Video Update! Free and Almost Free Stuff

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Welcome to my first ever vlog- video blog! Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Fake It ‘Till You Make It

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tshirtIs hope dispenser an appropriate descriptor for a resume?

When I was a young counselor working in the addictions field, some of my favorite work was encouraging the parents of teenagers who were struggling with substance abuse problems. These parents were understandably terrified. In many cases, they had no idea how deeply ensconced their child was in the use of drugs and alcohol until the situation blew up and they landed in my office. They were drowning in guilt, anger, confusion and overwhelming fear.

Over a period of weeks, months and sometimes years, my job was to ask these parents to show up, trust the process and expect a miracle. In the early days of their child’s recovery, their family’s life seemingly blown up beyond recognition, hope was a herculean leap of faith. I asked them to trust me and let me carry the hope until they could grab onto it for themselves. In many cases, I invited them to act like they believed in the process until they actually did. I asked them to grab hold of the 12th step advice to “fake it till you make it.” They were some of the bravest people I’ve ever known.

When I was pregnant with my oldest, a group of these parents with whom I had walked the road of recovery threw me a surprise baby shower. My favorite gift was a giant purple t-shirt with the words “Expect a Miracle” emblazoned in big white letters. Continue reading

An Unexpected Party!

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9781938499913-jpgIn the Johnson household, we are crazy about all things Tolkien. Yes, we did indeed read all the books. Yes, we do love all the LOTR movies. No, it is best not to ask our more vocal Tolkien fans about the Hobbit movies. My big strong hubby nearly cried when we finally visited The Eagle and Child, a lifelong dream for him. Google it, if you don’t know what it is. 

Today’s guest post is from my friend Jill Richardson, a fellow Tolkien lover and Jesus follower. I met her last year at Jen Hatmaker’s house and have been a huge fan ever since. After I met her, I found out she wrote a book called Hobbits, You and the Spiritual World. I, of course, ordered it immediately. I invited her back today because she is re-launching her book this week and I LOVE THIS BOOK! I’ll let Jill tell you more below, but be sure to join the party on Facebook to get all the details.

An Unexpected Party!  by Jill Richardson

Three years ago, I wrote a book about hobbits. And elves. And dwarves. And some pretty kick-butt women as well. Mostly, about God. It was designed as a devotional for teens, but a lot of adults have loved it, too. Here’s the back cover copy:

“Hobbits, elves, and dragons have become common fantasy characters but do they have more relevance to your life than you think? Are they as real as, or the same as, people you meet every day? Maybe not literally, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous characters bring to life real character qualities we all can learn from, whether good or bad. What can the bravery of a hobbit, the faith of a elf, or the greed of a dragon teach teens about themselves? How can their stories lead us to the real Kingdom where God is working out way more than a fantasy for his people? Dig in to these familiar characters and relevant Bible passages to find out. Come out understanding how to live your own epic story!”

I love Tolkien, and I love teens/young adults, and I LOVE connecting the next generation to faith. It’s been a journey — an adventure, one might say! — that I can’t wait to continue.

I am having a party over on Facebook, and I would love it if you could join me. Come to the party, enter contests, win prizes, have fun, see weird photos, get recipes for hobbit food. What else could anyone want? #hobbitdevo.

  1. Why The Hobbit? What sparked your interest in Tolkien?

Hah. Years ago,my brother tried to get me to read the books. He said they were the greatest things ever. I tried first with The Silmarillion and said, “Yeah, right. Don’t think so.” Can you think of a better way to bore a fifteenish-year-old girl? Fast forward to years later when my husband started to read them to our girls when they were elementary school aged. I listened, saw the first movie, then picked the books up myself and devoured them. There is something magic about Tolkien’s skill mixed with real, unforgettable, and deep characters, and a story of epic good and evil fought by everyday heroes. Who else would get away with such unlikely heroes? He manages to show both the greatness and depth of evil in humankind in this small world of his.

  1. Why would teenagers want to read this book?

It might seem that fictional fantasy characters don’t have much in common with real teenagers. But that is so not true. They feel inadequate, afraid, angry, proud, exhausted, hopeful—all the things we all feel. Teens are looking for their adventure in life—how do they fit in this world and what is their task? In Tolkien’s world, it’s all about tasks and unique callings; it’s about normal, average people finding their place and doing great things. How do they do it? Continue reading

Intention Without Expectation

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embrace-intention-without-expectationI have been failing at September for years.

The word failing is likely a bit dramatic, but I find myself returning annually to a familiar pattern. Each year, as September rolls around once again and the lazy days of summer are left behind, I vow to “get organized” and tame my little corner of the world. I have specific expectations about what this renewed level of organization will look like and the feelings of accomplishment it will produce. And every year, I am reminded once again that I am easily distracted and must exercise patience with myself as I settle into the rhythms of fall. Sigh…

I read a phrase the other day that piqued my curiosity. I have found myself continuing to ponder these words, which often translates into me thinking about them out loud here with you. I am beginning to suspect there might be September treasures within these words for all of us.

Embrace intention without expectation.

  • Intention is a determination to act in a certain way. Intention is an aim or a plan.
  • Expectation is a belief something specific will happen. Expectation is a feeling or conclusion about how successful or good someone or something will be.

Clearly, intentions must be translated into action in order for us to achieve our goals. Intentions alone are not enough. Scheduling my time, making lists, and setting goals are all part of moving in the direction of my dreams.

But what about expectations?

I think the difference between intention and expectation boils down to what I can control and how attached I am to a specific outcome. I can engage the world in a number of specific ways, but I can’t always control the outcome.

