Head Shots and Other Grown Up Things

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Photo credit: Christy Jenkins

Please send us your head shot as soon as possible.

Having been doing the mom and volunteer thing almost exclusively for the previous twenty years, a head shot is not something that has seemed a worthwhile investment of time or money up to now. Is that a thing people have lying around?

But now, I needed a head shot. ASAP, please.

The need for a head shot at a moment’s notice seems emblematic of the level of preparedness I currently possess for the things that are happening around here.

In case you are not my FB or IRL (in real life) friend who has already heard my announcement, I recently signed a contract with Abingdon Press to publish my devotional book in February 2018! I KNOW, RIGHT??? In fact, considering you are a person who on occasion comes here to read my words, I feel bad for not having shared this news with you earlier since this would not be happening without you. This is no reflection of my love for you and I promise not to keep things from you in the future.

After 11 years of playing around with blogging, I gathered enough words, met with a couple of publishers, and now find myself with a grown-up book contract. And requests for head shots, marketing plans, video introductions, catchy quotables for memes and an author Q & A. To say that I feel a bit in over my head would be an understatement. Overwhelmed, but deeply grateful and extremely excited! God is good!

(The final manuscript is due on March 15, so I would appreciate your prayers for these next few weeks, praying friends.)

Along with the guidance I am getting from the lovely people at Abingdon Press, I also decided I need some professional help with my website. Along with writing projects and upcoming retreats, I recently started a life coaching practice that I want to tell people about here, so it is time for a major overhaul by someone who knows what they are doing.

So faithful friends, stay tuned! Things will be quiet around here for a bit, but I will be coming back with a brand new website soon. It will have buttons to click on, places to be on my mailing list and all manner of official writer, speaker, life coach things!

In the meantime, please enjoy my very grown up and professional looking head shot. This required a stylist to dress me, a hair and makeup professional to groom me, and a very patient photographer who works miracles with some kind of photo editing software. It takes a village!

Praying with our Feet: #Why I March

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whyimarchIt’s been ten weeks since election day and I desperately hoped something would have happened before Inauguration Day to reassure me.

Yeah, not so much.

Even before the talk of guns and grizzly bears surfaced in our halls of power, the constant stream of petulant, gloating, middle-school-worthy Tweets would have been enough. My millennial daughter with a degree in communications is perpetually flummoxed by the fact our President-Elect still seems to have unfettered access to his Twitter account. While I do love the word flummoxed, horrified is a more apt descriptor for my reaction.

So now what?  

As a follower of Jesus, how do I reconcile my responsibility to pray for and respect our leaders on this Inauguration Day with the call to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with my God?

What part does the faith I claim to hold so dearly play in the ways I choose to react to this division in our country and the fears so many of us have about our future under this new administration?

Simply put, in light of our current circumstances, who is God calling me to BE and what is God calling me to DO?

Yesterday during my morning devotion, I read the familiar verse in Hebrews about living a life of faith:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.         Hebrews 11:1

As I pondered these familiar words, I dug deeper by reading the Amplified translation on my handy Bible Gateway app. There I found this powerful definition of the word faith:

Faith, which is an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God…

I sat with those words for quite a while and asked myself in the quiet of my own heart if I truly, honestly-with no one else looking- have an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God?

Ultimately, the answer is yes.

At my core, I am indeed a person who has an inherent trust and enduring confidence in the power, wisdom and goodness of God.

I believe God is still in control. I believe God still has the answers. I believe God still loves us completely.

God can. God knows. God cares.

BUT that is only the first verse of the 11th chapter of Hebrews. This chapter has 39 more verses.

The rest of the chapter calls us to remember the “faith in action” Hall of Fame.
One after another, BY FAITH, the heroes of our bible stories made Continue reading

Partnering with God in Your Calling

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gtdotheworkIt turns out there are no shortcuts to get the job done.

Even now as I sit at my keyboard, struggling to put my thoughts into words, I yearn for the Easy Button made famous by Staples ads. I am looking for a formula, a blueprint, or the ubiquitous “five easy steps to success.” I would prefer to be transported to my desired destination with minimal effort or struggle. However, every book on writing that I’ve read says the same thing about how to reach my goal:

Put your fanny in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard. Do the work.

If we want to be writers, we have to write. If we want to be dancers, we have to dance. If we want to be painters, singers, accountants or business owners, we must show up and do the work. If we want a stronger mind, body, and spirit, we must repeatedly choose the actions that nurture the growth we desire.

