Saturday, June 15, 2019

Releasing the Devil's Snare

I sat on the bench, cloaked in despair, while he stared at me, helpless to change it. My lips began to tremble and hot tears streamed down my face. He grabbed me and held me close. “No, no, no. Don’t do that,” he whispered. “Don’t go there again. Come back to me.”

All day long, I’d battled. I’d prayed, read the Word, and had Josiah pray over me. And yet, despite my best efforts, I vacillated between somewhat functional and barely breathing.

I don’t typically struggle a lot with depression (or at least, I don’t feel like I do). Lately, though, I feel covered in it. I pray and fight, but it’s sticky like tar, and at times, the more I fight, the more stuck and hopeless I feel.

We tell people to declare truth over their lives, to "praise through," but y'all, I declared truth backwards, forwards, and upside down. My mind knew the truth, but I couldn't make my heart believe it! 

Like Ron Weasly in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, I've been stuck fast in the Devil’s Snare, and the more I wiggle and squirm, the tighter the trap winds around me - constricted, breathless. I know I should just be still, rest, but the tighter they get, the more I panic and strain.

This day in particular, as my husband held me on a bench in Yorktown, was one of the worst. I gathered myself enough to allow him to lead me back to the van; he never let go.

He drove us down Colonial Parkway in silence. I wanted to talk - to say something, anything - but I couldn’t make words travel from my head to my mouth. As we drove down the parkway, I looked at the water and briefly thought about Naaman in the Bible washing himself seven times in the Jordan to be healed of leprosy (2 Kings 5).

I didn’t tell Josiah about it, though. I was trapped in my own head.

Then, a few minutes later, he pulled over to one of the small beach areas there on the parkway. I wasn’t thinking about Namaan then, but I knew I desperately needed to get to sand and water. I desperately needed to connect with the elements - to feel them, to feel alive.

I flew to the riverside, tossed my shoes aside, and wiggled my toes in the wet sand, the water lapping at my feet. Josiah wrapped his arms around me, my constant comforter. I whirled around and asked him, “Are we going anywhere after this?”

“Do you want to?!” he queried, sounding hopeful...probably just because I’d uttered normal words.

I paused, turned toward the water, and trudged in fully-clothed. I entered up to my knees, and then dipped my hands in the small, rippling waves. In my heart, I heard the familiar Psalm:

How happy is the man
who does not follow the advice of the wicked
or take the path of sinners
or join a group of mockers!
Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction,
and he meditates on it day and night.
He is like a tree planted beside streams of water
that bears its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:1-3

I wanted to be a tree planted firmly by the water. I wanted to stop withering.

I turned toward Josiah and felt my lips stretch across my teeth, bearing a true, genuine smile for the first time all day. It felt freaking awesome.

Then, God reminded me of Namaan.

I waded back to Josiah, knowing I hadn’t been obedient yet, but it just felt so flipping foolish. I wanted to be like a tree planted by the water, but I did not want to follow His instructions. I remembered Naaman didn’t want to either.

I mentioned my idea to Josiah, and he urged me on. I stomped back into the river, a little more resistant this time, a little more defiant. “Do I have to go all the way under?! I just did my hair!”

He grinned and said, “If you have to ask the question, you already know the answer.” Ugh.

I wrestled with the best way to “dip” myself in knee-deep water, and finally just plopped by butt on the river bottom and tossed myself backwards. The water washed over me, and I could see the light shining through the water, even behind my closed eyelids.

Just like Namaan, seven times I threw myself backwards into the river. The very last time, I let the water carry me for a moment, floating, wanting to soak in every bit of healing I could get.

I emerged feeling whole and healed, laughing. I felt alive in a way I hadn’t for quite a while. The water washed away the sticky veil of darkness, allowing the light to shine through, like it healed Naamon’s leprosy: not because of the water itself, but because of the obedience it required to follow the orders through to completion.

Joshua marched his troops around Jericho once a day for six days and seven times on the seventh.

Elijah prayed for rain seven times, until after the seventh his servant saw a cloud forming in the distance.

Elisha told Naaman to dip seven times in the Jordan River to get healed. He didn’t like it. He was angry, but he did it anyway.

