To New Years and New Beginnings

One year ago today was the day first day of a new beginning for me. Not because it was the first day of 2016, but because it was the day after my last day of work. I had spent the months previous wrestling through the sense of feeling called to leave, and being present to the difficulty of saying goodbye. But one year ago today, the goodbyes were done and I was in a new place.

One year ago today, I stepped from the job I knew into the wilderness of an unknown future. I wandered there for quite awhile. It was dry and difficult, but also a place where God spoke. After all, the Hebrew word for wilderness is midbar, and the root word of midbar in Hebrew means to speak. In the Scriptures and in our lives, the wilderness always seems to be a place God speaks. We hear whispers about who we are and who we are not, about how we are trusting and how we are holding too tight, and about how to let go of the trappings that have enclosed us so we can be embraced by our Creator.

The wilderness is not a place I would have chosen to go, but it is exactly the place I needed to be. 

If you are one of my regular blog readers, this is not news to you. Many of my reflections last year were about what I was hearing on this journey of sorting out who I was and where I was going. 

One year later, I look back and am in awe of all that has transpired and how it has led me to where I am. I have never felt more like the real me than I feel right now. I have a sense of my own calling, and am living out a beautiful mosaic of doing those things as my vocation. My OneWord 365 was "tov" and wow, is that a word that inhabited my life. 

As I look with anticipation and hopefulness towards a new year, I can't help but to look back on the year that has been, and be filled with gratitude for it, even the painful parts. 

There are a few people who have been particularly helpful as I have struggled my way through this new beginning. One of them is Steve Wiens. He is my friend and my pastor, and someone who has spoken into my life in powerful ways over the years I have known him. Whether through coffee conversations, sermons, blogposts, or podcasts, Steve has a way of calling out the best in those he is with. He has helped me find courage, believe in my own potential, and trust in a God who never stops redeeming my life.

Today, Steve's book, Beginnings, hits the shelves, and the timing could not be more perfect. Beginnings is about the first days of creation, and noticing how they form a pattern that repeats itself in the Scriptures and in our lives. It is a deeply redemptive book that gives you the chance to hear Steve's voice calling out the best in you, just as it has for me. 

It is a book for anyone who believes or wants to believe that...

"God wants to usher all of us into new beginnings, no matter our motives and no matter how blurry our picture of God. God isn't finished creating and recreating, and it's precisely because God is continually generative that we keep getting invited to grow and change and become, despite the fact that we keep landing ourselves in the same old garbage heap that we found ourselves in last year, and the year before that." - Steve Wiens, Beginnings, page 8

It is a book for anyone whose soul stirs when they hear someone say...

"Do you dare to believe there are seeds of life planted in you by God that ned to be born? What would it mean for you to give birth to them, as messy and difficult and dangerous as that may be?" - Steve Wiens, Beginnings, page 52

It is a book for anyone who wants to give up and needs to be reminded...

"One of the great invitations of any beginning is to follow it through its life cycle rather than demanding that it stay the same. Beginnings move from waiting, to hoping, to abundance, and then, finally, to their inevitable endings. We cannot cheat that life cycle, no matter how much we want to or how hard we try."  - Steve Wiens, Beginnings, page 82

It is a book for anyone who needs the hope of the words...

"When you stop running away from who you are, you will turn to find Someone calling you to return to who you are. Then you will see the names you assumed were scars, covering the innocent and beautiful name that has been yours from the beginning of time." - Steve Wiens, Beginnings, page 139 

It is a book to highlight, save, and reread until the binding falls apart, any time you face another new beginning in your life.

I want to give a copy of Beginnings away to you. It's the start of a new year. What kind of new beginning do you hope for as you look forward? Comment and share a word or a story. On January 8, one week from today, I will randomly choose from the commenters and mail you a book. 

If you don't win, or even if you do, you can also go buy one. This is not a sponsored post. I get no benefit whatsoever from you following that link and making a purchase. I just want to you to buy it because it's good, and you won't regret it.

Just to prove it, let me leave you with one more quote. One that I like so much that I made it into an image. Put it up on your wall, save it to your phone, dare to believe that it could be true.

#beginningsbook quote- there is God, making us new.

May your 2016 be touched by a God who makes things new.

Transformation is Far from Instant

Have you heard of The Mudroom? It's a collaborative blog that I'm posting on today. Here's a bit of what The Mudroom about,

Our vision is simple: make room for people.

Sometimes we feel like there’s no room at the table, or we don’t belong at the table, but what if we sidestep the table entirely and just meet in the mudroom? Sometimes the formality of the table can be intimidating and we find ourselves wishing we were under the table.

Sometimes we need the smaller space, the comforting place, with the people who will shove the cast off sweatshirts and baseball gloves and skateboards out of the way and slide to the floor with us. What if we just didn’t go in, and stayed in the mudroom instead?

Welcome to the mudroom. It might be a mess, but that’s what it’s there for.

Isn't that great? The world certainly needs more visions and attitudes like that. I'm honored to have my words there today.

Here's how the post begins...

It’s a parn that’s been there since the beginning, but it’s taken me most of my adult life to see it. 

I am an achievement-oriented person. I love to check things off lists and accomplish goals. In a society like the United States, it’s a pretty common way of interacting with the world. It is no surprise that I, and many others, have brought that way of thinking into the way we read the Bible.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Hooray! We accept Christ and get to check so many things off our lists all at once. Get rid of bad habits—check. Let go of insecurities—check. Find freedom from pain—check. Receive a new life—check. We breathe deeply this hope of the Gospel, and sigh in rich satisfaction at the thought of a different future. We anticipate a path without the struggle we have pushed our way through to get to this fresh air.

It doesn’t take long before we are disappointed. It turns out that though belief can happen in a moment,the emergence of a new life is far from instant. 

And so, we wonder . . . have we failed? Did we not do something we were supposed to do in order to receive what has been promised to us?...

Read more of Accepting the Process over at The Mudroom.

Before Flight

I have a tendency to want to understand an entire journey before beginning down the first path. I am an over-thinker and over-analyzer, with a brain that always wants to comprehend it all.  

This can be a strength, but it can also be a paralyzing force of inaction. 

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Last week, I wrote about the chrysalis, about the way a caterpillar must dissolve its own body before it can be transformed. 

Yet even after that death, the butterfly's act of trust is not yet complete.

A butterfly forms its wings inside the cramped dark space of the chrysalis. Appendages designed to spread wide crash against the barrier of their growing space and must tuck in before they can stretch.  

Does the butterfly wonder, in those days, whether it has made a mistake? Can the butterfly imagine, while in its confinement, what it will feel like to ride on the winds of the dawn?  Could it comprehend even if it wanted to?

The butterfly must form the wings it knows it was meant to have long before it can see what it means to fly. 

Even when the butterfly emerges from the chrysalis, it cannot yet fly. The wings are soft and crumpled from their formation in the narrow place. The wings must expand, dry out, and receive new blood flow before they are ready to whisk away into the sky. 

Throughout the process of transformation, the butterfly must trust that it is on its way to a future it was designed to live, without knowing what it will be like to live it. The wings give hints to a destiny different from the crawling of its past, but it cannot fully comprehend what it will be like to use them. The butterfly can only experience and live into each step of transformation as it comes.

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I am learning to let go of comprehension.

I have felt the urge to allow wings to form, but have resisted, thinking I needed to know where they would lead. How foolish to think I could understand what it means to fly while still inside the chrysalis.

This is what transformation feels like: dying to the life you have known in order to move into a life you do not understand. Trusting that you will know what you need to know when you encounter each next step. 

Instead of worrying about what is coming in the flight, I am getting excited to grow my wings. 

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