There Are No Leftovers in “thanks-giving”

Thnks-givingLeftovers.ORIGINAL.Compressed

The leftovers have been put away. The dishes have all been done. Thoughts are turning away from giving thanks and toward shopping, sales, decorating, holiday parties, the next family gathering and the birth of a babe.

Many of us ventured out to shop and spend today; the holiday music was blaring at every turn, and the colors of orange, brown, yellow and sienna overwhelmingly made way for the red, green, silver, gold and white.

A few days ago, I wrote a post on my Facebook page about how America was looking forward to putting a capital “T” on Thanksgiving and celebrating with family, food and fellowship. In that same post, I reflected upon living a 365-life full of “t,” where the joys of our blessings are felt and radiated outward no matter what the day or circumstances.

The season of thanksgiving is still upon us, or, at least, it should be.

When we live a life full of thanks-giving for our blessings, we have a peace, hope, joy and abundance which permeates our relationships, our careers, our fellowship and our walk. Being filled with thanks-giving is not something that comes from what happens to us from the outside-in, but it is something that fills us from the inside-out and spills over into every aspect of our lives.

Today, as we find ourselves mentally, physically, monetarily and spiritually getting ready for the next holiday, let’s make our thanks-giving the primary focus of our preparations and the days to come. The gifts we both offer and receive from that joy will be multiplied!

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Finding Hope in Finding Authenticity

Romans 12:2.Pattern from Death ValleyAuthenticity.

It just keeps coming up!

In mid-September, I found myself noticing blog posts, Facebook statuses and tweets on Twitter that seemed to lack a lot of authenticity (from my perspective). I’d read what was written and my first take-away — no matter how good the message — was, “This is more about them promoting themselves than about ________.”

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I read from a few news sites and blogs each day; I check my email twice a day, my Facebook timeline a couple of times a day, and I jump in on Twitter for the newsfeed periodically. You probably do much of the same. Social media and internet news & info has become a big part of our lives, hasn’t it?

Most of the people I follow on my Hope Surrendered Facebook page and on Twitter are good, Christ-loving authors, writers, leaders, pastors, ministry directors and believers I started to follow because their work reflected their walk with the Lord in such a moving way. I’m not sure what was happening in September, but with many of the blogs, posts, statuses and tweets I was seeing, it just seemed to be about THEM, not the God they professed to be serving. Was it just September? Was it just me? I seemed to have experienced a shift where their posts were not primarily about reflecting their walk with the Lord, but about promoting themselves by promoting their walk with the Lord. It irked me.

Pretty judgmental, huh? Yes. I was.

I even posted about it on my Hope Surrendered facebook page at the end of September with a blurb saying, “Today, I am struggling a bit with what I see out there with other Christian bloggers and writers. I have had to ask the question, “When you press “Tweet,” “Post,” or “Publish,” are you promoting yourself or promoting how the Lord is working through you?”

I just didn’t sense authenticity. I liked what they had to say, but I didn’t like the self-promotion that seemed to be going on along with what they had to say. In my mind, it had become bigger than what they were saying.

Then, I realized I needed to stop.

I needed to stop, because I needed to check myself to make sure they were not me.

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We all do it. We post our selfies, our blogs, our statuses, our tweets and our photos not to just express ourselves, but to gain the attention of others. We label it as PR, marketing, promotion, and we justify it as necessary to get our word out.

Was I allowing myself to get out of hand with this? Or, was it just them?

Where is the line?

What is too much?

Is it obvious that I’m trying to balance it out with other things so people don’t see through the promotion?

I found myself asking these questions and searching my own “promotions” for the answers.

But, then I searched me. I searched my heart and looked at my intent. I didn’t like what I was starting to see.

I found myself writing some really deep and profound posts. They were good, but they were GOOD because I had allowed Him to work through me and was willing to share His work in me with others. …nothing wrong with that, as most of that GOOD was because of Him, not me.

But, what wasn’t good was how many times a day I’d check back to my posts to see if someone “liked” them, “retweeted” them, “favorited” them, “shared” them, or commented on them. That wasn’t about Him at all, but about me. …not good. …not good at all.

And, I stopped. I just stopped writing. I had to. I had to figure this out.

