Level Up: A 2019 Word of the Year Review

This past year has turned out very different from what I would have predicted this time last year. Just over a year ago, I was on the hunt for a business property for my husband’s office when I stumbled upon a home that fit the bill of our hypothetical forever home. A home we had only talked about once and weren’t planning to pursue for another few years. Yet, here I sit celebrating one year in a home that fills me with joy and gratitude nearly every day.

A little over a year ago, I was dreaming of beginning to do more ministry in my own space. Having dealt with feeling like my dismal hosting skills would keep me from living out some of the dreams God had placed in my heart, I was asking God how to do more for His girls. He answered, and February will mark a year of doing what I call Friday Soak in my home once a month. Yes, not even a month after moving, I hosted women in my home. The goal was to hold space to just be and rest in whatever He had for them that day.

Not only has He helped me with hosting in a ministry capacity, but I have also had the opportunity to host family as they have traveled into town over the past year. A thing that we rarely did before, and I always stressed over. Now, it is a joy and that is a testimony in and of itself.

In the beginning of 2019, I chose a word: Level-Up. Now as I begin to reflect on how that word has played into the events of the last 11 months, I am blown away. He has upgraded so many areas of my life—least of which was my housing situation. I have seen Him use tension to invite me into a higher level of being. I have been enjoying massive breakthroughs that—although they cost me in the moment—were some of the biggest advances I have seen in my entire life! It wasn’t cheap! It cost me my pride, my self-protection, and my ability to “do it myself”. It felt like too much in the moment if I am honest. The only reason I pushed through and paid the price, was because I was sure to the deepest part of my being that God—the one who paid an even higher price for me—was asking me to. And true to who He is (you can’t out give God), I have received 10 times anything I paid. The counterfeit comfort I once knew can’t even compare to the newness I am experiencing now. 

Level Up had come to cover a lot of areas: my thinking, my self-worth, my confidence in what God has called me to do, learning to put to death selfishness and pride. I love being blown away at the end of the year by how God took my feeble willingness to choose a word and focus and make it into SO MUCH MORE than I ever thought or imagined (Ephesians 3:20 anyone?).

I have already begun to direct my attention to my word for 2020 and am excited to declare dependence and growth over my next calendar year. I have goals to be more active here and the exciting news that my book will be out in 2020!!!     

As I work to peel off old-self ways of thinking and being, I hope you pick up some encouragement if you choose to follow me on this journey. I can be found on Instagram and Facebook @embracingthewild and I am openly working to teach and encourage the beautiful message that saying yes to becoming holy (sanctification…I know churchy word) is the most fabulous journey you can take. You will never regret it! Let me know on social or the comments below how your 2019 word has played out. Also, if you have a word for 2020 please share. Mine will come in a new post next week.

I am Worth It

i am worth it

The school year is officially underway! My kids are all back in school, and I can feel Routine waking from her fun (yet seemingly) short summer slumber. She is easing back into our lives like as if she never left. As this season approached, I began making a mental list of the things I would like to do on a regular basis again—as well as reworked the logistics of things that were already happening in the summer, but now need to be at different times. As the mom of the house, it is easy to put everyone else’s schedule and needs in place and then wedge my hopes and dreams in the cracks of what’s left over. I actually bought into the lie that this was noble. I felt extremely guilty when I didn’t follow this sacred protocol. Like I was somehow betraying my fellow tribesman, my Christian Mamas. This leads me to share with you one of the biggest lessons I learned last year:

I am worth it. (And I don’t love my family less for following my passion).

Here is a lot of how last year played out for me. I saw the long hours stretch in front of me and thought, “Wow! I can write and clean house and visit with friends, and still have time to pursue ministry opportunities and be at peace and fully present when the kids get off the bus etc., etc., etc.”
The dream seemed so real and so doable. Except the first few weeks I thought “Well, self care obviously (coffee date with a friend scheduled every few days because I have several I haven’t seen since school let out). Then let’s catch up on this house—sheesh! these kids are pigs still for being gone 7 and a half hours a day! Now, oh gosh, soccer keeps us really busy, it is too hard to establish a routine now. I mean my evenings are crazy with these practices…blah, blah, blah.”

I could keep going but I think you get the point. It was one thing after another and before I realized, the year was nearly over and I hadn’t even given a small percentage of my time developing myself. This had happened little by little over the course of the last few years and I did just enough for myself to feel like I was getting attention, but the big things—the things that make me come alive—I put those off and now I realize it was out of fear.

