Tag Archives: Christian

I am a Patient Soul! No seriously!

Speaking of vision boards.

My theme for 2014 has been patience. I pasted, “I am a patient soul” in the center of my board. I was trying to do that thing where you speak life, purpose, vision… Yeah.

If you’re a Christian or have ever been around a Christian, you’ve probably heard us warn the less initiated about prayers for patience. Typically God answers that request with “opportunities for growth.” Apparently one learns patience by facing challenges. By being confronted with real-life scenarios that fly in the face of any naive imaginings about holiness and personal enlightenment. (I’m not bitter!)

I have a child with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. And, my God, it’s hard. For seven years I rejected the diagnosis. I tried to speak life, purpose, vision into my child and into our home. I prayed and fasted. I cast out demons. Seriously.

Paul wrote a letter to the people in Corinth about a troubling issue, a “thorn in his side.” He wrote about how he earnestly asked God to remove it, until finally God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” In the very next sentence Paul wrote, “most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” But I wonder how much time passed between God’s “no” and Paul’s boasting. Was it a couple seconds, or days… or months? Because when I realized God was pretty much saying the same thing to me, I spent a couple years being angry with Him.

Fast forward to this year, and the whole “patient soul” thing. The anger has passed, but in the meantime, I have never been so… challenged. At least once a week I wish I hadn’t put it on my board–even though I know I had to. I mean, it wasn’t my idea to put it there. It had to be on my board.

This isn’t one of those posts where I’ve got it all figured out. It’s true, I’m no longer angry at God, but I ain’t boasting yet! I know God has invited me to call myself patient because He has something in mind. With each difficult encounter I have to choose to trust that God’s grace is enough, that my weakness is the perfect vessel for his strength. It’s hard! I sometimes struggle to believe any good can come of this.

But I’ve seen God do more with less.

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I’mpossible

I make a vision board every year, and I’ve done so for about five years.

I’ve written about my vision boards before. I’m part of a small circle of women who gather some time in November or December to create vision boards for the coming year. We enter the process prayerfully, asking God ahead of time what the year’s word or theme should be. Then we come together, blank canvases in hand. We also bring the current year’s board, and we each share how God worked through the items on the poster. Next we invite the Holy Spirit to lead us in the words and images we’ll pull from leftover magazines, and we begin. We give ourselves several hours to complete the task.

I mean … it’s kinda funny. We each sit on the floor with a 99¢ poster board before us. We’re surrounded by the hurricane-like chaos of ripped magazines, discarded bits of paper and cheap shiny embellishments, using–then discarding–scissors, vying for glue sticks, pasting cut-out words and images to the poster while the pink tips of our tongues poke from the corners of our mouths. It’s like elementary school or something! Yet God uses all of it. Our prayers, our first-grade tools, our silly seriousness. It’s so like him to meet us in this child-like moment, when what we’re doing feels huge and important to us, but probably not so much to a Father with greater responsibilities on his radar. Yet he looks at his daughters’ hand-made work with loving eyes, discerning his own face and our very hearts in each sticky cut-out, and judging them valuable, important. It’s very kind, very loving of him. But I digress.

Earlier this week I was lying in bed looking at my 2014 board (it’s on the wall beside my bed so I’ll see it when I wake) thinking about the post I needed to finish, and my eyes landed on the bottom left corner. It’s a picture of a woman striking a punching bag. Across the bottom I’d pasted the word “I’mpossible.”

photo 2 photo

And that’s what I love about making a vision board: The vision part.

When I was sitting on my friend’s living room floor making this board, I didn’t really think about why I was attracted to that picture. I just cut it out–and then that picture made it to the board when other images I’d chosen were eventually thrown in the discard pile.

And I didn’t put any deep thought into why I cut out “I’mpossible.” I remember thinking it was catchy. But why did I paste that word/phrase on top of that image?

As always, at different times through the year my eyes would be drawn to different areas on the board. Almost every day I’d stare at the board, my eyes skipping and skimming over the words and images. Occasionally they’d land on some segment, and I’d suddenly find context in those unpremeditated scraps.

That woman punching that bag with that word beneath her has been there all year. My eyes always skipped past her, until earlier this week, when suddenly that corner of the board had context. For so long I didn’t think it was possible to be comfortable in my own skin: To be wholly myself and still wholly acceptable. To be strong and be a woman. To be powerful and determined woman and be a Christ-follower who is feminine and pleasing to God. But it is, and I am. I’m possible.