King David knew something about partnering with God. As he neared the end of his life, along with detailed plans for the temple Solomon was to build, he gave this advice to his son about the assignment God had given him:

David also said to Solomon his son, ‘Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the Lord is finished’” (1 Chron. 28:20 NIV).

David knew God would be with Solomon every step of the way. He knew God would give Solomon everything he needed to complete the gargantuan task before him. Yet David also knew Solomon would need to be brave and DO THE WORK.

Our spiritual journeys are no different. When we allow God to work in our lives, he promises to make us more like Jesus and give us the fruits of his spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. However, we have to participate in that process by showing up and doing the work.

And what does our work look like?

For me, the work I need to do to participate with God in my own growth includes prayer, reading Scripture,  practicing repentance and gratitude, worship, time with other believers, and serving people in need. Although these things we call spiritual disciplines do not by themselves produce life-altering changes in me, they put me in the optimum position for God to work his miracles. We are a team.

The gospel says we are redeemed and transformed, not by our own efforts, but by God’s willingness to pour out his lavish love and unmerited grace on us. He is crazy about us and wants to guide us toward becoming our best selves. While I am comforted by the notion of God working in me for my good and for use in his kingdom, I’m sometimes frustrated by his unwillingness to just wave a magic wand over me. Yet my good God is more concerned about my character than my comfort, and he knows hard work is good for me in all areas of my life.

Here is the good news:on the days when I…

Read the rest of this post on The Glorious Table

The Perfect Audience: A Theology of Drama Mamas

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the-perfect-audienceFunny people enjoy having me around because I will laugh at almost anything.

When my girls were in high school, they were both deeply involved in the theater department. Because dramatic teenagers are my absolute FAVORITE, I took my role as drama mama seriously and spent almost as much time as they did hanging around the performing arts hallway at Chantilly High School. Delight is not a strong enough word to describe the way I still feel about the kids, parents and teachers who were part of that season of my life.

In spite of the fact I proved quite useful to have around for selling tickets, gathering costumes or locating a full size coffin for a prop (true story,) I was occasionally run off the premises during rehearsals because I could not contain my laughter. During the final stages of preparation for their performance, although the student actors appreciated my encouragement, their teacher accused me of hampering the process by laughing at their antics too soon.

“They aren’t funny yet! Quit laughing at them!”

In case you feel sorry for me, you will be happy to know that when opening night arrived, my obnoxiously loud laughter was once again welcome, encouraged and appreciated. I can’t tell you how many times I heard “Mrs. Johnson, we could hear you laughing!” as I congratulated students on another fabulous show. I’m not sure it is a marketable skill, but having a distinctive laugh has served me well as an enthusiastic drama mama and head cheerleader for the artsy kids.

Performers thrive on the positive reaction of their audience. Whether tears of tenderness, a gasp of surprise, a hearty belly laugh or the coveted standing ovation at the final bow, when the cast and crew experience evidence they have connected with their audience, the many hours of hard work are worth the time and effort.

This morning, I was reading Galatians and came across the following familiar verse about choosing our audience:

 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

Since my youth group days, I have heard repeated counsel to “perform for an audience of one” instead of seeking to win the approval of people. As a person who thrives on the accolades and affirmation of others, I often find this easier said than done. My love language is words of affirmation and sometimes I find God’s voice to be frustratingly quiet. Like many of the teachings of my faith, I understand and acknowledge the wisdom behind Paul’s advice to the Galatians, but find I often struggle to translate what I know into how I feel or how I choose to act.

However, one of the gifts of middle age is a gradual lessening of the hold other people’s approval has over me. Perhaps this progress is due to the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in my life, but I suspect from talking to my other fifty something friends that it is also a function of exercising my “I just don’t give a ____” muscle. (Feel free to fill in the blank with whatever word makes you feel a little sassy and irreverent.)

As I revisited the verse from Galatians I referenced above, I saw it differently through the lense of time and experience. Instead of a sigh of frustration over how far I fall short of this ideal, I thought instead about my drama mama years and what the word “audience” means for me now.

Yes, I am about to compare enthusiastic, incredibly biased drama mamas to God. Work with me here…

Is there a more perfect audience than a delighted parent?