And so did I. Devil’s snare hates the light.

Friend, if you are facing darkness, if the enemy is lying to you, whispering in your ear that you are alone, lifeless, worthless, you need to know you are not alone, you are of infinite worth, and there is so much life in front of you. I’ve been right there with you. I’ve felt the overwhelming fatigue of battle, but you are worth fighting for - and Jesus knew you were worth dying for. Do not give up.

“So I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you.
Keep searching, and you will find.
Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and the one who searches finds,
and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Luke 11:9-10

Keep knocking at the door. Keep seeking Christ. Keep searching for His truth. And goodness knows, if he asks you to do something, no matter how silly or scary, DO IT.

There is no breakthrough without a breaking: a breaking of will, defiance, and self-reliance. Keep working to break through that wall of darkness to find the light on the other side because, I assure you, no matter the seemingly endless abyss of night, daybreak MUST come eventually.

You WILL see the light. A harvest of life and righteousness is coming, if only you will persevere and not give up!

Your eye is the lamp of the body.
When your eye is good, your whole body is also full of light.
But when it is bad, your body is also full of darkness.
Take care then, that the light in you is not darkness.
If, therefore, your whole body is full of light,
with no part of it in darkness,
it will be entirely illuminated
as when a lamp shines its light on you.”
Luke 11:34-36

Friday, June 14, 2019

Father's Day

Photo credit: Amanda Truth Photography

This weekend we celebrate the most important male figures in our lives (or at least who should be): our fathers.

As a father, I see my kids growing so quickly - the words they're using now, the conversations they have and try to have, even when you can't understand them. None of them crawl any more; they're running. They're trying to have serious conversations with us about something that's obviously very important to them, but almost impossible to convey, whatever it is.

This is a vital time in their lives: an exciting time, a time full of changes and influence.

One of my friends said he wants to make absolutely sure he can be around for every little moment as his future child grows up.

I was thinking, there is something with my children that is even more important to me than watching them grow up.

I want to watch them grow deep.

In life, there are going to be times of trouble, heartache, unexpected storms, and the only way to make it through is by the strength of the roots.

Fathers: tend the roots!

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and its leaf does not whither;
And in whatever he does, he prospers.
Psalm 1:3

The foundation you lay will determine their self-confidence and trust in those around them.

Often, we don't understand the power we have as fathers, or we wish to deny it. With great power comes great responsibility, as we all learned from a certain web-slinger and his father-figure uncle.

It's true though.

Sometimes, our children will define their own path and struggle in spite of a good foundation that's been laid, and some of our children will find the right path in spite of the fathers we are.

This is not an excuse to back off and let God have His way, because He made it very clear to us His way is for us to be more than involved.

It's for us to be a foundation that they can build upon.

As a father, I want you to know a few things.

  • You matter more than they think you do.
What you do, how you act, how you teach your children to behave, whether or not you can sit down and have a conversation with them, whether or not you can have a spiritual conversation with them will have more to do with their lives than almost anyone else they will ever come into contact with.

  • You matter more than you think you do.
Your perspective of yourself, your marriage, your wife, and your kids will be a huge factor in how they think of themselves, what they believe about marriage, and how a husband should treat his wife.

How you treat things of God, how you react when God moves, and moments when you wait in expectation... if you include them in these, they will gain a perspective of God very few ever gain without spending a long time searching for themselves.

  • It's okay to admit it when you've messed up.
It's a sign of strength to be able to admit to anyone when you're wrong, not a sign of weakness. Your kids will respect you for it and will admire the fact that you cared enough about them to apologize instead of taking a hard line.

It creates an atmosphere where they can admit when they mess up because it shows that their dad is human, and it's okay if they are too.

  • Let them know that you're not always in control.
There are situations you just can't handle and were never meant to. Let the people around you know.

If we are honest, we are NEVER in complete control.

If a paycheck comes in late, you don't control it. If the transmission goes out in the car while on vacation, it probably means things are going to work out a bit differently than planned (I have personal experience with both of these.)

Stress does no one any favors, but letting God do God-things, and giving Him the credit when it happens, teaches faith in a way nothing else can.