What ands are you struggling to reconcile?

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Secure Tracie

As far back as I can remember, people have called me bossy, resilient, a leader, overbearing, commanding, attractive, tough, compelling, mean, powerful, sassy, opinionated…

When I was a 19-year-old legal secretary, my bosses thought I was closer to 30. They suggested we celebrate my birthday at the local bar. When I told them I wouldn’t be old enough to drink for another year, their jaws hit the floor. “But you’re so …”

And when I was 28 (same field, different workplace), a co-worker thought I was in my 40s. “Now that I look at you,” she said, peering at my face,” I can see you’re nowhere near 40. But you seem so … ”

Don’t say it, I thought, cringing inside.

“Strong.”

Of all the labels, I heard that one most. And I hated it. “Strong” was at odds with everything I believed I was supposed to be. I was on a quest to be the perfect Christian woman. We aren’t supposed to be strong. We’re supposed to be delicate, quiet, submissive. This strength thing kept tripping me up.

Plus, strength inherently requires responsibility. (Like Spider-Man!) It kept happening: People would perceive strength as authority for some crazy reason, and they’d feel compelled to, like, listen to me or something. I already had enough to do without being responsible for whatever dumb thing came out of my mouth!

But worst of all, some people (many people) would react to me in painful ways. I have a mental flipbook of my life, featuring team mates giving me the side eye; friends shunning me; acquaintances assuming the worst of me; people I loved standing apart from me. These things happened as a result of me just … being me.*

By the end of my 30s, I was a wreck. I hated myself. I’d been working so hard to be un-me that I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. It was physically and emotionally draining. (I spent a couple hours last night reading blog entries going back several years. I can see it all playing out so clearly.) I prayed earnestly, tearfully and regularly for God to change me.

I wrote a very mean letter to myself in 2011 that started, “Dear Too-much Tracie: Honestly? I don’t like you very much.” It went on to say, “Whenever you open your mouth you stir up trouble. You constantly ruin things for me.” And, “If it weren’t for you, people wouldn’t reject me. I wouldn’t be socially awkward, too loud, a big misfit, afraid to stand out.” I ended the letter with these words: “If there was a Secure Tracie somewhere, I don’t know what she’d say to you. She doesn’t exist. Maybe she will one day, and when she does, she can write to you.”

Welp. As always, God answered my prayers. As always, it wasn’t the way I anticipated. He didn’t do a major personality overhaul. He just … changed my mind about me. It didn’t happen all at once, but it’s been happening gradually. I’ll write about it another time. All I know is, I put on on Secure Tracie’s coat the other day. It’s a bit big, but I’m growing into it. So.

Dear Too-much Tracie:

You and I are one and the same… and I love you, you socially awkward, too loud, big misfit! Go ahead, stand out!

XXOO,
Secure Tracie

*I’m not saying I never did anything wrong or that I never owed anyone an apology. That happened too, of course.

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Christian Womanist?

Womanist: believing in and respecting the abilities and talents of women; acknowledging women’s contributions to society. —Dictionary.com

I’m a womanist. This is almost my first time publicly acknowledging it.

I debated a bit about whether to call myself a feminist (according to Dictionary.com, one who believes women should have rights equal to men). But it seems to me that feminism views a man’s lifestyle as the ideal–like the goal of feminism is to live like men.

Meh.

If I wanted to have a positive affect in the world on behalf of women… if I wanted to change how women are viewed and valued in this world… I just wouldn’t start by putting men on a pedestal (for worshiping, for epitomizing, or for bashing). Let men be men. And let women be women.

I’m also a Christ-follower. I thought for a long time that I couldn’t be both. But I’m learning that God is clever enough to handle all my complexity. Still, I’m sure you can imagine the raging internal debate I’ve been having with myself.

What do you think? Do the paths of Christianity and womanism (and even feminism) diverge?

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Catalyst and North Point

I went to Catalyst for what (I think) was my fifth year in a row. This year was the best one so far in my opinion, though. Not because of the speakers (although they were great). There was just something different in the air.

