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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.

My blogging journey began on May 4, 2010, four days shy of my third-born’s 1 month milestone. I sat excitedly in front of the computer screen with baby Michael peacefully napping in my lap and I began to write. I had no idea what I was doing (nor the can I was opening,) yet even in my cluelessness I became a writer that hot Florida day. In the small step of starting something I began my journey towards a dream I didn’t even know existed.

I quickly found that I immensely enjoyed and desperately desired the processing that came with getting my words on a screen. There was much to learn (and still more) on the mechanics of writing, but communicating my thoughts, heart, and lessons learned became a natural and needed outlet. The outlet of blogging soon became more than just a hobby. It became a ministry, a job, and eventually an avenue to traditional publishing.

Five years later (having just submitted over 75,000 Bible study manuscript words) I sit in front of the screen a bit word-dry (as my friend Stacey calls it) and again unsure of exactly what to write and what looms around the corner. My sweet Michael no longer fits in my lap for a peaceful nap, out my window is the lush and rolling bluegrass hills of Kentucky instead of the flat palm tree laden sands of Florida, but this I do know: I’m called to be here, in front of this screen.

I still dream of being influential (and admitting this dream still scares me). Though I know see that influence isn’t just for a few. God has given us each our own platform — whether big or small — to steward for His glory. There are loads of big ideas in this head of mine for all I might attempt in my little corner of the web, yet I quickly get overwhelmed with the details and dedication needed to make it all happen. But tonight I’m reminded that I don’t need to conquer the world in an hour (nor is it mine to try). I simply need to start small and follow God’s lead as I did five years ago.

And so, I’ll quietly write one blog post and see where He takes me next.

I published a post yesterday, over at Inspired to Action, about my struggle with self-condemnation. I shared a story of how I yelled at my kids and sent them all to bed early because mommy just couldn’t do the rest of the evening.

Turns out, I am not alone in my struggle with anger—or self-condemnation.

On one hand, it is freeing—to know I am not alone in my struggle. I have found the more I write about my journey—whether it be my struggle with staying at home, my related journey through depression, or fighting perfectionism—the more I find other women fighting through the same issues.

My heart cries out for all of these women floating around and feeling alone in their struggle. So many women are confused and feeling defeated. Christian women. Ladies who have the promise of abundant living in Christ.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I started writing because I found myself lonely and isolated. I needed encouragement and accountability, and I found that through blogging. God had a much bigger plan for my time online, and it is exciting to follow where He leads.

There is just something about the online community that I love! Yet, it bothers me that so many women are struggling with finding community at home, in their own churches. Thousands of women are flocking to blogging as an outlet, because many of us feel isolated and unable to connect with women “in real life.” Even more are not writing, but reading as their primary means of encouragement, and commenting as the only way to connect with other women.

Maybe it is easier to open up to a computer screen. It doesn’t make faces at you, or show disappointment or disapproval. It won’t act differently the next time you see it. It is steady, always there, regardless of what comes out. And, we can control better what it is that “comes out”.

I get it.

The Search for Authenticity

I think the comment I hear most often, after opening up my heart, is thanks for being honest and how refreshing that is to them.

Authenticity brings refreshment to others. 

I’ve seen this over and over. Through Bible studies I’ve lead—”in real life”— to posts where I share my heart. We are all longing to see others who have let go of the pretenses, and let down their walls of who they want people to think they are, and share the thing we are all thinking inside of our heads but are too afraid to say it.

This is hard. And scary. But ladies, I think this is what we are called to—as writers and as Christians—to be authentic. To be who we really are and to open up our lives to others and let them see our hearts.

And don’t let it stop online, do the same in real life.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15 ESV)

I long to abide—to stay in deep fellowship with my God.

The thought of  holding on for a lifetime is wearying, but there is great, sustaining grace!

I teeter between devotion that fuels me forward for a while, followed by despair that my efforts didn’t take me further.

Do my best.

The trap of comparison strangles. If I spend too much time thinking I should be this or that—or her—I become paralyzed with all I am not.