Fear of not succeeding (and then I will have wasted time that could have been spent on family needs).
Fear of being judged for spending “too much” time on my projects (too much being a subjective thing that I am not sure could be literally defined).
Fear of putting myself out there (this is akin to not succeeding, but is more about being found out as having no talent as opposed to not hitting a particular mark).

So I stopped writing regularly for the “sake of my family” and hid under self protection. I am not hiding any more. I am not hoping to squeeze in a writing session sometime this week. I am also no longer going after success, approval or a following. I am writing for God—the very one who placed this desire in my heart. In reading Girl, Wash Your Face (Rachel Hollis) she says something to the effect that no-one else will want your dream as badly as you do. This wasn’t brand new information, but when I read that I instantly knew that a piece of my hangup was that I wanted my husband and my tribe to carry my dream for me at times. That is never going to happen. Sure they are supportive and they will encourage me, but if I am expecting them to carry my vision for me, it is DOA. Once I stopped looking at them to create the motivation to pursue my dream, I have had fresh vision. I have to be the one that mans this ship and runs wild after my dream. (and I say that with the assumption that I am first seeking God’s wisdom and His vision for me). When/if my husband or family has a qualm with what I am doing, I expect them to share that with me. I can’t be super proactive and hamper my efforts to appease them. We need to work together to strike a balance. But doing it without their input and before they have voiced concerns is a false humility and rooted in excuses.

Getting to this place has been freeing in ways I never expected. Now I can turn to God and let Him lead me to the next place of revelation. For me, I think I hear Him say to schedule the writing time and go with it…even if I am “not feeling it”. Furthermore, when I am not feeling it, I can lean in and unpack that a little bit, because there is a chance that little “not feeling it” could be a small fox coming to spoil the vine (bible reference…Solomon 2:15). I am a feeler and sometimes the enemy uses them to pull me—ever so slightly—away from what God wants for me. Taking a moment to pause and acknowledge the feeling takes most of its power away. Being willing to be honest with myself takes the rest away.

I am not sure what it is for you, but you have something that makes you come alive inside. Do you give it space in your life? Do you struggle to find it worthy of your consistent time? Why?

Ten Years

  
The idea that I have been married for ten years is hard to grasp. I know it is a drop in the bucket compared to the “forever” marriages of those who have been married forty years or more, but this is a big milestone for us! It is a benchmark for marriage in general. In this first decade of marriage, we have nurtured a fledgling business, moved once, had three children and crossed into our thirties. We have shed the naivety of our first decade as adults and have a more eyes-wide-open approach to life together as well as life in general. We no longer hold to the idea that life is a fairy tale, but we know that it can be even better if you let it. Because the reality is that none of us enjoy trials and heartache–they shake up our confidence in what we think we know. However, when we are on the other side we are more sure of what we can count on. 

I can count on this guy.

In ten years we have seen lack and we have seen surplus. We have had joyous blessings and we have had heartahce. We have been in mysteriously-lovely unity and in opposite-sides discord. We have not seen it all, but we have seen enough to know this world can rip you apart if you let it. 

I was asked recently about a good book to read to prepare you for marriage. I answered with two things:

First, I think the Five Love Languages is an excellent starting place. I think each person should know how their spouse feels loved. But secondly, and most importantly, I believe each person should be on a committed track of personal growth with the Lord. This commitment has proven the most beneficial thing in our marriage. The reason being, when you are nurturing an intimate relationship with God and truly listening to Him, He will go to you on behalf of your spouse. He will guide you into deeper love and understanding of their heart. This isn’t a magic bullet as it takes time (like all wonderful journeys do) and it requires humility and a true desire to hear truth from God. But it has been and will continue to be the best path for a lasting marriage. 

As we celebrate ten years, I am grateful for the lessons and the growth. I also know that I wouldn’t want to do this “brutiful” life with any other human. 

I love you Matthew Ferris, forever and always. 

Letters to Bea: Part 1

I am trying something new here. It may be a total flop and I am okay with that. The process of growing into a writer is both scary and uncharted for me. I have a small niche carved out in the devotional world (with 2 books on Amazon now), but I would like to dabble in the fiction world too. In order to do that and still keep all the plates spinning in the air, I thought I would share a fun short story with you. I have no idea where this story is going to go, but won’t it be fun to figure that out together? Now please note that this is all raw and sans editor. I am a writer, a creator of stories. The refinement process is a weak spot in my armor and I can only improve with time. So to all you grammar police out there, forgive me. I am a work in progress. Please enjoy some unrefined story telling, warts and all.