  • Let your yes be yes, and your no be no.
What this means in my family is a whole lot of maybes, we'll sees, and I hope sos.
I know the kids really hate it, but I would much rather them be disappointed at the initial answer than be disappointed that I broke a promise or wasn't a man of my word.

I'd rather have them be disappointed in my response than my character.

If it's not something I feel absolute about, then I cannot say absolutely, but will do my best to make it happen.


The world needs you. Your children need you.

There is no bench. There are no sidelines.

This is not a game.

There are no buzzer-beaters.

There are always extra innings, and overtime is typically a requirement.

However, depending on the children, a penalty box may be helpful. We typically have to settle for corners.

For those who do not have children yet, but wish for them, know that I pray for you often. There are people around you who will need you to have a similar influence.

I love you, and I pray that God will allow you the opportunity to teach and lead in love as a father.

The ultimate challenge is this:

Be the father they think you are; be the father you wish you had.

Lives depend on it.

Be on your guard;
stand firm in the faith;
be courageous;
be strong.
1 Corinthians 16:13

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Fight for Rest

There I lay, face-down on the kitchen floor, tears and snot flowing like Niagara Falls, thinking two thoughts almost simultaneously: "How am I here again," and "I am so glad I mopped the kitchen floor."

It started as most of these moments do for me: a mix of desperation, defiance, and a little disobedience thrown in for good measure.

Lately, I've felt like I've had a very hard time hearing God's voice. Sometimes, I'll pray and seek and read and listen and ask..and nothing. Silence.

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 4 a.m. to spend time with God, but it was the saltiest date with the Divine EVER. I came to the "table" disgruntled. I tried to praise through, worship and ignore it, but my heart was not having it, and you can't lie to God. I felt like a child: If you're hard-hearted, and you know it, stomp your feet. *stomp, stomp*

Then the kids woke up. "No more time for me!" Disgruntled. Josiah and Emily went to church to serve (we attended as a family the night before). "He gets to go to church again for pre-service prayer. No alone time for me!" Disgruntled. The kids piled on top of me, everyone claiming personal real estate on my lap. "No personal space for me!" Disgruntled.

I sat on the couch with my children piled on me, defiantly scrolling Facebook, desperately hoping to escape. And that's when I's my own disobedience keeping me from hearing God's voice. I've been hard-hearted. 

I just wrote recently about a time in late October, when Josiah told me he felt like I didn't want to be here; I was subconsciously trying to escape my first ministry, my family, while simultaneously seeking an outside ministry (read about that here). Suddenly, I knew I was heading back in that direction.

My word for the year is "Rest," and this has been the theme verse: 

For the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said:
"You will be delivered by returning and resting;
your strength will lie in quiet confidence.
But you are not willing."
Isaiah 30:15

That last sentence gets me ever, single time. But Isaiah goes on.

You will say, "No!
We will escape on horses"-
therefore you will escape!-
and, "We will ride on fast horses"-
but those who pursue you will be faster.
Isaiah 30:16

When I'm frustrated and overwhelmed, instead of seeking rest in my God, I've turned again to seeking escape in my phone. Like any other addict falling off the wagon, it starts with just a little taste and quickly takes over. I think I'm faster, smarter, bigger than the habit, but it overtakes me. Sound familiar?

I love these people of mine with all my heart, but sometimes I wonder, "Should it really be this hard?" Ya'll, I begged God for this stay-at-home mom life. I pleaded with Him to make it possible. But now, here in the thick of things, it's far too often overwhelming. I feel like I should be satisfied and content, but my heart yearns for other things...and so I scroll.

Your thing may not be scrolling, but I'm willing to bet you have a coping mechanism, too - the thing you turn to instead of God, the thing you make excuses for, because after all, life is just so hard.

 Coffee, wine, sugar, drugs, approval, yoga, workouts - pick a vice, any vice. None of them are inherently bad (indeed, some of them are freaking awesome), but if we're turning to them instead of God, there's a problem. We think we're the ones in control of the escape, but really, "those who pursue" us are faster; we are overtaken.

But God...the answer is always, "But God...." It was the answer for the Israelites, and it's the answer today.