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My purpose in starting Hope Surrendered last April was about being able to share the Lord with others so they might find hope through my struggles, my attempts at obedience (to the Lord), my solutions (that came from Him), and my not-even-close-to-perfect walk. I wanted others to see that no matter what challenges would be found on their path, hope, peace and joy were truly possible.

I was doing that. I took the time to go back and read and study my posts, statuses and tweets. Yes, there was a bit of self promotion in there to get His words out through me, but it didn’t cross any lines. My posts were true to my original purpose.

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Any blogger, writer, author, publisher or business owner out there will tell you that marketing, promotion, stats and readership are important. Yes, they are, and I don’t disagree with that fact, but I was skewing my after-posting focus. It was beginning to shift away from my hope where others would see His purpose in their life and toward a focus of checking upon my success. I was crossing a line even if it wasn’t reflected in my posts.

I was crossing a line.

As good as my intentions were, there was a level of pride present in my head when I found myself needing to check and recheck the potential promotion and stats that might have happened after I’d post something.

I needed to stop in order to be able to search myself. For the long-run, this writing venture would only be as successful as my continued foundational reasons for getting started.

What wasn’t ok and what I needed to fully realize was that this writing venture was supposed to be bigger than me. It was supposed to be about Him. That was one of the main reasons I didn’t attach my own name to Hope Surrendered. …I felt it was irrelevant WHO I was; what was relevant was WHO I HAD BECOME through my walk with the Lord.

And…there’s another thing you should know. No one other than my husband knew who Hope Surrendered was at that point. No one. I thought I could be a writer known only as Hope Surrendered without having to give her a real name even though she had a real identity.

And, that’s where I got caught up in the authenticity-thing. I think that’s why the Lord brought out my sense of irritation with others’ promotions. What had started as an irked feeling about seeing how others promoted themselves (by promoting their really good works), led to me realize that I was falling into a trap in my mind by checking and re-checking my stats. I knew it would only be a matter of time until they were me from a promo perspective. If that would come to be, then what I was writing about would be more about selling MY ideas, MY accomplishments, and MY solutions to others by propping ME and my hopes up as the purpose of Hope Surrendered. I could see that coming, and I realized I needed to proceed with great caution…if He would have me proceed at all. I am sure the Lord knew all of this, too, thus the reason for him bringing it all up by showing me what irked me (He has a way of doing that, doesn’t He?)

And…then I realized by keeping ME out of Hope Surrendered, I really wasn’t being fully authentic. I really wasn’t being accountable to anyone else because Hope was mostly a mystery writer.

What a realization!

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For some of you, Hope Surrendered is just something you read, but for others, it has become one way of helping them to find hope.

For me, it’s not just about words on a page or stats on a spreadsheet; it’s about reflecting the Lord’s work in my life to others.

My time away from writing has shown me a renewed calling, a sense of purpose, a need for humility, a need for balance between getting my work out there and trusting He will put it into the hands that need it, and about being true to who I am.

So, I’m back to writing. This time, though, I’m committed to showing you more about who I am and how I work through my own hopes and surrenders with the Lord. I’m also opening up Hope Surrendered to my family, friends and acquaintances who might be curious about her connection to me…and about my connection to her.

Doing so will keep me accountable to others and to Him.

(Forgive me, dear friends and family…it does take a little promotion to let you know what’s been going on with me through Hope Surrendered!)

Doing so will help to reflect my desire for authenticity.

As Believers, we are called to live in a way that pleases the Lord:  “For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)

In contemplating why the Lord allowed me to walk through all of these authenticity thoughts, I’m brought to Romans 12:2 in which Paul warns us:

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world,
but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is
—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

I am realizing that the Lord allowed me to contemplate all of this in order to, once again, see His ways above my ways and His Will above my own will.

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Note:  If you would like to use the image associated with this post to share with others or to offer encouragement, you are more than welcome to do so.
You can copy it or forward it from this website, from my Hope Surrendered Facebook page, from my Google+ page or from my Twitter images.
I only ask that you not alter the image in any way so that it continues to be referred back to Hope Surrendered. Thanks so much. 

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Finding Hope in His Calling

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Yes, you are right. I haven’t posted much in the last few months. I’ve been on a journey…a journey of silence. I felt Him calling me to “Be still…” (Psalm 46:10) and just listen to where He might be directing me.

