Month: October 2014

When it’s Time for a Change

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I’ll always remember the first time I decided to make a change in my life. It was nothing profound, yet it was a challenge because when you’re young who you are is often tied up in what you do. Change meant letting go of something that had become part of my identity. Still, that minor revolution in my high school years taught me something important that has resonated through the years to follow.

My dad was a coach, so my older sisters and I spent much of our childhood frequenting basketball courts and football stadiums. As a result, my sisters gravitated toward cheerleading. I followed like a little duckling, though it was something I endured more than enjoyed. I was never really good at it—just cheerful enough to make the squad. And I didn’t exactly like the weekly routine of freezing out of my skin and screaming at the top of my lungs all for the glory of the game. Not to mention that all but two of the girls on the squad were the stereotypical mean girls.

It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that I decided to stop torturing myself. Why waste my time doing something I didn’t enjoy and wasn’t good at all because it was what my sisters did, what I’d always done, or what was expected of me? The time for change had come. And the only thing I regretted was not having done it sooner.

From that experience, I learned to never waste my time doing what I clearly wasn’t wired to do, and to never be afraid to change. It doesn’t matter what people expect or what your past dictates. Life is too short to be squandered on things that steal your purpose.

Because of that choice, I’ve found what I’m truly passionate about: music, writing, and teaching. And I’ve been more sensitive when seasons shift—unafraid to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new. I know now that change means leaving behind the known and embracing the unknown, which is most often the pathway to what’s best.

 

The Gift of Loss

Blog_FlowersIt was the perfect job. The pay was low but sufficient, the hours enough to keep me busy but not overwhelmed. And the opportunity to stay home with my kids outweighed the benefits I didn’t receive. Everything was good until the organization I was working for unexpectedly discontinued funding for the contract.

Fear and depression threatened to take hold. What would we do without the extra income? Where would I find another job that wouldn’t detract from my family? And why did this happen so suddenly?

Somewhere in the midst of it, I stopped checking my email for word of a renewed contract. It was time to move on. As good as the job was, I had to admit it wasn’t my life’s passion. What had come as an unexpected storm was truly a wake up call.

In a scene C.S. Lewis’ The Horse and His Boy, the main characters are chased by a lion they’re certain is bent on destruction. It’s not until journey’s end that they realize the lion was chasing them to their destiny while protecting them from the real enemy. In life, trials can be like that lion—pushing us out of our comfort zones, into the place we truly belong while protecting us from that which drains our life.

Looking back, I now see how losing that job was truly a gift. It pushed me to reassess my life, my goals, and my desires. As a result, I’ve had an abundance of needful, quality time with my children along with the opportunity to pursue my passions of writing and teaching. Had my work contract continued indefinitely, I might have stayed on, going through the motions—content, yet unfulfilled.

Maybe you’re in a similar situation, with fear and depression threatening to take hold. My prayer is that you’ll find a gift in the midst of your loss. Take this time to consider what’s really worth living for. Use this season to find your purpose and establish your priorities. Loss can be an opportunity if you let it.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth…he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:1-2, 7-8)

Beyond Average

Blog_ColoringChalkMy six-year old niece hired me for her fashion design company once and that’s as close as I’ll ever get to the profession. As clear and elaborate as the princess gown ideas were in my mind, the end results were nothing more than stick figures wearing lopsided triangles. It was enough to appease my niece, but in comparison to even the most amateur in the field, my designs were average.

This seems to be the case in much of my life. I can sing my lungs out doing the dishes but I’d likely get laughed out of an American Idol audition. My cooking keeps my family alive, but it won’t land me in the Master Chef kitchen. As for looks, I get by, but I don’t turn heads. Even my name is average. There’s 1,423,950 of me in the U.S. and I’m sure that number multiplies exponentially in Jens, Jennys, Jennas and Jennifers around the world.

I’m okay with average in some areas of life. It’s not like I really wanted to be a fashion designer, anyhow. But I do want to go beyond average in the way I live, the way I love, the way I serve and the way I write. I want to live with purpose, love without reservation, serve with excellence and write with passion. I want to use the average I’ve been given to do something that makes an extraordinary difference. Something beyond…average.

“For it is by GRACE you have been saved, through FAITH—and this is not from yourselves, it is the GIFT of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do GOOD works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:8-10)