Therefore the Lord is waiting to show you mercy,
and is rising up to show you compassion,
for the Lord is a just God.
All who wait patiently for Him are happy.
Isaiah 30:18

He is so good.

When I realized where I'd gone wrong, with tears in my eyes, and a heavy heart, I put down the phone, kissed the kids, took them off my lap, and got up from the couch. I told myself I was going to recommit to trying to serve my family joyfully. I went to the kitchen to clean up, turned on Even When it Hurts by Hillsong United, and picked up a sponge.

The song flowed from Youtube straight into my soul, and right around the second verse - "Take this mountain weight, take these ocean tears, hold me through the trial, come like hope again" - my heart broke and, first my knees, then my hands, and finally my face, hit the floor.

"Why God? Why am I here again? This should be easier! I love my people. There should be more joy! I've been through this before. I should be past this by now!"

And there, quietly, with my whole body stretched across my kitchen floor, God spoke. "First, that's a lot of 'shoulds," my love, and those don't belong there. Second, you're confusing happiness and joy. Happiness comes quickly and easily in the moment. Joy you have to fight for - and the fight is a fight for rest in Me."

True rest in God is not highly valued in our society, but coping mechanisms are. It takes some intentionality and a whole lotta the Holy Ghost to turn away from what the world says will fix our problems and turn our hearts to only One who heals. It's not popular, but if you're looking for peace and direction, it's vital.

This was the answer for the Israelites:

The Lord will give you meager bread and water during your oppression,
but your Teacher will not hide himself any longer.
Your eyes will see your teacher, 
and whenever you turn to the right or to the left,
your ears will hear this command behind you,
"This is the way. Walk in it."
Isaiah 30:20-21

When I finally laid down my will and my own failing strength, gave up trying to have it together, and even physically gave up trying to stand, there was my God waiting to teach me, comfort me, and tell me which way to go. 

Friend, I don't know what you're struggling with today or what you might wrestle with tomorrow. What I do know, though, is that if you're not in a struggle today you soon will be; this life in a fallen world is rarely smooth-sailing for long. But today, tomorrow, next week, or next year - whenever you get caught up in the shoulds and life just feels far more difficult than you think you can bear - I hope my moment comes to mind, and it reminds you of the promises of God.

Turn away from the things of this world, the band-aid solutions for an open heart surgery need, and turn toward the only One that can heal, the only One who can truly help.

I have told you these things so that
in Me you will have peace.
You will have suffering in this world.
Be courageous! I have conquered the world.
John 16:33

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Best Right Way

Last weekend, I was on my way to pick up my daughter from her dad's house, and I accidentally passed the on-ramp for interstate, which is my normal route. With that option gone, what lay before me was a seemingly endless selection of routes.

It felt like suddenly there were 6 trillion options. I went through a ton of them in my head until finally (about 45 seconds later), I gave up and did the only thing that seemed wise at the time: "Google, take me to...."

Friends, this isn't just a destination I know; it's where I lived at one point in my life. I've been going there for a couple decades now, and yet, I found myself following the Google lady's voice commands to somewhere I knew the way to. Why?

Because I wanted to know the BEST route to get there, and for that, I needed help.

The next morning, I was reading the book of Joshua. In Chapter 9, a chunk of people groups banded together to fight against the Israelites, who, with God's help, were conquering their way toward the promised land. The Gibeonites, however, chose a different tactic. They duped the Israelites into a treaty by pretending they were from a far away land.

A couple verses stuck out to me, though. 

Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions,
but did not seek the Lord's counsel.
So Joshua established peace with them
and made a treaty to let them live,
and the leaders of the community swore an oath to them.
Joshua 9:14-15

The men were examining the Gibeonites' story, but they missed a crucial step: consulting the Lord.

To the Israelites' natural eyes, everything seemed as they said; it appeared they were from far away because their provisions were all nasty, crumbly, and stale. But because they didn't consult the Lord, they were deceived by their senses.

It made me think of my GPS moment the night before, and friends, I know I am not the first to make the God:GPS analogy. We've all heard it before. But I hope you'll hang with me here because this put a new spin on it for me.