I don’t need to be a full-time missionary, have gone to seminary, or homeschool my kids to be approved.

I am only to do my best. Right here. Right now.

God doesn’t expect me to be something I am not called to be. He only wants me to do my best—not someone else’s best—right where He has placed me.

Present myself to God.

What great and glorious grace I have been given! Thousands upon thousands of mercies He has extended me.

Oh, how I want to give all of me to thank Him!

And so, dear brothers and sisters,  I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice – the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. (Romans 12:1 NLT)

Every day—every moment—is an offering to Him.

Rightly handle the Word.

His Word is living. His Word is active. My bread and water for each day—an abundant source of life.

Read it. Study it. Know it.

Meditate on it.

These are the prerequisites to handling it rightly.

The longing for approval.

I long for approval—to hear those words: “Well done.”

So, I will do my best right where He has called me. I will live each moment as an offering of thanks.  I will strive to know and understand His Word which will guide the way forward.

I will be approved.

Abide. Remain. Do not depart. This is what we have been charged with. The Christian life is all about holding on and staying connected to the source of all we need.

I long to be tied to the dock—for a lifetime. Not just today, tomorrow, or next week, but to the end.

Honestly? The thought of holding tightly for a lifetime is wearying.

What it takes to cling to Christ

Grace.

Hard work.

Grace.

Hard work.

Grace.

Grace.

Grace.

I cannot hold on—I will not hold on—without His hands surrounding mine.

When my little ones are learning to swing, I cover their little hands and grip the chain. When they let go they don’t fall because my hands are surrounding theirs. I am holding on for them.

So it is with grace.

Grace is His big, strong hands covering mine. Gently yet firmly grasping the rope with my hands safely sandwiched between.

My soul clings to you;

Your right hand upholds me.

(Psalm 63:8 ESV)

I grew up on the water. I learned to water-ski when I was four. My dad was still skiing in his sixties! As a kid, I loved to sit at the front of the boat, hands gripped to the sides, my nose stretched out far enough to just beat the front of the boat.

I learned young how to protect Daddy’s boat. Boats are not like cars, which stay put when you turn them off. When you are in the water, the boat is always moving. Even when it feels still, if you aren’t tied to the deck the boat will float away—even in the smoothest of waters.

The Bible is clear that there are two paths. I am following Jesus, or I am not. I am living the Spirit-filled life or I am being influenced by something else. I am allowing God to permeate and affect every area of my life, or I am holding the control in my own hands. There is no in-between in the Kingdom of God.

I am tied to the deck, or I am drifting away.

Even if it is just because I fell asleep and let go of the rope; without intentionality I drift.

The Anchored Life

We can learn much from the blessed man of Psalm 1.

  • He walked intentionally.

The blessed man is intentional to not just run away from God, but pays attention to where he is walking, standing and sitting. 

  • He treasured the Word.

The written word of God brought this man delight.

It is a pleasure to get a pedicure. I love getting to sleep in. My two-raw-sugar-no-foam-with-whip-latte is a treat. A facial? Yes, please! These are all things that being me physical pleasure. Though, I must ask myself: Do I delight in God as much as these?

  • He was well-watered.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)

‘nough said.

  • His way was known.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me (John 10:14 ESV)

What a confidence in life, to know that I am known and still loved. Why would I ever want to let go of the only One who knows all there is to know about me—yet still pursues me?

 

Blessed is the woman who is tied to the deck.

 

I struggle through the funk of depression, and ride the wave of figuring out what works for us; press past the pursuit of the ideal, to find the realistic.

It’s hard to make these decisions. Endure the thoughts and judgements of others; worry that I’ve lost respect.

There are a few things that I hold to, through this bumpy time. Tangible facts I can tether my feelings to, and drown out the voices of disapproval—including my own. Markers which give me confidence that the Lord had led us here for a time, even thought the “right way” wasn’t always clear.

I am within Biblical boundaries. I am not walking in a pattern of sin by working outside of the home, or not homeschooling. There are no direct commands that I am disobeying. I am above reproach.