I always enjoyed the speakers and the cool stuff at Catalyst. But honestly, previous Catalysts I attended felt surface-y, plastic and fake–like I was in a room full of professional Christians. It seemed like everyone looked alike: either shiny and clean with gleeming white teeth and highlighted hair, or carefully, very carefully, unkempt. Every year I literally felt nauseated at the end of the first day. I always attributed it to exhaustion.

This year felt fresh and real from the moment I walked into the arena. I saw ordinary people of every stripe, people like me and people not like me, and that was frickin’ awesome. I even saw black people there (more than I remember seeing in the past) who looked comfortable in their blackness! There were more people in attendance than ever, but I didn’t feel stifled or crowded as I have at past conferences. I didn’t feel sick at the end of the day one either, a nice new experience for me.

And the theme was one I could rally behind: Together. The opening video made my heart pound and the blood rush to my head, because it exemplified the theme, and it resonated with that part of me that craves for the church to get off our butts and reach people!

My husband and I stayed in Atlanta the weekend for our 11th anniversary (woo-hoo), and we visited North Point Community Church. That was a cool experience. It was sort of strange to see Andy Stanley close enough to go shake his hand if I wanted to (I didn’t–I’d have felt like a groupy. He’s just a guy!) But I particularly enjoyed visiting NPCC, both as a visiting Christian, and also from the standpoint of a church staffer at a mobile church.

From a professional standpoint, I liked what I saw there, got some cool ideas, but most of all I felt proud of Freedom House Church. We’re doing a lot of what they’re doing, and we meet in a school! Wow, God!

As a Christian, I had one of those “he read my mail” experiences during the message. I responded to an altar call in a strange church. It was slightly scary but necessary. Oddly I felt like it was safe to do it. I’ll blog about that later. I really enjoyed NPCC.

All told, I enjoyed my visit to Atlanta, but I wouldn’t want to live there!

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The Mirror

Don’t get confused, little girl:
Don’t miss what’s really important.
The mirror reflects someone who is dying or dead; the face of God reflects all you are meant to be.
Rest.
Take a rest from pretending to be her in the mirror, and be the you reflected in the face of Christ.
Let Me introduce you, little girl, to the real you.
A tiny soul waiting to grow into a mature woman.

Hello little girl.

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Not Ready to Get Over It

2005 was a grueling, hard, nightmarish year for me. Strangely, it resulted in some leaps-and-bounds growth in my relationship with God. I look back on that year, and all the horrible things I experienced in it, and I always feel a well of gratitude and love for God, and amazement at how very different I am because of that year. I fully intend to blog about it!

I mention this because recently someone commented how some people get by on their old testimony. He was saying how they rest on one experience as the be-all/end-all of their existence, and in the meantime God isn’t doing anything fresh in their lives. This made me wonder if all my contemplation about 2005 is somehow holding me back from God doing something fresh in me or through me.

By now you’ve probably noticed I’m the type to hash and rehash thoughts until they’re liquefied. That’s just kinda my personality. So along with rehashing the events of 2005, I’ve added to the pot this notion that maybe I need to stop thinking about that year all the time.

Because–I gotta be honest–I think about it every day of my life. I think about how horrible it looked, but how God made it amazingly, miraculously good (Romans 8:28). I think about my perspective of God before that year (unfeeling, distant, obliged), and how utterly opposite it is now because of that year. I know deep in my gut that He loves me and cares more about me than I have the capacity to understand.

So should I move on? It’s been nearly three years now. Maybe it’s too much to think about it every day. Am I getting in the way of God doing something fresh in my life?

But when I considered it, I felt a defiance in my heart. How can I stop thinking about something so wonderful? Why should I stop thinking about how God gave me beauty for ashes? The truth is, thinking on those events gives me courage to face every day. I know that if God could get me through 2005, He can get anyone through anything. Even today I get fresh understanding about the things happening in my life right now that I wouldn’t understand if not for 2005.

Maybe in time the beauty and awe and gratitude I feel will gently fade away. But right now, even three years later, it’s just as vivid as if it happened yesterday. I won’t set it aside like the pleasant memory of a nice vacation, some meaningless trinket of a thought. I get the “fresh testimony” thing. I really do. But … I guess this testimony isn’t over yet.

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Accelerated Growth?

