. Fires pop up every day, and in those moments when we begin to feel the heat, we have a choice to feed the fire or smother it into submission.

“I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,” (Isaiah 61:10).

Jesus smothered our sin into submission, then He gifted us His righteousness. This act of love covered over you and me in a way we cannot fully comprehend on this side of eternity. And as we attempt to grasp the reality of Christ’s covering, let’s move toward extending a covering of love to those around us as extravagantly as Christ did for us.

PRAY THIS WITH ME: Jesus, I praise You for Your covering of grace and forgiveness. Never let me forget what You have saved me from. Help me to see the fires that need covering and enable me to douse them with love today.


This is an excerpt from Everyday Love — a women’s Bible study on love. This easy-to-use, four-week Bible study will help you discover how your life can bear witness to God’s purpose. In as few as 15 minutes a day, you will explore the Book of 1 Corinthians 13 and the deeper truths about God’s love for you and others. 

Join the Online Study Group!

 

Discover what the Bible has to say about love

(And learn how to study the Bible along the way!)

WHAT: Studying 1 Corinthians 13

WHEN: February 11th – March 8th, 2019 

WHERE: Bible Study Hub Facebook group

I vividly remember my first shopping trip to purchase my first “real” Bible. I gathered up all my babysitting money and excitedly entered my local Christian book store. My balloon filled with enthusiasm promptly popped when I made it to the Bibles section. There were so many choices! After staring at them all, and haphazardly picking up samples to look through, I hesitantly chose a big black leather-like Bible—mainly because it looked studious and super-spiritual. I did not end up using that Bible much. In hindsight, it was a poor fit for me for many reasons.

You see, I was a toddler in the faith—actually not quite yet walking. I crawled around desiring to grow up and become closer to God. I just knew that getting a brand-new Bible would be the answer. But the version and type I chose was all wrong for me. This particular Bible lacked the simplicity and extra helps I really needed at that point in my spiritual journey. Plus, behind the study notes were beliefs that were a far cry from my own. This led to even more frustration and confusion. If I could go back and stand beside my former self, I would help past-Katie narrow down her choices in order to find a Bible that would fuel her burgeoning desire for the Bible and arm her with the basics of the Bible she needed.

That was in 1996, and the options today are much more numerous than they were then. So if you are in the market for a new Bible today, you might be just a bit overwhelmed! Past-Katie certainly would have been. She might have just walked out of that bookstore and given up on this walking-with-God thing.

So how do you know which one is going to be the best purchase for you? Before you go dropping dough on a Bible, you need to know the answers to three questions.

Why are there sooo many different Bibles for sale in the Christian book store?

The Bible was not originally written in English. Duh, right? But I won’t tell you how old I was when that fact finally dawned on me. I guess I just never really thought about it. It is important to recognize this fact because it will help us understand why there are so many different versions of the Bible (it can also help us with Bible study later on). Specifically, it is useful to understand that each publisher that has produced a new Bible has a purpose and a target audience. Some of them want to provide an accessible Bible that is super-readable to the everyday public. Others want to remain as true to the original text as possible, providing a better version for study. Therefore, each team of translators choose between “thought-for-thought” and “word-for-word” approaches, depending on what their end goal is.

If you are new to the Bible and/or want to do mostly Bible reading, I suggest you stick with one of the “thought-for-thought” translations below.  If you want study the Bible, a “word-for-word” translation is going to be most helpful. I think a healthy mix of using both types over time is ideal. There are loads of free Bible apps and websites that allow you to toggle between translations. I’m not super-familiar with all of the translations out there, but here are several I’ve had experience with. Those closer to “word-for-word” are listed first and as we move down the list, we migrate more and more towards “thought-for-thought” translations.

Common translations of the Bible for sale in the Christian book store:

  • New American Standard Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NASB) – I grew up on this version and it was the primary version I used for study until the ESV came along.
  • English Standard Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (ESV) – This is the translation I’ve used since 2005 for all my deep studies and most of my Scripture memory.
  • King James Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (KJV) – I’ve never used this much, but it is certainly a popular version.
  • New King James Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NKJV) – I used this for a little while but it never stuck with me.
  • Christian Standard Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (CBS) – My husband and I have several new Bibles in this version, and have been trying them out for the past year or so. It claims to be the “optimal blend of accuracy and readability.” We like it.
  • New International Version Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NIV) – I’ve never been a huge fan of this version either.
  • New Living Translation Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (NLT) – I enjoy this as fresh look at familiar verses.
  • The Message Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! – This is technically not a translation, it’s a paraphrase. So it is definitely a “thought-for-thought” and can be helpful if you find yourself completely unable to understand what a passage is saying. (Keep in mind, however, this is only one man’s thoughts on the passage.)