In case you have not had the distinct pleasure of sitting in a middle school, high school, college or professional theater watching your child do what they love best, the answer is an emphatic NO, there is no more perfect audience than a delighted parent. A whole auditorium of delighted parents is even better.

What if God is just that crazy about us?

What if the God who created the universe is sitting on the front row as we bravely step out of our comfort zone into the spotlight of our passion holding His breath, leaning into our every word and silently cheering us on until the moment He can jump to His feet cheering?

What if God wants us to succeed with every fiber of His being?

Perhaps we are encouraged to play to an audience of one instead of to the masses because the writers of scripture know God is our absolute, unabashedly, unashamedly, completely biased biggest fan. God knows how hard we worked. He knows how nervous we are. He knows how much we want to succeed. God sees us and He is so FOR us.

Without meaning to do so, I think I have often seen God as a skeptical critic waiting for me to fail rather than a delighted parent wanting me to succeed. Scripture is full of evidence to the contrary, so I have decided to change my mind.

There is no more perfect audience than my delighted Abba Father. He is crazy about us.

Choosing Grace

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tgtshowlove“Grace always shocks. Grace always stuns. Grace is always what we need. It’s what everyone groping around lost in the dark has to know: turn toward grace and you turn on all the lights.” ~Ann Voskamp

She was waiting for me when I returned to my car. I could see right away she was furious.

“You are SO inconsiderate! You parked right in front of my mailbox! How dare you!“

My heart was pounding as I took a deep breath and considered my options. Perhaps a sarcastic comment about the wisdom of buying a house right across the street from a school? Or maybe I could just give her a dirty look, get in my car, and quickly drive away? How dare she lie in wait for me, then stand in the street screaming and shaking her finger at me?

However, since I had spent time in prayer earlier that morning, the Holy Spirit had followed me there and was whispering something else entirely.

She is hurting. Show her love. Show her grace.

A little disappointed to be robbed of my opportunity for a witty comeback or a dramatic stand, I decided to take the high road. I looked her in the eye and listened quietly until she ran out of words.

“I’m so sorry,” I said. “You are right. I shouldn’t have parked there. This must be so frustrating for you. I’m really very sorry.”

She paused and then, not knowing how to deal with my response, she turned on her heel and stomped back into her house.

As I got back in my car, I was still shaking with emotion. The intensity of her anger made me feel vulnerable, and I was still struggling with the desire to lash out at her in return. In the past, I would have felt justified in returning fire for fire, unloading on her in retaliation. On this occasion, proximity to the Spirit led me to choose differently.

I wish I could say I always choose grace.

Several years later, I had the opportunity to learn more about the woman I met that day when she signed up for a Bible study…

Read the rest of the story at The Glorious Table

Jumping on Bandwagons: My One Word for 2017

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wonderI got a Fitbit for Christmas and I am having such fun with it.

Since I strapped it on my wrist, I have logged over 73,000 steps, primarily in my house. The most entertaining thing about the Fitbit so far has been the reaction of my elderly dog, Dobby. For those of you unfamiliar with a Fitbit, you can set up the watch-like receiver to notify you at the end of each hour when you have not achieved your hourly step minimum. What this looks like at my house is me jumping out of my chair once an hour and marching around in circles with my dog following behind me wondering where we are going.

Because he is 14 years old and I am young and spry, I often catch up to him as we round a corner. And then, because he is mostly deaf, I startle him. Occasionally, he takes a shortcut through the kitchen and takes the lead.

My husband and I find this endlessly amusing. Clearly, it is time for all of us to go back to work because Dobby is confused and exhausted.

In addition to using a Fitbit to get my butt moving, I am also jumping on another popular bandwagon this January. For the last couple of years, I have joined many of you in choosing one word to be my “theme” word for the year. One proponent of the One Word calls it the “un-resolution” and says:

Our resolutions seldom work because they are based on the type of person we’re tired of being rather than who God wants us to become. Plus, resolutions can be “broken,” leaving no room for the process of growth. What if our hopes for the year ahead centered instead on who God wants us to become, and the transformation process?

In 2016, my word was Brave: no surprise to those of you who read my blog regularly. Brave was my goal, my focus, the object of my passion and curiosity. Throughout the year, personally and professionally, I considered what it might mean to be brave and what, if anything, my faith in God had to do with it. In moments of choice, I viewed my options through the lense of the word Brave.

Brave served me well, but now it is time for a new word.

For 2017, the word I choose to embrace and explore is Wonder, Continue reading