My husband is with me in the decision. He was the one who first suggested I go and look for a job. He has been in agreement with all the changes we’ve made, and he still supports them. We’re in this change together.

I’m walking with the Lord. I’m in the Word. I am listening to His Spirit the best I can. He is near. I am experiencing His grace, and the good news of the gospel more and more every day. I am safe in His presence.

My motives are right. I am not setting out to climb any ladders, or find my significance in my performance at work. I am not working so we can be more comfortable financially. I work to see if this depression will keep at bay.

My soul is getting better. Through having a new routine and a few days in my week that I can control and produce results, a part of my soul, which for years has been suppressed and told to hush, is now allowed to show herself. Perform. Keep things nice and organized—without anyone there to mess it up. And when I head home to the mess and chaos, the organized, non-flexible part of me can rest, and know that she will get her time again in a few days.

Many of you have been kind enough to share your own struggle with me, and I thank you. It has been a gift, to be embraced in my struggle and not criticized. My prayer for us all is that we can walk with the Lord, and then walk in confidence to where He leads each of us.

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Write It, Girl

This is our last week of Write It, Girl. What a journey! Thank you for joining Stacey and me.

We have another treat for you, this week from the fabulous Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky.

“When was the moment you first believed you were a writer?”

When was the moment I first believed I am a writer? oh wow. Why is that so hard to answer? I think because even now, after having written a blog for six years and two books for a publisher, calling myself a writer still makes me feel a little school-girl silly. It’s because I so greatly respect the title. It’s because I so love the title. It’s because I’m a little shy of the title. I think I began to know it for sure when I stopped writing after my husband and I were married ten years ago. And for those few years, I felt a little lost. When I started Chatting at the Sky in 2006, my soul began untangling and it was then that I knew, oh. I feel more myself now. Maybe I’m a writer.

Funny how writing was the thing that convinced me I’m a writer. Maybe it’s that way with everyone?

Emily is bringing back Tuesdays Unwrapped for the month of December. Check it out!

Link up below! Anyone is welcome, just be sure to link up to your own Write It, Girl post (not your homepage), and comment on at least the post before yours in the link-up. Of course, we would love it if you use the button so we can find each other!

Write It Girl

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Today we have a special treat!  Lisa-Jo who blogs over at the The Gypsy Mama is sharing with us about how she has become able to call herself a writer.

Enjoy!

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I never thought I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to be a human rights lawyer. And then one day at the end of a conference the only female presenter in a sea of men asked me if I had kids. She kept hearing from others that she couldn’t manage kids with the cross-continental work she was doing. And surrounded by people who wanted to talk to her about human rights I got to encourage her about how I balance the calling of motherhood with my other work.

That night I emailed my friend Holley Gerth:

So, I have been thinking about you today because I am at a conference discussing some groundbreaking work to bring justice to the poor and afflicted. For many years that is the kind of work I have been involved in also. But, I have consistently felt this call on my heart to speak into the lives of women. Young mothers and wives who feel that what they do isn’t important.

I don’t know many who would consider that a needy population group. But I sure do. I am them.

So, I blog. I write my heart out to this beautiful audience who need to be encouraged as I wish someone had done for me. Because young mothers and struggling women have great needs too. And while it’s not my job, it is my delight to be used by God to be part of the plan for meeting them.

That was three years ago this New Year and the first time I truly believed I was a writer. Being able to encourage women at The Gypsy Mama and share the good, the bad, the sacred, and the beautiful about motherhood -it’s been the most fulfilling writing experience of my life.

               
Thank you, Lisa Jo, for sharing your heart with us! 

If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Lisa Jo’s writing prompt, Five Minute Friday.

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Write It, Girl!

The time has come! Link up your posts below.

Stacey and I are overwhelmed by the response to this fun little linky. I am sad that I have been unable to respond to each of your posts, but know that I am reading them and enjoying every minute of it!

I found my first big calling in college. As a student involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, I grew tremendously in my walk with God, and quickly began serving alongside the staff at Auburn University, to help disciple women and bring the gospel to the lost on campus.

I loved it.