The Mardel book store has a super-helpful chart of all of the above translations, alongside several others, and how they rank on the scale of readability and accuracy, as well as loads of other helpful information.

Why are there so many different types of each Bible version at the Christian book store?

Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred Bible versions (translations), you need to understand the different types of Bible you want/need. For each translation, you will find several different types available, thus a myriad of combinations of Bibles for sale at your local Bible book store.

The main types of Bibles for sale in the Christian book store:

  • A Bible – This is just a plain ol’, regular Bible. There might be a few textual notes in the bottom margin, but typically these contain only the book titles (Genesis, Ephesians, etc.), maybe a few headings throughout each book, and the chapter and verse references. These are often referred to gift edition, slimline, compact, or thinline Bibles. One example is this pretty “Premium Gift” teal Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .
  • Study Bible – These are typically very thick Bibles, filled with loads of helpful information. Most include important info like the author, audience, and aim of each book, commentary (teaching and explanation by the really smart people who have studied the Bible in an academic setting and know what they are talking about), charts, and maps interspersed throughout—all geared toward helping you understand what you are reading/studying. Many study Bibles are geared around a certain Bible study method or even a theme, which often means the commentary provided will be mostly within that subject. Study Bible examples: ESV Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , CSB Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , Inductive Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!
  • Devotional Bible – Typically geared toward a certain group of people (women, men, students, children, etc.), these Bibles contain short devotional thoughts and stories throughout each book of the Bible. You can think of them like a devotional book all split up and appropriately placed into the Bible for you. Examples include the (in)courage Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! (I contributed to this one!), She Reads Truth Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! FamilyLife Marriage Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ESV Men’s Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! , The Message Devotional Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! and many, many more.
  • Journaling Bible – These Bibles are laid out to give you white space for note-taking or art journaling. Some provide designations in the title of where the journaling space is, such as single column, double column, interleaved (where every other page is blank), and whether or not it is lined. If not in the title, you’ll want to be sure to check the description or look for an opened sample so you purchase your prefered layout. Examples:  ESV Journaling Bible, Interleaved Edition Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ESV Single Column Journaling Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! .

How are you going to use this new Bible?

This may seem like a silly question, but it is important. Another way to ask this question is, “What do you primarily need from this Bible?” Room for sermon notes? Teaching on what a verse means? Space to record prayers and/or what you are learning? You might have your eyes on a stunning journaling Bible, but what you really need is a solid study Bible. Maybe you have a well-loved study Bible, but need room to record your study notes. You might be like me—continually forgetting to pack your Bible and favorite pens Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! —so having a Sunday morning bag like this Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!  with a dedicated Bible and pens for recording sermon notes is just what the doctor ordered.

Generally speaking, a solid study Bible is going to be a great first investment I recommend the ( ESV Study Bible Full Disclosure: At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click this link and make a purchase. Thanks for your support! ), especially if you are new to the Bible. Here’s the key though: you need to use it! Study Bibles can be pretty overwhelming at first, but the charts, book info, and study notes are invaluable guides as you begin to explore Scripture.

Though ill-fitting, I’m glad I did pick out a Bible way-back-when. It was a choice of obedience for me. A determined step in the right direction. Though it wasn’t a perfect choice, God used my frustration with not understanding what I was reading to draw me even closer to Himself and also to seek help from others. So if you are still feeling a bit stymied by all the options of Bibles for sale at the Christian book store, I encourage you to step out, regardless. His Word is alive (every version and type!), our God is in control, and He can guide you even through an eeny, meeny, miny, moe approach. Narrow it down by version, type, and something you can afford, then take action … pick one!

It’s pastor appreciation month, and while baked goods, tie trinkets, and gift cards are usually welcomed (though not expected!) your pastor may be blessed by something a bit out of the box this year.

My husband, Chris, is a senior pastor and I have seen the best and worst sides of church people. We have been blessed beyond measure (a trip to Paris!) and wounded more deeply than I knew was possible, both through the actions and inactions of people in the pews. Although there can be difficult, unstable, and/or power-hungry people within the walls of the church, most of the heart-level hits a pastor receives are from the “everyday” church member: Words spoken or not spoken. Actions taken or not taken. Groups forming or splitting. All in the name of what they think is best for the church.