Without further ado, I bring you part one of Letters to Bea.


LTBpart1

Maggie sat at her desk with pen in hand. She stared down at the wrinkled appendages that had created so much in her lifetime. At 84, they were weathered and veiny. She had spent so many years up to her elbows in wet clay, shaping so many wonderful creations that all started out the same; a lump of cold, wet, grey clay. The end result was never fully envisioned in the beginning, but as each piece swirled around and around on the wheel, the specifics started becoming clear. She sat and reminisced in her mind about the joy that bloomed in her soul each time she put her hands on the blob in the middle of the wheel. She would slip wet hands on its silky surface and tune into its destiny. Like a figure appearing out of fog, the details would appear roughly and then with more precision with each passing minute.

This was her time with God too. She had heard him speak so clearly through her work. She herself felt like that clay in His hands. She felt loved and cared for as if He were shaping her with each trip around the sun. Her years were many now, but he was still shaping her. These days, she wondered when he would take her of the wheel of life and declare her a finished piece. She was tired and lonely. Her husband has been gone 5 years now and life still felt like it was lacking. She missed him so much at times she found herself crying in her daydreams and asking God to take her home. She wanted to be at the pearly gates with Jack to greet her. She spent hours it seemed each day fantasizing about their reunion. Why was she still here? What on Earth could God possibly have for her to do still in her advanced age?

She was still fairly active, she lived on her own and had a steady routine week in and week out, but her vitality was nothing compared to that of her prime. She fought the urge to be submerged in the days gone by. Remembering her entire life felt like a movie scrolled out across her mind. It seemed to happen a lot these days whenever she wrote to her best friend. They may live on opposite sides of the country, but that didn’t stop them from corresponding weekly. Sure they could call or FaceTime with each other (if there was a grandchild nearby to help), but there was something timeless about letters. There was something special about holding the same paper―a connection that the phone or other forms of technology just couldn’t give.

She put pen to paper and before she knew it, Maggie was back in time. It was September of 1940 when she met her best friend who would prove to be her greatest ally in this life. Beatrice, or Bea as she liked to be called, was everything that Maggie was not. She was brave, funny, and outgoing. I guess she had to be when she was always having to be the new kid. Bea was an Army Brat. Her dad was a veteran of World War 1 and had recently been stationed in their town. Bea came into third grade with high spirits and confidence to spare. Maggie, or Margaret as she was known in the days before Bea, was taken by her immediately.

Their friendship started over a game of marbles at recess. Margaret, Bea, and Robbie were all playing a rousing game that Robbie was winning by a long shot. He pointed his shooter, stuck his tongue out and shot his marble at the last two in the circle. His green shooter clacked against both marbles with professional precision. He scooped up his winnings and began putting them all in his pouch.

“Hey! You can’t do that. We didn’t say keepsies,” Margaret whined.

“Sure we did. Don’t you remember?” Robbie said slyly as he gave her a sheepish smile. Robbie knew that Margaret liked him and he was using that to his advantage.

“Now wait a minute,” Bea chimed in looking at Robbie, “We did not call keepsies. We only called ‘no quitsies,’ which was your idea. Now give her back her marbles!”

He knew full well that they didn’t call keepsies, but Margaret had a Devil’s Eye marble that Robbie had wanted to get his hands on since last school year. He had his chance now if dumb ol’ New Girl would just keep her mouth shut. Who did she think she was just waltzing in here and bossing him around? He stared her down for a minute trying to decide if he could bully his way into getting that marble. She stared back with a stone-cold expression. With two older brothers, Bea was not intimidated by this boy who she knew was trying to pull one over on her and this other girl. She glanced to her right to see Margaret looking down and fiddling with the four marbles she had won in the game. She was so small and mousy. Bea knew that if she didn’t stand up to this boy, this wet noodle of a girl would soon lose her entire marble collection.

Bea crossed her arms as if to emphasize her position in this standoff and gave a little harrumph to urge him to concede. It worked.

“Okay…Here you go, Mar-ga-RET” Robbie said with a defeated tone as he rolled his eyes. He tossed the marbles back to Margaret and she quietly put them in her pouch―never looking back up at him. Robbie walked away mumbling something about the new girl being a bossy britches.

Bea turned to Margaret and helped her put her marbles back in her pouch. As she scooped up her own she said, “You can’t let him bully you like that. He was trying to cheat you out of your best marbles.”

“I know, I just…well, he’s…I’ve known him a long time. He knows how to get under my skin, that’s all.”