Christians have an enemy; he is a deceiver. He would have me turn away from God's path for me if He can. And here's the kicker, y'all, it often isn't a path that looks like doom and gloom; it looks like a perfectly decent, respectable path, but one that isn't of the Lord.

When I met with my friend, Jackie, last week, she said, "Our choice often isn't between right and wrong, it's between right and almost right." Tell me that isn't one of the most brilliant things you've ever heard. I'm getting that sucker put on a bumper sticker (not really - I don't do bumper stickers).

But she's right. The only way to know whether we're going the right direction is to seek the will of the Lord, consistently, even in the seemingly simple things - even when you think you already know where you're going.

There are a couple areas of my life, where God has shown me at least a little piece of His plan for me, where I'm "going," you could say. But only He knows the best way for me to get there. If left to my own devices, I'll try to take the "quickest" or "easiest" route, only to land in a place God never wanted me to be. 

I know these things because I've screwed it up a time or twelve. I've tried to kick down doors that weren't mine, rush headlong into things I wasn't anywhere near ready for, and find positions at tables I had no business sitting at.

Friends, the results of that weren't pretty. God's grace is always there, and His mercy is new each morning, but His discipline stings sometimes. But that's what loving fathers do - correct their children.

I'm learning to consult the Lord, even when a decision seems like a "no-brainer," and then (the hard part), actually wait for His answer. I'm trying not to rush things. I'm trying to trust not just His plan, but His timing in it.

So, the next time you need to make a decision about life (or just heading across town), try consulting the only One who knows exactly which way you should go. It may not be the easiest route, but I promise it'll be the best. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Cleaning Up

My life, it seems, is actually a span of many seasons.

I got to spend almost a week with her in her beautiful, clean, and organized home. The time was refreshing on many levels, and just what I needed. 

While I was away, when he wasn't at work, my amazing husband dedicated much of his time to painting our walls (to cover up the artwork my children had decided to display in just about every room and corner of our home). It was great to come home to clean walls...but it pushed every bit of our clutter right out into the center of our house. 

The contrast to the pristine, organized environment I'd just left was staggering and overwhelming. What this means, unfortunately, is that I spent much of my first day home crying instead of enjoying my people.

But God...His timing is always so perfect. While I was in Florida, I'd also finished the book I'd been reading (The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee), and had finally claimed freedom from the shame I'd been dragging around with me for years (you can read more about that in my last post, Rekindled). 

For as long as I could remember, I'd been bearing the weight of that shame and hopelessness, telling myself (in many areas of my life) that I just didn't have the ability to be any different: this was just how things were, attempts to change were futile. Of course, those weren't always my conscious thoughts, but the feelings lurked way down deep, lying in wait to sabotage any attempts I might make at actually being different.

But now, having claimed freedom, I came home to a place where I had to do something about it. I'm starting to sense a pattern in the way God works: He's all about the object lesson. He's not going to teach you anything without immediately giving you a way to practice what you've just learned.

And so, I came home to chaos, and I knew it was time to handle it.

At first, it seemed kind of easy. Despite much evidence to the contrary, I thoroughly enjoy organizing and employing organizational systems. Slowly, I started bringing order to places: the linen closet, the pantry, the food storage containers, the medicine cabinet and bathroom shelves, and that one section of cabinets in the kitchen things just sort of get tossed into.

However, I became deeply discouraged because, while I was making great progress in purging and organization, the parts of the house that are actually in view were still a wreck! Finally, I threw myself face-down before the Lord and just cried out: "God, this is so hard! I am trying to follow You diligently, but I gotta tell ya, it doesn't look like it's making a bit of difference! I'm getting so frustrated. It doesn't feel like this is EVER going to come together!"

God answered me quickly and succinctly: "Alissa, changes that last rarely come quick or easy."

When I related that back to Josiah, he just laughed and said, "Because, 'If it was easy, we wouldn't need Jesus,' right?" Man, I hate it when my own words come back to bite me in the butt, but at least they're accurate. (For any new readers, that's a phrase I've used time and again, both in writing and in person. My man knows me so well.)

God also keeps bringing this scripture to mind:

So let us not get tired of doing what is good.
At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing
if we don't give up.
Galatians 6:9 (NLT, emphasis added)

Thus, the efforts continue, day by day, piece by piece...slow and steady may just win the race after all.

