Tuesday, May 03, 2016

Learning to be Wild and Free

It's been exactly two years since I first heard Jess Connolly speak about being wild and free.  I remember taking all the notes and then going home to read and re-read John 10:10.
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (NIV)."
"...I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way (NIRV)."
To be fully alive?  I wanted that!  But to enter into that kind of living, I needed to give myself permission to be fully who God made me to be. For myself, this means being creative, even when it doesn't bring me an extra income or a massive internet following.  It may not lead to a great career, but it brings me joy. It makes me come alive.

And I wonder if that is how we bring the light of Jesus into the world- by being fully alive.
"My counsel for you is simple and straightforward: Just go ahead with what you’ve been given. You received Christ Jesus, the Master; now live him. You’re deeply rooted in him. You’re well constructed upon him. You know your way around the faith. Now do what you’ve been taught. School’s out; quit studying the subject and start living it! And let your living spill over into thanksgiving (MSG)."  -Colossians 2.6-7
On May 1, 2014, God used Jess Connolly to begin a spiritual work in me.  I return to that entry in my journal often, because the sweet truths unlocked my jail cell of a life living according to others' opinions.  That message empowers me, daily, to connect with Jesus in my own unique way.

Now, Jess, and her friend and Influence Network co-founder, Hayley Morgan, are sharing this song of freedom to everyone in their book, Wild and Free: A Hope-Filled Anthem for the Woman Who Feels She is Both Too Much and Never Enough. The title alone makes my heart leap! I joined the launch team and read the pages early, so I could selfishly renew what stirred in me two years ago.

Because for us to invite others to this freedom march, we have to believe it deeply ourselves.  We have to experience the goodness of God and how He sees us.
"And when you've tasted freedom? When you've walked away from defensive living, you can say good-bye to the heaviness of other's expectations. You can walk without crippling insecurity.  You can live with your imperfect self, knowing that you're covered in Christ (Morgan, chapter 12)."
Recently, I blogged about "Being Okay With Who I Am."  Settling our identity in Christ is what this book is similarly about.  While being "wild," is most likely not a term that we would classify as an acceptable female or Christian adjective, Jess and Hayley seek to redefine it as "unhindered by cultured norms (Connolly, chapter 9)." We have to stop looking around so much and comparing ourselves to others. We have to stop letting others determine how we should look or act or feel. Doesn't the Word tell us to "not conform to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2)?" 

We can be wild when we fix our eyes on Jesus and what He thinks of us.  He knows what we're made of, and He loves us. Period.  Right from the start, our Creator said that we were "good (Genesis 1:31)." In all of our different shapes, personalities, talents, circumstances, pasts, and even in our sins or weaknesses- we are unconditionally loved and accepted by our God.  Remember that "if Christ is in you...You're as loved by God as you'll ever be (Connolly, chapter 7)."

We aren't too much.  We don't need to be more or do more.
That's grace. And that's freedom. All we have to do is walk in these truths and live it out.

I strongly recommend that you read Jess and Hayley's new book. For yourself.  For your girlfriends. For your moms and your sisters.
You can order online or at most major bookstores (Amazon, Lifeway, Barnes and Noble, Christianbook, Books a Million, Faith Gateway).

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Remember me?

have this weird quirk. Whenever I run into an acquaintance, I re-introduce myself.  I have possibly been around this person once or twice before, but I do it anyway. Often. 

My greeting sounds something like, "Hey!  I'm Dani. Brody's mom?  They go to school together."  No matter how many times I meet familiar faces, I feel the necessity to overcome the chance of awkwardness by just blurting out my bio, "I have three kids. I'm a stay-at-home mom..."

As if expecting to be easily forgettable, I hurry to establish our connection before they have to ask me to remind them. Quite honestly, I draw a blank too sometimes, so I don't want anyone to feel badly for forgetting who I am. Let's just call this a helpful quirk.

But I would rather just be recognized.  Wouldn't you? It would save me some anxiety.I truly want to be known and be in relationship with others, so it's validating when someone calls me by my name without any prompting. And I would guess that I'm not the only one who feels relief when she sees a friend in a crowd of strange name tags.  

But there were whole seasons in life when I actually felt more anonymous than known. Moving to a new place is like that.  Beginning a new job or a new school can be both exciting and scary endeavors, because we are essentially starting over as a nobody.  Becoming a mom was one of those nameless eras too. While my husband excelled in his career and my friends enjoyed years of travel during their single or newlywed status, I was home figuring out how to manage things and take care of a baby- relatively alone.

It was a time of identity crisis and hiding for me.  I hardly knew how to hold a conversation back then.  Because after all, who was I? What did I do? I didn't think that I had anything interesting to contribute to a social gathering.

But the mom season has also been a time of growing up and leaning in.  God re-shaped my purpose and vision when I was incognito.  He showed me my importance, apart from blazing achievements (or lack thereof).

During a visit with a friend last week, we were talking around this topic of being known and knowing who we are.  It was fascinating how our experiences and uncovered truths sparked off of each other.  Towards the end of this spontaneous dialogue, we found a verse that jumped off the screen of my friend's poor, crackled-faced smart phone:
"Family of Jacob, The Lord created you.  People of Israel, He formed you.  He says, 'Do not be afraid.  I will set you free.  I will send for you by name.  You belong to me (Isaiah 43:1, NIRV).'"
Other versions say: "I have called you by name." 

These recently discovered words make me imagine a parent calling the kids home for dinner.  Because they belong to that family.  Because they were given names, carefully chosen and picked out before they were born. Their names set them apart from the other kids playing football in the field.  When children hear their names called, they are aware of their place in the world.  They are wanted, and they are known by their name.

To realize that the Creator knows MY name, and uses it to call me, is such a big deal.  Because I have often needed to be reminded that I am not actually alone or forgotten or unknown. How I feel or how others make me feel, in any given season, doesn't brand me. GOD sees me!  HE knows my name!  

There is such security in knowing that I never have to open my prayers with, "Hello, God. Remember me?"

Thank goodness, too!  Because I'm probably going to keep sticking out my hand and re-introducing myself to the rest of you. Just in case.  

And that's one less awkward exchange ;-)
"I'm amazed at how well you know me.  It's more than I can understand (Psalm 139.6, NIRV)."

"Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity.  All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely (1 Corinthians 13.12, NLT)."