So, I did.

I’ve learned.

…learned from Him in wisdom that when He calls us to be still, what He often doesn’t say as He allows us to hear Him can be just as powerful as what He does say when He allows us to hear.

In recent weeks I’ve felt a prodding to get back to writing; this time, though, with a slightly different focus. I’ve felt Him leading me to let you into my life a tad more…a leading to be more authentic with you about how He calls me to find His hopes in my daily walk by surrendering my own hopes. More about that to come in a future post…

I have a daily calendar on my desk from Dayspring. It’s an (in)courage calendar titled, “home for the hearts of women” — they use a lot of lowercase letters, so pardon the lack of capitalization, but do click on the links and visit them! A few days ago, I felt moved by some of the sentences posted by Mary Carver of Giving Up on Perfect. Mary’s words stared at me as I stared at them, and it was yet another leading and confirmation for me about where I am being called. The Lord often does that…He often gives us some kind of confirmation to affirm what he’s already told us.

Mary’s words on this meaningful little calendar were:

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“I’m slowly (so very slowly) learning that for me, for now, right here IS my mission.
It IS my calling.
He IS sending me, and I CAN follow Him.
Even without a jungle or a moving van full of boxes or a passport full of stamps, He has called me.
And I can serve Him by staying.
I can follow Him right here.”
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I know He has called me to write as Hope Surrendered…here on this dot.com, on my Facebook page and on Twitter, too. (I’d love to have you follow me in those places. The links are above on the “Contact me” tab if you wish to do so) I haven’t questioned the calling, but I did question the timing of it. Wouldn’t you know? He did have to give me a big push before I got started, and yet another one to take this step!

I have felt led to take a step away from here over the last few months to question, ponder and pray about just WHO He was calling me to be on these pages. My journey has been about surrendering MY OWN hopes to Him. It’s been about knowing and trusting that whatever my own hopes have been, are or will be, they are absolutely nothing if they are not also His. He knows the desires of my heart, but the journey of Hope Surrendered has been about me surrendering those desires to seek His will and His way so that I might know His desires.

Psalm 37:4 tells us:

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

The journey has shown me that when my desires line up with His desires, he will grant me the desires of my heart. The journey isn’t over, and I still have a lot of work to do in accomplishing this, but Mary’s words on that calendar reminded me of  being conscientious of working on His timing, in His ways, and through His calling.

The silence of being still which I’ve experienced over the last few months has shown me what I believe is His desire for me to be more authentic in who I am. In my day-to-day life, I do feel I’m pretty authentic. The Hope Surrendered you’ve gotten to know a little has been very authentic with you on these pages, but she’s been holding back…holding back in the sense that those who know me in my day-to-day life don’t know about Hope Surrendered.

I feel as though He’s calling me to change that.

From the many emails I’ve received from you, I know that some of you have found a kind of hope in reading Hope Surrendered, and I thank you for reaching out to me. I want to continue to provide that for you through my writing about how the Lord has been leading me, and the time has come for me to prepare to also let my friends and family in on how I’ve found that kind of hope, too.

I’ve told a few people in the last few days, and the response has been wonderfully supportive. I’m realistic enough to know this won’t always be the case with my family, friends and acquaintances, but if I’m doing His Will and traveling the way He would lead, then He will also equip me to deal with the not-so-positive responses, too.

He has and is calling me to serve by doing what I’m doing right here on these pages, but even more so, He has and is calling me to journey on a path through life with Him. For that I feel blessed and grateful!

Monday’s Musings–Fallen Leaves

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It’s a breezy day today where I live. As I’m working at my desk, leaves are fluttering in the air and blowing across the yard and the meadows. It’s nice to not have to rake those leaves into neat piles or gather them to dispose of them elsewhere.

I often wish the challenges of life could just blow away like the leaves, but instead, they usually have to be dealt with directly. The leaves are dead, but challenges can bring us a life-giving perspective when we learn from them and see the possibilities about how they can be worked for our good.

If a challenge has been permitted in my life, I know—in faith—that He intends to use it for my good and for His good. I also know—in faith—that blessings will be found.

Something to ponder on a blustery, fall day…