But even as I wrote this, God showed me something else about my story (He's so cool like that). I had expressed to a couple friends that progress looked so slow because I had to purge and organize the hidden places first - places like closets and pantries - because otherwise, when I went through the larger, everyday places, I wouldn't have places to put things. There would be no order and the cycle would just continue.

The same thing has been happening in my heart in recent months. God removed me from just about anything that looked like progress and performance on the outside, so he could do some much-needed purging and healing on the inside, deep down in the hidden places. Now, slowly, that work is coming out, changing things in my home first, and then gradually working its way outward.

Change can't be real or lasting if it doesn't first occur inside, in the deep, hidden places - either in our hearts or our homes.

That's the plan for now: to continue to make slow, steady progress from the inside out, knowing if I just keep at it, depending on God for direction and strength, I'll eventually reap a harvest of blessing, in my life and in my home. 

It's hard, ya'll. Sometimes it's intensely painful, and at times, I'm discouraged, but the end, it's definitely worth it. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019


It's been more than 5 months since I've written. It feels foreign and like coming home, all at the same time.

My last post was written in late October, just before I attended the Ezer Collective, a Christian Women's leadership training, in Minneapolis. I was petrified walking in. There were writers, authors, CEOs, pastors...and people like me, just learning what it means to walk in their given assignments.

On the first night, our hostess, Jo Saxton, told us to start walking in our gifts. If we have been told by God that we should speak, we are speakers. If we have been told we should write, we are writers. Throughout the weekend, I became comfortable with saying, "I'm a writer and a speaker." By the last day, I felt it deep within me; it was part of me.

Then, I had to come home, and I bawled. I missed my husband and kids, but I didn't know how to bring my new "identity" as a writer and speaker home to meet my "identity" as a wife and a mom. They felt awkward and separate.

When I got home, I could tell Josiah was NOT okay. I thought, That's okay. He'll get used to this new me eventually. This is my purpose, and he'll learn to help me walk in it.

If you haven't caught on yet, friends, what you're witnessing in the retelling, is what it looks like to crash and burn upon reentry.

Josiah and I had many conversations over the next few days, all of which I chalked up to his fear, until he said: "I'm afraid this speaking thing is going to take off, and when it does, you're never going to want to be here because you already don't want to be here. Even when you're here, it feels like you're not."

I can't tell you how much it hurts to even write those words...because they were true. I didn't want to be here. I wanted to start my journey, go all the places,  and do all the big things. I wanted to do something that made me feel successful, unlike this mom thing, which I feel dreadfully unprepared for and not-gifted in.

And with those words that hurt so much, but desperately needed to be said, the demolition began. Layer upon layer of inaccurate perceptions and false identities had to be knocked down and scraped away. I have spent more time sobbing on my knees, crying out to God, than I even thought was possible.

I was searching for worth in everything BUT Christ; spending my time as a wife and a mom felt like something that was just holding space until I could get to my real calling, my real purpose, my real identity.

But slowly, God showed me that my identity has nothing to do with any title I hold other than Daughter of the King...not even "wife" and "mom." My worth is completely unassociated with anything I have ever done or will do.

There is nothing I could ever do to be more pleasing, loved, accepted, or forgiven. Because I have accepted Christ and call Him Lord over my life, I am already "deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally accepted, and completely forgiven;"* there's nothing I could do to earn it or lose it.

Before all this, I could have told you that, but I didn't really believe it. There were places deep down I hadn't let God touch or heal, so I toiled desperately and frantically to be pleasing, loved, and accepted by everyone around me.

But all of it was empty and left me aching inside for what was real. It was there all the time in the person of my Savior; He just had to scrape away all of the other stuff first.

I've spent the last 5 months learning to enjoy His presence and hear His voice, to just be present and enjoy what He's given me. I've spent 5 months sheltered, hidden, letting him slowly, and often painfully, strip, scrape, and scrub.

Now, He says it's time to take a step forward, on wobbly, new legs, but much firmer ground.