Chris and I have loads of pastor friends and I reached out to some pastor’s wives this week to help me with this post. Because as wives, we see what no one else sees. We know what church ministry does to our husbands. How it continues to forever change them and shape them—for good and for ill. As I submit this post, the comments from my pastor’s wife friends are still pouring in. With over 30 wives contributing, the thoughts below are a collaborative effort. Just like any wife would, we long to stand up for our husband, but because he is the pastor we often feel we can’t. It just seems self-serving. We each want to help our husband and support him in a public way but, selfishly, we usually lay low out of fear of putting our own conduct in the cross-hairs, if it is not already.

If you love your pastor and want to bless him this month (and beyond), we urge you to prayerfully consider these three deliberate choices:

CONTINUE READING at LifeWay Voices …

Some may say I’ve “let myself go” lately. My toenails have been bare for months, my gray roots are showing, and I’m at the heaviest (non-pregnant) weight of my life. Yet, I’m surprisingly OK with it all (most days). I’ve been on a slow but steady journey to undo what I’ve been told is beautiful—the unachievable ideal that I must be actively pursuing lest I be labeled as one who’s given up.

For me, personal beautification began in junior high. One day in class, a guy friend brought it to my attention that I had a mustache. Years later in high school, one boy suggested I “put some color on those naked toes!” Another winner (this one a boyfriend) told me that he and his best friend had decided that I would be the prettiest girl in school … if I wasn’t so white. In each instance (and in countless others), I immediately put together a plan of action to remedy my beauty faux pas. And so I began the pursuit of physical perfection.

Twenty-five years later, I am still affected deeply by my appearance (and the comments I receive from others about it). It is a constant fight to stay in an emotionally healthy place and to hold it all in the light of eternity. For way too long, I have been guilty of paying more attention to the way I look outwardly, with little-to-no efforts spent toward my spiritual life. And I know I’m not alone in this struggle.

However, what we look like does matter. If we stopped showering and roamed around in our pajamas all the time, it would certainly hinder our gospel-productivity. There is a stewardship involved when it comes to our bodies—and the older I get, the more I see and feel the implications of neglecting my physical body.

So, where’s the line? Where does taking care of myself cross over into vanity? When does a holy pursuit to discipline my body for useful service to God turn into a resource-wasting obsession to stay as young-looking and beautiful as possible?

I am far from having this figured out, but I am deliberately taking more and more steps to free myself from the chains of beauty—without completely letting myself go. Here are a few questions I am being more intentional in asking when it comes to my actions in this area.

Read the rest over at LifeWay Voices …

So, I’m going back to school.

This turning 40 thing has been fun. It’s as if the road to my purpose and calling has been finally paved and I’m ready to run. I’ve said for years that I would love to take seminary classes. This summer at the Southern Baptist Convention—specifically at the Women and Work panel—I was spurred on by hearing from those women chasing after their dreams—even amidst the crazy seasons of life. It was freeing to hear of one who’d been taking classes over a decade and is about to reach the finish line of her degree. For some reason I’d had it in my head that I needed to wait until life’s waters were completely calm before I could dive head first into school. So, yes, it may also take me a decade, but I’m going to start now.

I received my acceptance letter last week (yay!) to New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to pursue a Masters of Arts in Discipleship at the Orlando extension center—just 45 minutes away from my house! This is actually the same extension center my husband Chris started his MDiv 10 years ago. So fun, right?

Part of the application process was submitting my conversion and calling story. I thought I’d share them with you! It was fun to process this and look back on God’s faithful, patient calling on my life. I’m so grateful.

Explain your conversion experience. Include age and details.

With vague memories of a decision made at VBS, I spent most of my childhood believing I was a Christian. Through both Catholic and Protestant private schools, I learned much about the Bible and the characteristics of what a good religious person looks like. However, I primarily saw God as a distant, cosmic parent who primarily just wanted me to be good. So, I was good. I could readily articulate the reality of Christ’s sacrifice for the sake of mankind, but I thought it was enough to simply know about it and believe that it had happened.