After my time at Auburn, I moved to Jacksonville, and quickly got involved in the Crusade ministry there. I was handed the women’s ministry and dove head first into leading Bible studies, one-on-one discipleship, and outreach opportunities on campus.

I loved it.

Then I came on staff full-time to continue this ministry. I poured my life into my disciples. I shared my faith regularly. I got to continually impart the truths of scripture.

I loved it.

Through my ten years of ministry with Cru, I found my calling and what God has built me for.

I am called to passionately teach the Word of God. I am to train and equip the saints to walk with God for a lifetime. 

And then I became a mother and I was given a new calling. A calling to be their mom.

Motherhood is a high calling. It is a privilege. God has entrusted me with the lives of these precious souls, and it is not a role I take lightly.

Although, in recent months, I have been wrestling with a question I just can’t shake:

Is the calling of motherhood the only one I can have, and still be a good mom? 

…and…

Can pursuing both callings actually make me a better mother?

I love my kids, and I am so incredibly grateful to the Lord for them. They are truly gifts. Yet, I feel as if I lost a part of myself when I became a mom.

(Photo taken by my sweet 3-year-old!)

Recently I have taken steps toward fulfilling that first calling I heard from the Lord, I am slowly seeing a part of me come to life again.

This isn’t the post where I tie it all up in a nice bow, this is just where I am at and what I am wrestling with.

I wonder if you might be struggling with your calling as well? How do you balance this great calling to motherhood with the calling toward ministry which takes time and energy away from your family? 

Linking up with Write it, Girl!

Since I am on this journey to just write, and to share my life with you in a more deep and honest way, I’ve been going back to those 10 unpublished posts I mentioned—the posts I have been afraid to post. I published one of them last week, and all I have to say is WOW.

The response to it has been incredibly humbling and enabling at the same time. Thank you for your gracious words and encouragement. It does a weary momma’s heart good.

This one has been sitting in my draft box for seven months, yet the reality of the struggle is near.

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Its been a hard day.

I find myself bawling on the way home from the Doctor’s office. There is something about that place that brings out the worst in my kids. I knew I shouldn’t have gone with all three—it is a recipe for disaster.

And a disaster it was.

Spent, tears well up as soon as I leave the building. Frustration. Anger. Embarrassment. Shame.

I’m not ashamed of my kids, but of me; of how I feel about my kids at that moment, and how I just want out. Out of this motherhood thing.

I can’t do this.

This is the only thought I can manage.  I can’t do this. I CAN’T do this. I CAN’T DO THIS.

This being a momma; it is too hard. The screaming. The whining. The fighting. The dishes. The laundry. The interruptions.

Its all too hard.

As much as I want to run home, put Max and Ruby on for the kids, and collapse into my bed, I can’t. Antihistamines and antibiotics have to be dolled out, and there’s a line. I pull the car into a dusty, empty lot, and cry.

Kenneth asks why I am crying. I squeak out some words through my sobbing, “I can’t do this. I can’t be a good mommy…I am trying so hard, but I just can’t do it. We need to pray for mommy…I can’t be a good mommy with out God.”

He says he can’t be good either; he needs God, too.

We get through the car line at CVS and head home. I can’t help it, I am still crying. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Defeated.

Kenneth says “Mommy, will you pull over? I want to do something.” Bewildered, I pull over. This five-year-old gets out of his buckles, steps over the molding sippy-cups. and ground-in Cheez-its, down the aisle of my blue mini-van and hugs me. With all his little might he hugs me.

I sob. I can’t stop. I am a complete mess.

I am not even sure where to go from here. I know what is true. I know I’ll get through this. I know I need Jesus.

But in these overwhelming moments, which come all too often, it is incredibly hard to preach the truth. My mind will listen, but my soul ignores.

Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
(Psalm 143:7-8 ESV)

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Every Monday in November we are sharing our hearts. Letting go of what hinders us in our writing, and linking our words with others. No criticism, no grammar-police, just encouragement. All we ask is that you do some blog-hopping and at least comment on the post before you. (And, it’s always nice to see the Write It, Girl button!)