I’ve been mulling this post over in mind for a few weeks. I’m finding that as I contemplate about the future, I also have this strong desire to look back and see where the Lord has led me. It’s so evident that his hand has been on my life. Especially, the last year and a half. I had no clue the growth that would take place in my life over the last year, but God has been faithful. I didn’t learn all these lessons at once. Just like layers, God has been removing things from my heart that shouldn’t be there and replacing them with His truth. Most of these lessons I knew in theory, but they were head knowledge, not heart knowledge. I’m finding the best lessons are learned through life experience and often by walking down hard roads. The good news is that the hard roads lead to great places.
A year and a half ago, I was bitter and displeased. I had this restlessness and a desire for more. I wanted everything I didn’t need and it made me unhappy because the things I wanted weren’t panning out. I’m so thankful for the intervention I received because I see now what a slippery slope I was on. My friend and mentor, Pastor Vicki Judd, gave me a book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I know I’ve written about this book many times here and you all are probably sick of how much I love this book. However, it’s impossible not to be grateful for the life change this book brought in my life. It took me back to seeing the small things. It brought me to a place of thankfulness, gratitude and contentment. I was so discontent in this season and this book was like medicine that I desperately needed. As a result of this book, I have kept extensive gratitude journals. When I’m tempted to let myself go down that road of discontentment, I am reminded of all the blessings the Lord daily pours into my life. Simple things like having dishes to unload from a dishwasher or having a bed to make or having friends to pray with or a family who loves me comes back to the forefront of my mind and puts me at ease.
At our annual church ladies retreat in April of 2012, we did some assessments to show us our spiritual gifts and our natural personality bents. The purpose to was empower women to serve where they love and to embrace the way God made them. As an introvert in ministry, I’ve always felt a bit misunderstood, so this was a great exercise to explain to people who I am and how I function. The spiritual gifts assessment really did confirm my love for teaching and investing in people. If I’m doing these things in some capacity, I am doing what God made me to do. The exercise that I was deeply impacted by was when our leader gave us a list with hundreds of words on it. I love words and so the act of cutting down this list into seven core words was quite the challenge for me. However, it was worth the effort and I can see myself in my seven words – acceptance, compassion, courage, encouragement, integrity, joy and vision. I have these words, as well as my spiritual gifts, as the desktop of my laptop (for about a year now). When I pull my computer up, it’s a reminder. Interesting situation, lately I’ve read a book called The Synergist and one of the categories of leaders in this book is a Visionary. According the books standards, I am not a visionary. However, when it comes to my personal life and my ministry, I value vision. I value having a direction and seeking the Lord for what he is doing. I don’t get swayed very often from my vision – once it’s set, I am working for the goal. I was feeling kind of a poor about my lack of being a visionary after recently reading this book and re-looking at my lists has just reminded me that I have vision where it counts in my life. That makes me happy.
After this assessment, I felt pretty good about the journey the Lord has taken me on. I was just brimming with excitement for the “big” things I thought God was preparing me for. Oh my, I didn’t realize the next lesson was going to be so hard. After totally affirming who I am, God taught me humility. Humility was hard and painful. I learned that I have a lot of pride. I have a lot of big thoughts and big dreams and instead of looking at what was right in front of me, I was always looking to what was next, what I wanted to see happen. Humility taught me a lot about letting go. I learned that I can’t make doors open and I learned that some things aren’t meant to be, at least not in my timing. I had to let go of my expectations for myself. I had to let go of how I taught I was being perceived and just trust God. No more struggling to have my own way. Humility taught me a lot about acceptance. If I was doing what God called me do, it didn’t matter what people thought or what I thought about myself. Humility was the hardest lesson to learn because I learned it by hitting a brick wall. But God was good and he walked me through that season and I am grateful for the change that came in my life.
So now I look forward to a new season. I look forward to raising a family and entering into a different time of ministry. I can see how the Lord has prepared me over this last year to be at this point. I have learned that only person I really need to accept me is God. Even at this year’s ladies retreat, I was reminded that I only need to be defined by God. My life is more than titles and roles. I am more than what I can offer people. I’ve learned the joy of contentment. I have learned that going lower isn’t a horrible punishment. With humility comes freedom. I am free in a lot ways that I never have been. True, it’s easy to pick up those old ways of doing things and those old mindsets, but I am fighting to keep these lessons alive within me. They were worth the time and tears. I’m positive they have set me up for this next season and that they will be a source of strength in my future. God has been faithful to teach me these lessons in layers. Each one adds new depth to my life. I can only imagine what will be next. What an exciting journey!