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.

Patience with the Process (or, coming home to a mud pit where a garage used to be)

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One week ago, an entire section of my house was ripped off. It was shocking how little time it took for those walls to come tumbling down. Even though it was planned, even though it's part of a house project we have drawn up, it was still surprising to actually see the deconstruction take place.

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It was also exciting to wonder at how everything would look when the blank space would be transformed, and our dreams would become reality. 

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It has been a week, and that blank space has only transformed from being a dirt pit to being a mud pit. After a dry fall we were suddenly struck by a week of rain. 

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The next step of transformation is digging a foundation. That can't happen until the ground is ready to hold the cement. After spending months working on plans, and weeks waiting on permits, we have had no choice but to continue to be patient. 

Until the earth is stable, the rebuilding has to wait. 

There's so many times in life when we are tempted to rush the process. Who wants to come home every day to mud pit next to the front door? 

The deconstruction can be fast, but the reconstruction is almost guaranteed to be slow. We need to know that the ground we are building our lives upon is stable and good and ready for all that lies ahead. 

What I am now walking out with my house, I have spent much of the last year walking out with my personhood and my faith. It was frustrating and messy and slow. I spent a lot of months with a mud pit next to my door. Yet, I know it's what was needed. The parts of the house that were torn down were someone else's rooms, not meant for me. The space I am living in now needed foundation and walls that would allow me to expand into who I was always meant to be. That kind of transformation takes time. 

I am learning that patience is one of the great acts of faith in our lives: patience with ourselves, with the weather that is beyond our control, and with the God who is listening to us sigh as we look at the mess we are coming home to each day.

The mud pit won't last forever, but it can't be transformed until the ground is ready. 

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.