Though I cannot remember the exact date (I was in junior high), I vividly remember the moment I recognized my personal need for Jesus. It was a simple afternoon at home in my bedroom when reality hit me of my distance from God and the fact that—although I knew about Jesus—I didn’t know Him personally or trust Him for salvation. Immediately, I confessed my need for Christ and my desire to follow Him with my entire being. I had been trusting in my goodness instead of His grace and I have no doubt that it was in that moment my new spiritual life in Christ began. It would be a long time before I found myself in any sort of a groove when it came to walking with Christ. God still seemed distant and there was much about grace I needed to grasp, but in His goodness I did begin to grow from that point on.

Discuss your call to ministry. How do you define a divine call? In what ways has your call to ministry been affirmed?

Though I didn’t recognize it at the time, I can see God’s hand and calling toward leading other women in the Word as far back as my freshman year at Auburn University (1996). I was still a toddler in Christ—just beginning to see that there is more to Christianity than the do’s and don’ts. I had been attending Campus Crusade for Christ, joined a freshman Bible study, and found myself surrounded by young women who talked about Jesus like they just had coffee with them. They didn’t just know about Jesus—they knew Jesus. They loved His Word and studied it eagerly and faithfully. Through their example and the discipleship of the upperclassmen and Cru staff, I began to learn about the how’s and the why’s of Christianity: How to study my Bible. How to pray. How to share my faith. How to live the Spirit-filled life; as well as why all these actions are so vitally important to our everyday experience of God’s power and presence.

The commands I’d heard all my life suddenly became more than a checklist. They became fuel and nourishment for my growth in Christ because someone finally took the time to train and teach me how to do these spiritual disciplines. I flourished under the Cru ministry, and it was just a few months in to my new-found growth in Christ, that God began to call me into ministry. The head RA of my 6-floor-dormitory knocked on my door one evening. She told me she had noticed I had verses pinned on my door, and was wondering if I would be willing to lead a Bible study in the dorm. She wanted to see one start up, but was not allowed to lead one herself. Out of all the hundreds of girls in that dorm, she challenged me to lead. I had no idea where to start or what to do, and I had only just begun to walk with Christ, but I can clearly see the beginning of God’s continual and specific invitation to step out and lead women in the Word.

The next year, at a Campus Crusade for Christ Christmas Conference, I committed my life to God’s purposes for my life. I didn’t yet know the specifics, but I knew that God had called me to serve Him in full-time Christian work. After graduating, I joined Cru staff, where I served in Campus Ministry for 6 years. I met my husband through the Cru ministry at the University of North Florida, and he joined staff after we married. I continued to serve on campus through evangelism and discipleship, even as our family grew. I absolutely loved campus ministry and the ability to pour into students (just as others had done for me) during such a key time of their lives.

In 2008, we left staff with Cru for my husband, Chris, to begin seminary and church ministry. We both loved our time with Cru, but it was becoming more and more evident that Chris was called to and built for pastoral ministry within the local church. My call to disciple and teach has been a natural fit alongside Chris, and I have continued to use my gifts and fulfill my calling through the local churches that God has called our family.

Additionally, for the past 8 years, I have led thousands of women through various online opportunities. What started out as a simple Bible study blog has bloomed into a very unlikely publishing career and speaking/teaching ministry, both of which I never originally set out to achieve. God continues to draw me out and into spheres of influence I never dreamed of. This call to pour my life into the lives of women—both locally and globally—is continually affirmed through both the fulfillment and joy I receive through the use of my gifts, as well as the fruit and opportunities God continues to bring my way. My husband and I are in continual evaluation of how I spend my time and to how my calling to minister outside of the home coincides with my call as a wife, mother, and the pastor’s wife. 

We all have divine callings, spelled out clearly in Scripture. I like to call them our “Big C” callings. The call to work toward the fulfillment of the Great Commission, the call to be a vital part of the local church, the call to worship and honor God with our time, talents, and resources, etc. But we each also have individual “little c” callings. These are the specific and unique purposes God has for each individual. These are also divine callings and can be for seasons or a lifetime. They often morph over time as our capacities change and they lead to both internal and external fruit. I often walk into a mid-week Bible study exhausted, yet leave rejuvenated by the life-giving obedience to God’s call on my life to teach and disciple women. 


I’d love to hear about your conversion and calling! Even if you don’t leave a comment below, I encourage you to take some time to look back and reflect on God’s call on your life—both into the rest of His salvation and the work of His specific purposes for your life.