Intention is about the process and the unfolding. Expectation is about my attachment to particular results.

I can schedule time with God, time with family and friends, and time to write. I can show up in prayer, relationships and on the page, but what happens when I get there may not be exactly what I expected or even what I hoped. I can make better choices about what I eat and how much exercise I get, but can’t guarantee my body will always cooperate in the way I want. I can work hard to grow my business, build my platform, or raise money for my favorite cause, but the rest of the world might not see the value I see and cooperate in the ways I would prefer.

In the 12 Step program, we often recite the Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

In between our intention and the potential fulfillment of our expectations, we have choices to make. Where do I expend my time, my resources, my passion, and my influence? What is a good use of my mental, emotional and spiritual energy and what is a waste of my time? What is my job and what is better left in the more capable hands of God?

I am beginning to find freedom in letting go of the death grip I have on my expectations.

Part of my struggle with expectations is the tendency to get bogged down by too much evaluation.

  • Is this working?
  • Am I doing a good job?
  • Are others pleased?
  • Is everybody happy?
  • Am I happy?
  • Is this the right way to go?

Is this moment living up to their/ my/ our expectations?

Perhaps instead, there is beauty in simply showing up, doing the next right thing and allowing it to be enough, regardless of the outcome. Maybe peace is found in letting go of the need for constant judgment, living in the moment, and just doing the best we can.

What might happen if we held our expectations and agendas loosely and allow ourselves to be surprised by what unfolds when we trust God and show up bravely one day at a time?

My thoughts on this topic feel somewhat unfinished, so I’d love for you to join the conversation. What do you think about the balance between intentions and expectations?

 

 

How to Call Out the Best in Others

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tgtsept“We rise by lifting others.” ~Robert Ingersoll

“When I grow up, I want to be like Judy,” I told my friend Chris. I was lamenting my lack of progress in transforming into the perfect woman of God I had imagined. “When God is done fixing me, I want to be calm, quiet, and wise like Judy.”

As I expressed my frustration, my sweet friend listened well as always, until the steady stream of words stopped and I paused to take a breath.

“Whatever God’s perfect plans are for you, Kelly, I can’t imagine they will involve you being calm and quiet,” she said gently, her eyes twinkling as she smiled at me. “Whatever God has planned for you will be the perfect match for your loud, enthusiastic, bubbling, passionate personality. God didn’t make you calm and quiet. He made you in a different way, and I’m so glad he did. You aren’t supposed to be like her; you are meant to be you.”

I have returned to that conversation repeatedly over the years. My friend reminded me God created me with a particular Kelly-shaped blueprint. He gave me particular strengths, talents, and personality traits unlike any other of his creations. While we are each made in the image of our God, we express the variety and beauty of that image in a myriad of ways. My job is to express the “Kelly-ness” of God.

It is tempting to look around and see others who seem to have what we want. I envied my friend Judy’s quiet wisdom and thoughtful demeanor, mistakenly believing it was “holier” than my naturally more ebullient style of communicating. Yet in the years since I received Chris’s encouragement, I have seen how God has been able to use my gifts in a different way, even as I learn from her quieter example. Judy and I ended up working together, and I saw firsthand how our styles complemented each other. God used our differences to build up his people in more ways than he might have had we been more alike.

My friend gave me a precious gift the day she chose to encourage me and name me well. She saw my unique gifts, affirmed God’s work in my life, and expressed her love and affection for me–the real me, the person God made like no other.

Continue reading this devotion at The Glorious Table

Obey Scared

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Obey Scared (1)I knew deep in my heart what I needed to do next.

I had been praying for God’s direction for months. I spent time with my journal and my Bible, I talked about my struggle with trusted friends and I read everything I could get my hands on. Ideas were swirling around in my head, but the details were not yet clear. I wrestled with doubt and yearned for a guarantee of success. Before I took the first step, I wanted to know how everything would turn out.

I knew what to do, but I didn’t want to begin until all my fears were gone.

People of faith have a great excuse to stay stuck in neutral. When we are feeling nervous and unsure, we can always find a good reason to spend a little more time in prayer. After all, scripture repeatedly extols the virtues of waiting on the Lord. Psalm 27:14, among many others, reminds us of the courage sometimes found in waiting:

Wait patiently for the Lord.
 Be brave and courageous.
 Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

Yet, if we are really honest, there are times we use prayer as an excuse. More often than we would care to admit, we know exactly what we need to do next but we are hoping the lump in our throat and the butterflies in our stomach will disappear FIRST. We want guaranteed results and happy endings.

But God wants us to obey scared.

One of my favorite stories in scripture is found as the Israelites are about to enter the Promised Land after forty years of wandering in the desert. In order to enter the land of their dreams and destiny, they must first cross the raging waters of the Jordan River. Joshua 3 tells us that “it was harvest season and the Jordan was overflowing its banks.” Joshua and his people know they will need God’s help to get across the swollen river or they will drown in their attempts. Although God has every intention of stopping the river for them to cross, He tells Joshua the water won’t stop flowing until they wade into the river.

Before they saw the miracle, they had to get their feet wet.

Personally, I prefer to keep my feet dry. Raging rivers and deliverance I can’t yet see are not my cup of tea.

But I do love miracles. And, like the Israelites, I have grown weary of wandering in the desert when the Promised Land is just over the horizon.

So I am learning to obey scared. I focus on the next right thing, head in the direction of God’s voice and wade in.

Obeying scared might look like any of these: Continue reading