This week, as I was studying 2 Timothy, a verse pierced my heart. From logos to rhema, it became a word just for me:

Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God
that is in you through the laying on of my hands.
For God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness,
but one of power, love, and sound judgment.
2 Timothy 1:6-7

The Greek word there for "keep ablaze" is anazopyreo, and it means to rekindle the remains of a fire, to stir up the embers of a fire that looks almost dead, and give it new life.

It's time to start sharing again, to rekindle the fire in my heart to share His words.

There are 2 things I'm 100% sure of as I walk forward. The first is that I'm going to mess up. I'm going to make mistakes and lean on old habits every now and then. At times, I'm going to fail. But what makes all of that okay is the second: He is with me every step of the way, loving, steering, and correcting.

I don't have to be perfect or enough because He already is, and that's enough for me.

*This quote is from a book which helped me greatly along on this journey: The Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee. If you haven't read it, you should. If you have, then you already know.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

You Better Work

Remember back in middle school when just about every guy wanted to be a pro athlete? I'm sure there were a lot of girls who did, too, but the memory sticks out more vividly for the boys for me (middle school is also a much more distant memory for some of us).

How many pro athletes do you know now? Maybe one person you sorta kinda remember from school because you had that class together once? Why is that? If just about every boy wanted to be one, why aren't there more.

I'm sure there are countless reasons, but I'm confident many realized this: it's gonna take too much work.

The amount of drive and determination it takes to get to the professional level of any sport is commendable, but rare.

This week, a couple friends and I are headed to Minnesota for the Ezer Collective, a leadership intensive for Christian women led by speaker and author Jo Saxton. She and her business partner, Pastor Steph O'Brien, also have a podcast called Lead Stories. Today, they posted an interview with literary agent and writing coach Rachelle Gardner regarding the intricacies of becoming an author.

This is my calling! I was STOKED!

However, about 3 minutes into the podcast, I felt a familiar anxiety start to rise in my gut, and it usually precedes a powerful bout of insecurity, doubt, and fear. I'm starting to learn my lesson though, because before those nasty voices could even open their mouths, I called out to God to let me hear only what He would have me hear and to help me process it in a way that only furthers His purposes. 

And OH, did He ever deliver.

As I listened to the almost hour-long podcast, one overall theme really struck me: this "calling" of mine is gonna take a whole lot of flipping work. It will require every bit of the focus, drive, and determination of an aspiring pro athlete.

It's not like this is news to me exactly. I'm completely aware that I'll have to do a significant amount of work, but somehow, it always seems like the bulk of the work consists of some vague tasks in the distant future. That, my friends, is how aspiring authors and athletes remain "aspiring" instead of "professional." No one is paying you for work you might do in the future. 

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplies.
Proverbs 13:4

Have you ever asked your kids to do something, and, instead of obeying, they continue whatever mindless thing they're doing? When that happens, I might wait a little bit, but at some point, I look at them and say, "Dude. Get it together. I asked you to do something."

Today, when I listened to that podcast, God gently whispered into my heart, "Alissa, it's time to act. It's time to work. Rise up, child. I asked you to do something." (Please note that God is ever so much gentler and kinder to me than I am to my kids...because He's God. We're working on it).

So, as the time for this training draws near, I go into it knowing full well I have a lot of hard work ahead of me, not sometime in the distant future, but in the here and now. It should sound scary, but one thought gives me a lot of comfort: the Law of Marginal Gains.

My friend John-Erik Moseler often talks about this in his coaching. Basically, it's a concept that touts the profitability of very small changes CONSISTENTLY over time and was used by Sir David Brailsford in his training of the British Olympic Cycling team. With it, he was able to transform a program that had only won one gold medal in over 75 years to one that won seven out of ten medals in Beijing in 2008...and he did it in only six years, and all with 1% changes over time.

My point is that no one becomes Michael Jordan overnight. Michael Jordan certainly didn't. He practiced and practiced and practiced for YEARS to become the legend He is today, improving ever so gradually with each failed shot, each brick to the basket, each layup that landed just a bit too shy.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if God has a future mapped out for me, then He will give me everything I need to achieve it...including the will to WORK. 

Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3

And let us not grow weary of doing good
for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up.
Galatians 6:9