I am the worst at unpacking my suitcase. Mine still lays at the foot of my bed from this weekend’s trip (it’s now late Wednesday), waiting to be emptied and put away in the closet. I don’t know exactly why I resist this small task. It will feel so great when it is done.

There are many little projects lying around the house that I choose to ignore. A few lingering boxes from our move, papers that need filing, drawers and closets that already need purging (sigh). And whenever I decide to get tackle them, I will be so glad that I did (finally!)

Yet I resist.

There are other areas that I could get lost in for hours. I love working in the yard. I’ve started two small succulent gardens in some abandoned window boxes left from the previous owners. I’ve learned how to propagate teeny tiny babies from different parts of a succulent that has become too big for its britches. I’m continually rearranging and repotting the plants on the porch, as well as digging up perennials to divide them and plant them elsewhere in the backyard landscape. Much of this is hard, sweaty work, but that doesn’t bother me. I love working in my yard because I love the end result. (I think I also love it because it gives me some alone time where my brain doesn’t have to think about anything. “Cause no one else is lining up to dig up plants with me!)

But I know that I will also love having a tidy house. Unfortunately, I do not possess the same drive to get it done.

I still resist making my bed. For a long time, I just didn’t do it. It felt like such a waste of time, to only come back a few hours later and mess up all the work I put into making the bed nice. (You can see my same problem with laundry. It is a never ending task.)

It’s like I’m in rebellion deep-down somewhere. There is a part of me that likes exercising the right to say to the suitcase, the pile of laundry, or the pile of papers, “Nope. Not going to do it because you can’t tell me what to do.”

I think I might benefit from some therapy. (At least I’m not verbalizing these thoughts out loud to the suitcase.)

I’ve been trying very hard the past several months to rest. To keep my schedule from becoming too full, too quickly, and I’ve done a fairly good job at doing so. I’ve napped a lot, read a lot, and spent many slow mornings enjoying coffee, Bible study, and prayer time for several hours. After an insane few months of moving and traveling, It’s been a season of R&R. However, there is a fine line between keeping things purposefully slow and simply being lazy. I don’t always know when I’ve crossed that line.

This isn’t a post where I am going to wrap everything up with a pretty bow and tell you I’ve figured out the secret to unpacking your suitcase in ten easy steps. You can leave all the comments you want about what works for you, but nothing will change until I make the choice to change.

But I wonder how many other, more important areas of life come down to the same thing: choice. The choice to do the things we don’t really feel like doing, because we know it is what is best in the long run. The choice to prioritize our walk with God. The choice to change our bad eating habits. The choice to get physically fit and stay there. The choice to prioritize people over things.

The list goes on. But I wonder how many of us are in rebellion to one or many of these areas, because we are holding on to some sort of warped sense of authority over those areas, to avoid feeling guilty every time we bump into them.

So much of my life has been spent leaving. Leaving California for Auburn. Leaving Auburn for Jacksonville. Leaving Medical Technology for full-time ministry. Leaving Cru to go into church ministry. Leaving Florida youth ministry for a full-time Kentucky pastorate. Leaving Harrodsburg to move back home to Florida.

In some ways, leaving is easier each time because you’ve experienced God’s provision during the previous move. Yet, inevitably it just all catches up to you. The goodbyes. The loss. Even the little things you miss out on simply because you are no longer there.

And there are always regrets. People you miss. Choices you wish you made differently. Time wasted that you long to redeem.

Yet with each move and new city, with each new relationship and assignment, there is grace. We receive an opportunity to learn from the past and start fresh.

Leaving naturally leads to looking back. And a backward glance allows you to see the providing hand of God in ways that are simply hard to see when you are in the throws of the moment. And as I look back on the dreams that I had for my life, the visions of what life would be—and who it would be with—is so much different and so much smaller than what God has had planned for my life.

So, yes. Leaving has been a big part of my life. And instead of focusing on the pain and tears leaving has caused, I choose to believe wholeheartedly that leaving—again and again and again—has been His call, His plan, His desire for me. I choose to focus more on what I’ve gained from each experience instead of what I’ve lost.

And as I stand here today so very tired of leaving—still counting the loss, still morning, still waiting for the emotional space and energy needed to make new relationships in our new place—I’m grateful. I’m grateful for every assignment. Grateful for every friend. Grateful for every goodbye. Grateful for the promise that even if God calls me to leave again, He will never leave me.