“No one says you have to let him stay there. Next time, tell him to kiss off!”

Margaret blushed at the brash way she said that adult phrase with such mature air. It also made her giggle at the thought of telling Robbie Jones to kiss off. She looked up at Bea and asked, “So, what’s your name anyway?”

“Beatrice Elanor Wadell, but I like to be called Bea. And I already heard Robbie say your name is Margaret. Have you always gone by Mar-ga-RET?”

“Yeah…well, Margaret. Only Robbie says it like that. He knows it bugs me.”

“What about Maggie? It’s a nickname for Margaret and it fits you.”

With that a new identity was born for Margaret. She took to the nickname―and to Bea―like a moth to a flame. That day started the greatest of adventures for Maggie. She hoped that some of Bea’s tenacity would rub off on her. With Bea by her side, she could do almost anything!

Bea decided right then and there to be friends with Maggie for life. Moving around every few years had already gotten old at the tender age of 10. She knew that she was going to need a consistent ally if she was ever going to keep up this tough-girl act. Oh, sure on the outside she was confident and outgoing, but inside―each time they made a new city their home―her stomach did flips at the idea of having to be the new girl―again. At least this time, her new best friend had come along the first day of school. Maggie was desperate for a real friend, Bea could see that the moment she started playing marbles with her and that nasty boy, Robbie. She swore in her heart that she would protect Maggie from boys like that. Maggie needed someone like Bea in her life and Bea was all too happy to accommodate.

Humble Beginnings and Big Goals

humble beginnings

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”

Zechariah 4:10

When you are pursuing your dreams, the above words can be a great comfort. This verse among others drive home the point that overnight success is not the norm and that small beginnings are many times God’s way of grooming and refining you for greater things! Before I give the “but” to this idea, I want to highlight how important this is. God rarely gives someone charge over much before he is proven faithful over little. We need to honor the season that we are in and pursue what God has for us and wants to teach us in the moment. We cannot expect to build on our character and our experience without challenges and opportunities to live out what God is weaving into our hearts. Sometimes we get multiple tries at the same lesson. We start small and we may stay small―for longer than we would like. The question I have for you today is: Are you staying small because you are holding humble beginnings in both hands?

I have been thinking about this verse a lot lately. I began thinking about how solid and true it is to honor the season and stage you are in while you pursue bigger and “scarier” things. I saw it like this: You need to hold humble beginnings in one hand and big goals in the other. If you only hold humble beginnings (with both hands), you can fall prey to complacency. Your humble surroundings will become so comfortable that it is hard to branch out. You secure your place with wisdom like “do not despise humble beginnings…” and it keeps you so humble that you begin to despise lofty aspirations. This was never meant to be a piece of limiting wisdom. We need to hold these humble beginnings in their proper place. With respect as a wise beginning, not the final destination. If you are on a path to something greater, don’t get caught in the trap of humility. The Enemy can use it to ensnare you into believing that pursuing  bigger possibilities is prideful or egotistical. As long as your heart is right (which the Enemy knows nothing of) you can freely pursue your dreams to the fullest! So grab that humble beginning firmly in one hand.


 

The other hand needs to dig in and grasp the fact that we serve a big God! The God that is in charge of executing Ephesians 3:20:

“Now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us.”


 

We know that God, whom we love and serve, loves us infinitely more than we can comprehend. He gave us the Holy Spirit to indwell in us and work through us to accomplish the things placed in our heart from our inception. He cares about our heart’s desires. He cares about our passions and can work through all sorts of avenues to display his love to others. Your work, your passion is one of those avenues! When you partner with God on your life’s endeavors, he shows up. He often times starts us off small. He often grows us through adversity and blessings alike. We almost all start out small, but the ones who reach a higher potential are the ones who have humble beginnings in one hand and big goals in the other. They are content with their season, but not complacent. They respect where they are, but have faith for more.

The Kingdom is in an ever-expanding state. The heart of God is to grow you. We should always be pursuing growth in some form or fashion. Your rate of growth is as individual as your thumbprint. God knows what you can handle and he sees the future. I also have learned that success is not defined the same in the world as it is in the Kingdom of God. I want to be successful according to God, not the world. However, I never want to be stagnant. My growth rate is up to God, my decision to grow is mine and mine alone.

Humble beginnings, small steps, slow growth―all good things. They are not the only things. Include big goals, goals that scare you a little (or a lot). If you could see the ways and means of achieving every goal you have within your own power, what do you need God for? Dream past your own current ability. I have yet to regret doing just that.