I heard something that resonated with me this past Monday. I was talking about how there were areas in my life where I should be applying myself more, areas in which I felt I should be growing more as a Christian. This person shared that wherever the Holy Spirit is, there’s growth. It doesn’t come from our striving. She said it’s like when grass grows or seasons change: these are things that cannot help but occur. This same kind of growth also occurs in us because of the Holy Spirit, whether we strive or rest in Him.

At the time I set it on the back burner. But the more I considered the idea, the more it resonated in me. I can look at certain areas in my life where I had no intention–or even awareness of the need–to grow, yet I did. It wasn’t through any effort on my part. Yet I also know we can’t grow as Christians without reading and studying the Bible. But then again, the Bible is alive and convicts us through the Holy Spirit … And if we’re reading and studying the Bible, we’ll grow. Perhaps not in the areas we think we should grow, but definitely in whatever area God sees the need for maturity.

I think there’s a difference between acquiring knowledge, and experiencing spiritual growth (maturity). While I can educate myself on a particular area of concern to me, I don’t think I’ll grow spiritually in that area unless God sees fit to open my spiritual eyes on it. In other words, we can’t make ourselves grow spiritually in one area or another, any more than we can make ourselves grow physically. (At least not taller; wider is another story.) It’s even possible to read or learn something that doesn’t seem relevant in the moment, but then later (days, weeks, years) it connects with our spirit. Because that’s the moment God chooses to apply it.

That’s why it’s so important to keep reading the Bible, even if you’ve read it cover to cover 98 times. I also acknowledge the power and usefulness of books and teaching on specific areas of our lives. Because God is able to speak to us through them whenever He sees fit.

What do you think?

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12,775 Days

Today in our Crown Financial Bible study we estimated how many days we have left before we die. Assuming I live to age 70, I have about 12,775 days left. That doesn’t seem right. Somehow I assumed I had hundreds of thousands of days in the span of my life.

It doesn’t seem like enough time to do anything–but it’s also too little to waste! I don’t want to spend 12,770 of those days living a mundane existence with nothing memorable to mark them. I don’t want to spend thousands of those days being a slave to debt or fear. If I have 12,775 (or less) days left on this earth, I want to spend each day doing exactly what God wants me to do.

I’ve struggled since I got saved with whether I’m doing anything of substance–whether my efforts will withstand the transition from earth to heaven. It all comes back to worship. Am I just working, am I just singing–or am I worshipping God through graphic design, through song? And it goes much deeper: Am I worshipping God through the way I treat my husband and children? Am I worshipping God when I do laundry or balance the checkbook? Or are these just mundane things I have to do to survive? Things I’ll never think twice about, mindless chores that don’t matter? Clutter that fills up each of my 12,775 days? I think anything can be clutter–even graphic design, even singing worship songs–if it’s done without reverence, as though it’s mundane. And the stuff we do thoughtlessly or heartlessly won’t survive the transition from earth to heaven.

So if singing worship songs can be mundane because of my attitude, on the flip side, can doing laundry be a holy encounter?

I heard Jon Eldridge (a Christian writer) speak at a conference a few years ago, and he talked about how all of us were meant to live a great adventure like the ones we see on the silver screen. He said while we have to do things like take out the garbage and wash the dishes, that’s not what life’s all about. He said if we chase after God and step out of the boat (that’s a Biblical reference to Peter walking on water), life can be just as exciting as “The Last of the Mohicans,” for example. And he said all good stories mirror the greatest story, of the hero (Jesus Christ) giving his very life to rescue the damsel in distress (us). And I agree.

But I don’t want to relegate trash and dishes and laundry to unimportant details in my story. The fact is, no matter how often I step out of the boat or rescue Mary Jane or throw the ring into the flaming lava, there will always be trash and dishes and laundry. In fact, these things will occupy a good number of my few remaining days. So why waste that opportunity? Like … can I do the laundry with an attitude of thanksgiving to God for giving me this family whose clothes I’m washing, and for the clothes we own, and for the resources (water, washing machine, detergent, electricity) to keep them clean?

I probably couldn’t be that sanctified everyday. But if I could do it sometimes–more often than not–doing laundry could become a holy encounter. (It reads well, but I’ll have to practice it.) The opposite is true when I sing or design: I can’t let it be mundane. I must do it with gratitude for the One who gave me the gifts and who has given me an outlet to both use them and point others to Him as the giver of all good things. Otherwise it’s just as meaningless to God as it is to me.

I’ve got about 12,775 days to work on these things. And … go!

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